Functional food centre opens

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Brookes nutritionists will look at the links between poor diet and disease - and come up with solutions.

With mounting evidence of links between chronic disease and the food we eat, nutritionists at Oxford Brookes University have opened the country's first dedicated Functional Food Centre to scientifically assess the role of ingredients in health and well-being.

Distinguished academics from Europe and the USA as well as dozens of VIPs from global food companies attended the centre's launch on Thursday 26th February.

Heart disease, diabetes and obesity are three chronic health problems associated with a poor diet.

Their growing prevalence in the UK has coincided with ongoing public concerns about what constitutes a healthy diet.

"Our primary goal is to improve the health and well-being of people around the world," said the Functional Food Centre's Director Professor Jeya Henry (pictured) at the launch.

Until now there have been limited centres in the UK for the provision of reliable and impartial food research.

Professor Henry explained: "At a time of growing interest in food and nutrition there is a wave of misinformation and mistrust."

Set up in the University's School of Life Sciences, the centre will work with consumer groups, companies, governments and NGOs.

"It will be a centre that provides evidence-based science and knowledge to consumers and industry," said Professor Henry.

One of the centre's main aims is to help companies develop new products with specific health benefits.

It will identify functional food ingredients that may help prevent disease, identify new ingredients, conduct clinical trials, collect data to support food health claims, run feasibility studies for large-scale production and provide training and education for health professionals and the public alike.

Welcoming everyone to the launch and symposium, Professor Diana Woodhouse, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) praised Professor Henry's food and nutrition group for the internationally-renowned work they carry out.

Professor Henry and Dr Helen Lightowler lead the centre's 12-strong team.

In recent years they have developed low GI (glycaemic index) bread, a salt substitute and a low fat potato chip.

“We are now able to offer a service that looks at food from the farm to the fork,” added Professor Henry.

Additionally, researchers will also study the social and cultural aspects of what we eat.