Foods of the future to boost brain

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
New Zealand foods of the future could not only have more flavour and texture, but also boost our brain functions.

AgResearch scientists are working on programmes that have been awarded more than $21 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Endeavour Fund.

''The future for New Zealand food exports to the world is premium quality and adding as much value as possible to our products,'' AgResearch science group leader Dr Jolon Dyer said.

''This cutting-edge research will look at how we can help deliver premium foods by taking the eating experience, and the health benefits of the food, to new levels.''

The first programme, called ''Smarter Lives: New opportunities for dairy products across the lifespan'', focuses on how foods can influence brain performance via the ''gut-brain axis''.

''Our gut influences just about everything we do and its connection to the brain is essential to leading healthier lives,'' programme leader Dr Nicole Roy said.

''People are looking for products that help brain development in children and provide better brain performance through adulthood. One way is through eating foods that boost brain performance.

''There is mounting evidence to suggest that frequent consumption of dairy products or probiotics may do just that, but we don't yet know how. The key is in the two-way communication between the gut and the brain.

''We'll be using cutting-edge techniques to understand how dairy ingredients and probiotics can work together to send signals from the gut to optimise brain development and performance.

''We'll also be developing prototype foods that combine ingredients in a way that promotes those benefits.''

The research is in collaboration with Fonterra, the Riddet Institute, University of Auckland's Centre for Brain Research, Australia's Flinders University, Ireland's University College Cork, and Illinois University in the United States.

The second programme, ''Accelerated evolution: a step-change in food fermentation'', looks at how fermentation - one of the oldest and most economical ways of producing and preserving food - can enhance products with fewer additives.

''We'll be looking at the process of fermentation, and how we accelerate the process using different scientific methods to create new and desirable flavours and textures for products such as dairy, meat and seafood,'' programme leader Dr Li Day said.

''We'll also determine how these new fermented foods can be identified uniquely with New Zealand, and experienced and enjoyed by consumers internationally.''

AgResearch's partners in this project are the Riddet Institute, Callaghan Innovation, Teagasc (Ireland), University of Bologna, and Kyoto University.

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