Chinese scientists have developed a nutritious low calorie and low sugar vegetable juice for patients with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions.
The research team led by Dr Heqin Xing and Xiuqi Liu of Jilin University in Changchun, China have come up with a cost-effective method of preparing a special type of vegetable drink using lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) to remove carbohydrates while retaining good taste, vitamins and other nutrients.
"This is an exciting development. The process significantly removes sugar but retains the nutritional content of the juice's raw materials," Liu said.
The juice was made from pumpkin, balsam pear, onion and carrots.
People have long cultured food - including everyday eats such as yogurt, cheeses and sausage - by using the same LAB.
LAB microbes produce a compound commonly found in sour milk products called lactic acid. Because of LAB's healthy link to food production, this class of bacteria is also referred to as probiotics.
During the study, LAB reduced sugar content of the vegetable juice by transforming carbohydrates into lactic acid by a routine conversion process called fermentation.
As this process increases the juice's acidity, it extends its shelf life as it inhibits growth of other bacteria.
LAB is known for its ability to withstand acidic environments. In addition to the lactic acid's protection against contamination, the acidity from fermentation could enhance flavours in the beverage.
The researchers' use of Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. plantarum in the vegetable juice increased its acidity by about 10-fold after 12 hours of fermentation.
With the addition of sugar, and a diabetic-friendly sugar substitute called xylitol, Xing the juice had a good mix of sweet and sour taste.
"It has a good taste with reduced calories due to lower carbohydrates," Xing said.
The findings were presented at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.