Research centre to guide policy on diet-related disease

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, Nutrition

A research hub in the UK is hoping to tackle diet related diseases
through developments in nutrition, which could help inform
Government policy on the very real issues brought on by the growing
obesity problem.

The Centre for Preventive Medicine officially opens its doors on Tuesday in Norwich and will bring together the expertise of the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Institute of Food Research. Such a move comes at a time when medical problems associated with unhealthy lifestyles are putting a hefty price on health care services. The annual cost to the UK's National Health Service (NHS) for coronary heart disease is £6.3bn, while £1bn is spent on obesity related conditions. Developments in nutrition, including nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition advice, which may put these problems to an end are a key area of interest for business. Indeed, DSM was spurred on to by a gap in the market to help type-2 diabetics regulate their glucose levels by producing a casein ingredient InsuVital. Type-2 diabetes is climbing rapidly in Europe as the population becomes increasingly overweight. Researchers have warned of the impact on healthcare of the many side effects of obesity, including type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Diabetes has already increased by one-third during the 1990s, due to the prevalence of obesity and an ageing population. There are currently more than 194 million people with diabetes worldwide, set to exceed 333 million by 2025. Professor Peter Kopelman of the University of East Anglia said: "People are living longer but many of these increasingly suffer from chronic diseases. "By closely linking laboratory science with patient centred research, and population findings, we aim to reduce this suffering through the prevention of diseases associated with unhealthy lifestyle that include obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease". ​ Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research said: "Our research provides evidence to help government and health organisations with policies to improve health and save money. "For example, as research starts to reveal why some individuals are more prone to diet related diseases than others, more targeted and personalised advice will be possible." ​ As part of the centre's work, Institute of Food Research scientists will be studying how flavonoids in foods contribute to cardiovascular health. They will be investigating if flavonoids in apples can be as effective as aspirin at reducing heart disease risk. In joint projects with UEA scientists, they are studying how consumption of flavonoids from highly coloured fruits and from soy and cocoa can affect heart disease risk. Flavonoids have been receiving interest with a mounting body of science, including epidemiological and laboratory-based, continuing to report the cancer-fighting potential of a number of different flavonoids, such as isoflavones, anthocyanidins and flavonols. Indeed, UK ingredient firm Corresence is close to seeing its flavanol-rich ingredient Evesse juice hit the shelves, which is aimed at boosting cardiovascular health. The benefits associated with apple flavonoids have been gaining more and more scientific backing. Apple consumption has been linked with cutting asthma in children, while another study has suggested the flavonoid quercetin found in apples may help reduce upper respiratory tract infection. According to Business Insights, the market potential for flavonoids in the dietetic and nutritional supplement market is in excess of €670m ($862m) for 2007, with annual increases of 12 per cent. Cardiovascular health is an increasing topic of concern, and cardiovascular disease causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year. According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 percent of Americans (70.1 million people) suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002. A centre spokesperson added: "We have the capacity to carry research through from understanding the molecular biology of phytochemical synthesis in plants through to large scale epidemiological studies on populations and intervention studies on human subjects."

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