Jun 05, 2012 • By

Innovation in whole grain and fiber

A team from General Mills attended the fifth International Dietary Fibre Conference in Rome last month. They networked with new researchers and sought to stay on top of the latest scientific developments related to dietary fiber.

The conference brought together scientists, academics, regulators and industry representatives from all over the world to discuss a variety of issues regarding dietary fiber and its role in human nutrition and innovative food products.

At the conference, we selected a winner for the General Mills Award for Health Innovation, which honors a research project that demonstrates the most innovative and novel association between consumption of fiber or whole grains and health improvement.

This year, the award, which comes with a monetary prize of 1000 euros, was presented to Elin Johansson from Lund University in Sweden.

Johansson is a second year Ph.D. student who presented the General Mills team with her study examining the benefits of whole grain barley on blood glucose regulation, colonic fermentation and energy intake.

Michelle Manderfeld and Tom Boileau represented General Mills at the conference.

Michele is a principal scientist for the G-Tech Fiber program. Tom is a senior scientist for the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition’s Science and Innovation group. They were involved in selecting Johansson as the award winner, and we spoke with them to find out why her work made such an impact.

What made the winner’s project stand out among the competition?

Boileau: Elin’s study is an innovative human clinical trial exploring the effects of a fiber-rich, whole-grain meal on health outcomes. She explored the impact of an evening meal on blood glucose modulation and appetite at breakfast and lunch the following day.

It demonstrated that when compared to a meal of refined grain, a whole grain, fiber-rich barley meal consumed in the evening beneficially impacted blood glucose-management measures, appetite and energy intake (calories). An increase in gut utilization of the fiber-rich grain meal was demonstrated, suggesting a link between this physiological mechanism and the measured health outcomes.

Why is it so important to make a connection between fiber and whole grain consumption and health improvement?

Manderfeld: General Mills’ mission is Nourishing Lives. An important aspect of that mission is strong, science-based knowledge and data supporting our ingredients and products.

We know Americans are not getting enough fiber or whole grain in their diets. At General Mills, we are working on innovative ways to get more fiber and whole grains into our products and to support the science that furthers the understanding of the importance and health benefits they can provide.

Why did General Mills create its Award for Health Innovation?

Boileau: We believe it is important to recognize and support innovative research linking our ingredients and products to health outcomes. Additionally, granting this award allows us to build key relationships with top research groups across the globe to help accelerate that innovation.

Tell us about some of the past winners. Where are they now?

Boileau: In 2009, the award was presented to Mette Kristensen for her work in whole grains. She is now a professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and continues to conduct whole grain research.

Why does General Mills find it valuable to meet and connect with researchers around the world?

Manderfeld: As we continue to grow globally and strive to stay competitive with food companies that have strong international presences, it’s even more important to view the “world as my lab,” rather than “the lab as my world,” leveraging experts outside the United States and working upstream in the product and ingredient development process.

Editor’s note: To learn more about how General Mills connects with innovators across the globe, visit