The Quadram Institute is at the centre of a unique concentration of expertise on the Norwich Research Park that is dedicated to the science of food and health. Central to our mission is to harness that expertise into understanding how individual foods and diets can help us maintain and to improve our health, and to develop innovative foods that can further promote health and healthy ageing.
Our focus is on promoting health, and preventing and ameliorating the effects of age and diet-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive decline. We seek to understand how individual food components, complex foods and combinations of foods are digested within the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract, and how nutrients and non-nutrient food components are released and absorbed into the body, including those resulting from fermentation in the colon. Our programme of research further seeks to understand how these absorbed products of digestion influences cellular processes to maintain and enhance health. An important part of our programme is to undertake dietary intervention studies and clinical trials with healthy and patient volunteers.
A major part of the programme is concerned with how simple and complex carbohydrates are digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and pass into the colon where they are fermented by the resident bacteria. We are interested how the structure of starch and the manner by which it may be encapsulated within plant organelles may influence the rate of digestion and fermentation processes. We seek to provide further insights into the role of different type of dietary fibre in the diet, and its interaction with lipid digestion. In addition to the major nutritional macronutrients, we seek to understand how certain specialised plant metabolites that are found in foods, such as polyphenolic compounds obtained from many fruits and vegetables, and sulphur-containing compounds found in Brassica and Allium vegetables may be important components in the diet and have a role in regulating metabolism through a variety of mechanisms.
In addition to providing insights into the fundamental processes that link food and health, the Quadram Institute is dedicated to translating this research into better dietary advice for the general population and specific interest groups, and to work with the commercial sector to develop innovative foods and products that enhance our health and contribute to the prevention of chronic disease.