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Is low-cost bread that also protects heart health possible?

A team at the University of Otago have delivered findings that show it could be.

According to lead author of the study, Professor Nick Wilson, the problem of most breads being high in salt can be addressed by reducing the amount of sodium-based salts and increasing the amount of healthier potassium-based salts.

The new study, published in the international journal BMC Nutrition, used a computer-based method called linear programming which allowed the researchers to get the best mix of healthy ingredients into the bread designs for the lowest prices.

They made comparisons with commercial white breads from 15 OECD countries, including New Zealand.

Comparisons were also made with high-seed breads in six of these countries.

The research found that the optimised loaf costing NZ$1.50 in ingredients was superior to the commercial white loaves, offering lower sodium and higher potassium levels.

The more expensive bread, costing $3 in ingredients, was also nutritionally superior to the commercial loaves with seeds, in terms of lower sodium, higher potassium, higher dietary fibre, and the best polyunsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid ratio.

This version of the bread included added linseed and also some walnut.

“Dietary risk factors are particularly important for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” Wilson said.

“We could do more to prevent these by making improvements to the food environment – and one of them is providing the option of low-cost healthier breads.”

The authors suggest that such bread designs could be promoted by health agencies and provided in workplace cafeterias and public hospitals, or as part of a government-funded “heart healthy bread” voucher system for heart attack and stroke prevention.

But Professor Wilson noted that “while we liked the taste of these optimised breads which we made in home bread-making machines, further taste testing with the public would be required to ensure adequate levels of public acceptability.”

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