Janet Gutiérrez Uribe had been searching for a Mexican ingredient that was beneficial to health since she started studying Food Engineering. The biotechnology specialist found what she was looking for in black beans.
“The first patent (registered by the researcher) is for compounds found in black beans which help reduce the growth of cancer cells,” says Gutiérrez Uribe.
For more than ten years, as a food expert, she has investigated the properties of black beans that range from inflammation reduction, anti-oxidation, digestion regulation, and cancer prevention, since it inhibits the growth of cells that “forget that they have to die”, as she says.
Initially, Gutiérrez Uribe looked into selling the idea to a company that could develop products from her research, but “luckily” that wasn’t possible.
Black beans such as Wellbeans
In 2018, Gutiérrez Uribe and two other scientists, Sergio Serna, and Daniel Guajardo, launched their own firm, Jaseda, a company that develops ingredients which help improve health and prevent disease.
“I wanted to find a Mexican foodstuff with active ingredients worth extracting and test how they worked on biological models. My interest wasn’t only in nutrition, but also in how the molecules present in food can be used to improve specific aspects of health,” says Gutiérrez Uribe, who is also the Leader of Tec de Monterrey’s Healthy Food Unit at the Institute for Obesity Research.
One of their first products, which Gutiérrez Uribe calls “the eldest child”, is the Wellbean food supplement: capsules filled with the concentrated beneficial properties of beans. For example, each capsule is equivalent to 30 grams of beans.
The Wellbean patent states that black bean extracts contain natural products with the ability to “treat, prevent, and/or inhibit cancers or the growth of cancer cells.”
It is a supplement with vitamins C, D, and Zinc that modulate metabolism. The supplement is antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. The doctor suggests taking two capsules a day.
“Black beans have several compounds. However, when we put some of them together in particular mixtures, they alter the composition of the cell membrane and thus modify the way in which cancer cells use energy,” she says.
“This means we can limit cell growth. By mixing in other compounds, we remind cancer cells that they should die,” adds the researcher.
The many properties of beans
All these compounds come out of the skin of the bean. They did so much research into this that sacks of beans without skins began to accumulate at Tec de Monterrey laboratories.
Since the waste can no longer be used to make traditional dishes, Jaseda sought to process it, increase the fiber, and turn it into a healthy food. This was how another of their products was created: Tansanas, a snack based on corn and beans.
“Sometimes, we eat because of anxiety. Tansanas will help you feel full. It’s also anti-inflammatory and will help you regulate your digestive system,” explains the researcher.
Since 2011, Tec de Monterrey researchers found that black bean seeds contain compounds called flavonols, which have the potential to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.
These findings allowed a better understanding of the link between the low incidence of breast cancer cases and a black beans diet in some parts of Mexico.
Food Innovation Award
In 2023, the Wellbean supplement was recognized with the Food Innovation Award in the category “Innovative product in food supplements” by the Food Tech Summit and Expo, one of the most relevant international food innovation conferences in Latin America.
Food Tech recognizes this innovation as “with biological activities, scientifically proven; the result of more than 15 years of research by scientists at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. It contains antioxidant compounds and saponins with biological activity similar to other known nutraceuticals, such as the root of ginseng or red wine.