Research in Singapore Finds Nutritional Value in Durian Seeds

Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) have developed an all-natural food stabilizer made from durian seeds, which they contend can support probiotic foods. The primary function of food stabilizers is in giving prepared food items a stable texture, by binding various ingredients by means of sugar protein polymers.

William Chen, a professor at NTU, noted that there are two primary uses for the durian seed-based food stabilizer, the first of which is replacing gum arabic, a common food stabilizer, the second of which is extending the shelf life of probiotics products. An outside study confirmed that the durian seed stabilizer is 20% more effective than alternatives for probiotics products, vindicating a laborious three-year process from the NTU research team.

Durians are a signature fruit in Southeast Asia, known for their distinctive taste and smell, and seen in a wide range of traditional foods and desserts. Singaporeans were estimated to have consumed six million durians in 2018. Professor Chen noted that each durian contains 300g of seeds, meaning that there is enormous potential to extract value from something currently regarded as food waste. Unsurprisingly, he explained that the research on durian seeds was motivated by a desire to reduce environmental impact and the effects of climate change.

Although durians are controversial for their flavor and odor, the seed-based stabilizer does not contain the signature durian taste. However, the production process is time-intensive, including multiple steps, from washing the seeds, to slicing them, then boiling them, and harvesting the resulting solution. Nonetheless, the process is still potential cheaper than other alternatives for probiotics products: “The total cost for conventional industrial processes to produce probiotic compounds is estimated at about $60 for every litre of the growth medium. In comparison, our discovery at NTU would only cost around $13 per litre to produce, which is 4.5 times more cost effective”, Professor Chen concluded.

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