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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Sorghum Foods: New Health Benefits from An Ancient Grain

Authors
item Chung, Okkyung
item Bean, Scott
item Park, Seok Ho

Submitted to: Journal of Food Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 2004
Publication Date: October 15, 2004
Citation: Chung, O.K., Bean, S.R., and Park, S.H. 2005. Sorghum foods: New health benefits from an ancient grain. Food Science Journal (Chinese) 25:431-437.

Interpretive Summary: Sorghum is an ancient, drought resistant cereal grain grown around the world. In the U.S., sorghum ranks third between wheat and maize in production. Sorghum is grown primarily from southern Nebraska to Texas, with Kansas being the number one sorghum producing state. While, sorghum has traditionally been used as animal feed in the U.S., ~40% of worldwide production is used for human consumption. Recent research has shown that sorghum may have several components that could impact human health. Some sorghum lines, those containing a pigmented testa, are high in anti-oxidants; some lines higher even than blueberries. In addition, the wax surrounding the sorghum grain contains compounds, policosanols, that may have an impact on human cardiac health. Research is showing that these compounds can lower cholesterol. In addition to these benefits, sorghum is also a gluten free food and is therefore safe for persons with celiac disease. This paper reviews these potential health benefits of sorghum and their potential for increasing utilization of sorghum.

Technical Abstract: Sorghum is an ancient grain first domesticated in Africa and spread to other parts of the world around 3000 B.C. Sorghum is a drought-resistant cereal grain, often growing in semi-arid conditions where other cereal grains cannot. World sorghum production was 54.5 million metric tons (mmt) in 2002. Annually the U.S. produces 13-15 mmt, of which 30-50% is exported. While sorghum has traditionally been used primarily as animal feed in western countries, nearly 40% of the world sorghum production is used for human food in Africa, India, etc. In the U.S., white food-grade hybrids are being used for the production of wheat-free foods for persons with celiac disease, who cannot consume wheat or related cereal grains such as rye and barley due to intolerance to gluten proteins. They provide relatively bland, white flour that can be used to produce numerous wheat-free food products. As sorghum lacks gluten, sorghum flour cannot produce visco-elastic dough, thus, a batter-type formulation is used to produce sorghum products including bread, waffles, noodles, and pizza crust, which are typically made from wheat. Research has shown that some sorghum lines produce higher quality foods, thus sorghum may be bred for improved product quality. Recent research also shows that this ancient grain may have unique health benefits, due to high anti-oxidant levels related to their polyphenolic compound and sorghum wax, containing policosanols, which may be important in cardiac health. A challenge for people with celiac disease is supplying steady healthy staple foods, especially in the western world where wheat products are a major staple food. Therefore, the ancient grain sorghum has drawn new interest and has promise as an important cereal grain in the 21st century due to: (a) potential staple foods for people with celiac disease; (b) high anti-oxidants and wax levels for nutritional and health claims; and (c) the drought resistant nature of sorghum and good production with limited water due to the anticipated exponential growth of the human population in the 2030's.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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