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     Native Potato Starch granules
    Most cooks are familiar with the thickening properties of corn starch, but potato starch is every bit as much up to the job, say scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). 

    They’re working on a project to further examine the structure and functional properties of potato starch, improve the nutritional quality of potato foods, and develop new uses for modified potato starch in food processing, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications.
    Potato starch is currently used by the food processing industry as a general thickener, binder, texturizer, anti-caking, or gelling agent. It also shows up in finished products such as snack foods, processed meats, baked goods, noodles, pet foods, shredded cheese, sauces, gravies, and soups. Potato starches are also used in yeast filtration and as additives in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

    AAFC’s research team is lead by Dr. Qiang Liu, a food scientist at the Guelph Food Research Center in Guelph, Ontario. The project includes plant breeders, food scientists, molecular biologists, and plant production specialists from AAFC research centers across Canada including Lethbridge, Alberta;Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec;Fredericton, New Brunswick;Guelph and Ottawa, Ontario. 

    “Our team is examining many aspects and uses of potato,” says Dr. Liu. “We are working directly with our potato breeders in Fredericton and Lethbridge to produce new potatoes with desirable starch structure and increase in the content of ‘resistant starch’ and ‘slowly digestible starches’ in the processed potato foods.
    Resistant starch’ refers to the starch in starchy foods that is not digested or absorbed in the small intestine. This resistant starch reaches the large intestine essentially intact where it is considered to have similar physiological effects and health benefits of fiber—that is, provides bulk, protects against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.
    “From here we hope to formulate a value-added potato starch with improved nutritional properties. It will benefit both consumers and the food processing industry,” emphasized Dr. Liu.