Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) couscous breaks down faster than wheat couscous in the Human Gastric Simulator, though has slower starch hydrolysis†
Consumption of traditional West African pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) couscous delayed gastric emptying in our recent human study compared to other starch-based foods (white rice, boiled potatoes, pasta). The objective of this study was to determine whether physical properties of pearl millet couscous affect particle breakdown and starch hydrolysis during simulated gastric digestion to understand the basis of the slow gastric emptying. Starch fine structure and viscosity were analyzed for initial millet and wheat couscous samples by high performance size-exclusion chromatography and the Rapid Visco Analyzer, respectively. Couscous samples were subjected to simulated gastric digestion using the Human Gastric Simulator (HGS), a dynamic model of human gastric digestion. Digesta was collected from the HGS at 30 min intervals over 180 min. Particle size and percent starch hydrolysis of couscous in the digesta were evaluated at each time point. The number of particles per gram of dry mass substantially increased over digestion time for millet couscous (p < 0.05), while changed little for the wheat couscous samples. Millet couscous showed lower starch hydrolysis per unit surface area of particles than wheat couscous (p < 0.05). Slower starch hydrolysis was associated with smaller (p < 0.05) amylose chain length for millet (839–963 DP) than for wheat (1225–1563 DP), which may enable enable a denser packing of millet starch molecules that impedes hydrolysis. We hypothesize that the slow gastric emptying rate of millet couscous observed in humans may be explained by its slow starch hydrolysis property that could activate the ileal brake system, independent of high particle breakdown rate in the stomach.