The Quadram Institute is at the forefront of food and health research. Our findings will lead to a better understanding of how what we eat affects our health, and how dietary advice can be improved, personalised and extended based on this. Our extensive expertise in microbiological food safety is also targeting both a reduction in existing causes of foodborne illness, and the safe development of novel foods.
As part of our mission, we are also looking at strategies to improve health through food innovation – developing future foods based on our science with a verified ability to improve health – in particular age-related chronic diseases including gut inflammatory syndromes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive decline.
We are working with partners in the UK and internationally to exploit advances in crop genomics to develop new varieties with enhanced nutritional qualities. A collaboration with the John Innes Centre is developing new breeds of wheat with higher levels of resistant starch. With our expertise in food science and the QI Clinical Research Facility, we are fully characterising and verifying the health benefits from this wheat, and products derived from it, and developing novel foods targeting obesity-related conditions such as Type II diabetes.
Other projects are taking a similar approach focusing on bioactives, including polyphenols and sulphur-containing metabolites, where we have or are developing new varieties enriched in these compounds that are believed to promote health. These products derive from our long term, detailed studies into the fundamental underlying biological mechanisms and processes by which these bioactive compounds alter metabolic processes in the body that ameliorate the effects of age and diet related chronic disease.
As well as delivering nutritionally-enhanced future foods, we are also looking at how the structure of food affects its health promoting abilities. The chemical composition and physical structures of foods determine the rate of digestion and passage through the digestive tract, and the absorption of nutrient within the small and large intestine. This in turn determines the release of gut-derived signalling compounds that are important in satiety.
We are developing future foods, such as starch based foods that have controlled glucose release profiles, to understand the factors that influence digestive processes and gut-brain signalling. Using our knowledge of food structure, combined with experiments and clinical trials, we are helping in the development of foods to modify the rates of digestion to prolong, moderate glycaemic response, and also optimise the bioavailability of essential micro-nutrients.
In response to consumer demand, we have been helping the food industry to develop a wider range of products, for example more “fresh-like” foods, based on a deeper understanding of microbial lifestyles in the food chain. This is also allowing us to extend the shelf-life of chilled food products, reduce salt, sugar and other preservatives, and contribute to better sustainability of the food chain.
To reach consumers and be able to contribute to reducing the burden of diet-related disease, we work with commercial partners to develop future foods. These will be based on the best available evidence for health benefits derived from the expertise and facilities at the Quadram Institute.