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CSULA team studies nutritional value of gluten-free cereal grains

Coauthored paper by faculty, grad student is recognized as ‘Top 5’ for 2012

Photo: (l-r) Jeffrey Rothschild and Maria Omary.
L-r: CSULA grad student Jeffrey Rothschild and instructor Maria Omary in the Food Science Laboratory at La Kretz Hall.

More than 6 percent of the U.S. population reportedly suffer from gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity.

Bringing this issue to light, Cal State L.A.’s Adjunct Professor Maria Botero Omary and nutritional science graduate student Jeffrey Rothschild have coauthored a review paper on the germination of gluten-free seeds and its effect on their nutritional value.

According to their published work, which was recently named as one of the “Top 5 Papers from 2012” in the journal, Cereal Chemistry, “Gluten, in particular, is avoided by many individuals because of celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten ataxia. There is concern that these individuals may be at risk of several nutritional deficiencies, including decreased calcium, iron, B vitamins and fiber.”

Gluten is described as a functional protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley and rye.

The research article, entitled “Effects of Germination on the Nutritional Profile of Gluten-Free Cereals and Pseudocereals,” is a comprehensive review of numerous studies on germination of gluten-free seeds, such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice and sorghum.

Their findings, which validate the need for more research on gluten-free seeds like quinoa, revealed that germination may prove useful to increase nutrient content and to reduce anti-nutrients.

This review paper—which also included coauthors Christina Fong of Chapman University and Patrick Finney of Roman Meal Company—noted that “one advantage of sprouting is that it does not require complicated equipment, rendering it a simple method to improve the nutritional quality of edible seeds.”

Photo: Close-up of germination of quinoa.

Close-up: Germination of quinoas as part of the research being conducted by Omary’s research group.

Additionally, the authors’ analysis also highlighted the need to improve texture and sensory properties of germinated seeds to gain wider consumer acceptance.

The review project was partially funded by the Southern California Institute of Food Technologists (SCIFTS) and the CSU Agricultural Research Institute.

Rothschild shared that working on the paper with Omary has been a wonderful experience.

“I learned a lot about the research process and the possibilities of germination of seeds to be used in food products,” said Rothschild. “It’s definitely exciting for me to be published for the first time. I enjoyed the process so much that I hope to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in research.”

Stemming from this published study, CSULA undergraduate students Marie-Julie Richer-Roy, Doris Delgado, Shawnie Lee, Melody Wong and Kathryn Strickland are now working with Omary on the sprouting and processing conditions of germinating quinoa to enhance its nutritional value and antioxidant activity.

“These germinated seeds will ultimately be used as natural-fortification ingredients in gluten-free food products,” said Omary.

Omary, an expert in food product development, holds a Ph.D. in food science and technology (FST) from Clemson University. In 2012, she presented a paper, entitled “Pasting Properties of Roasted Quinoa,” in collaboration with Mr. Rothschild and Sunil Mangalassary, assistant professor and coordinator of the FST program at CSULA, among others, at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists in Las Vegas, NV.

The research team recently submitted a grant to SCIFTS in order to get funding for supplies and equipment to continue the investigation.

“Also, the University’s Center for Effective Teaching and Learning has been providing seed funding through their undergraduate research mentoring program,” said Omary. “The initial objective is to investigate total levels of polyphenols as an indication of antioxidant activity in germinated quinoa.”

* For a video clip of an interview with Professor Omary, go to

* For abstract of the report, refer to the AACCI’s Cereal Chemistry journal (vol. 89, no. 1, 2012):

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Last Update: 01/12/2016