- £4M of research funding awarded to six projects investigating diet and health to enable the food and drink industry to meet the needs of UK consumers
- Studies will investigate how diet affects health, including on osteoarthritis, brain function, cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes
- Funding delivered through the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC), a collaboration between UK Research Councils and the food and drink industry
£4M of research to investigate diet and health has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council with the backing of 15 food and drink companies.
The six projects respond to challenges that enable the food and drink industry to meet the needs of UK consumers. Scientists proposed research that will improve our understanding of food choice and eating behaviours, contribute to the design of foods that maintain and improve health, and explore how food processing can be optimised to deliver healthier foods.
Among the projects are studies investigating how better nutrition can slow down or prevent osteoarthritis, how dietary fibre can be used to lower cholesterol and how small behavioural 'nudges' can support people seeking to consume fewer calories and control their weight (full list below).
The funding is provided through the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC), a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) led collaboration with 15 food and drink companies, with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: "The relationship between our diets and health is vitally important to every individual, to society as a whole and to the UK economy.
"This research from the Diet and Health Research Industry Club has exciting potential to meet the needs of UK consumers and deliver real health, economic and social benefits. It is an excellent example of Research Councils and industry working together to address critical challenges."
Professor Judy Buttriss, Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) and chair of the DRINC steering group, said: "I am delighted that six world-class studies into aspects of diet, health and disease are to be supported in the new round of Diet and Health Research Industry Club funding.
"All six have the potential to produce important results that could deliver real benefit to the health and wellbeing of consumers in the UK, and around the world."
BBSRC and MRC will together fund 90% of the six projects, with the remaining 10% coming from industry partners.
These six are the first projects funded in the second stage of DRINC. The first stage of the Club allocated £15M for high quality diet and health research between 2007-2010. An independent evaluation in 2011 recommended DRINC's continuation to contribute to the UK's strength in diet and health research, which underpins the needs of the food and drink industry. The companies in this industry form the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, employ 3.7 million people, and account for around 7% of UK GDP.
In total the second phase of DRINC will fund £10M of research in three calls. The second call opened on 12 May 2014 with at least £3M available.
Notes to editors
- Synergistic combinations of diet-derived bioactives to maintain joint health and prevent osteoarthritis – £491,766 – Prof Ian Clark, University of East Anglia
Investigating how compounds found in foods act to protect cartilage in joints, and testing mixtures to identify the best combination(s) to protect cartilage and slow or prevent osteoarthritis.
- Impact of food processing on the blood cholesterol-lowering effect of cereal beta-glucan – £648,083 – Dr Peter Ellis, King's College London working with colleagues at the Institute of Food Research (Norwich) and the University of Nottingham
Determining the effects of soluble dietary fibre on fat digestion and the associated reduction in blood cholesterol and lipid concentrations. Investigating what effects food processing has on soluble dietary fibre and devising ways to incorporate soluble dietary fibre into manufactured foods while retaining its ability to reduce blood cholesterol and lipid concentrations.
- Using crop genetics to understand the importance of dietary resistant starches for maintaining healthy glucose homeostasis – £967,853 – Dr Gary Frost, Imperial College London, working with colleagues at the Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, King's College London and University of Glasgow.
Using an artificial gut and human tests to investigate 'resistant starch' in peas, which is associated with reduced susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes. Studying the best way to process and prepare peas to maximise resistant starch content in a variety of foods. Genetic insights will inform crop breeders which genes in peas are associated with the types of starch that provide the best protection against Type 2 diabetes.
- Nudge150: Combining small changes to foods to achieve a sustained decrease in energy intake – £651,725 – Prof Peter Rogers, University of Bristol, working with colleagues at University of Oxford.
Testing small 'nudge' approaches to reducing calorie intake. The team will test the effectiveness of consuming 150 calories fewer at lunch combined with methods for increasing meal satisfaction, potentially providing a route for the food industry to help implement a widely supported public health approach to weight management.
- Speciation and bioavailability of iron in plant foods – £576,910 – Prof Peter Shewry, Rothamsted Research
Iron deficiency anaemia affects an estimated 4.7 million people in the UK. Most dietary iron comes from plant foods and this study will characterise the different forms of iron found in food plants (including wheat, peas and broccoli) and how they are absorbed by the body. The results will underpin efforts to breed iron-rich crops, develop foods with higher iron availability and design safe and efficient iron supplements.
- Mechanistic assessment of the acute and chronic cognitive effects of flavanol/anthocyanin intervention in humans – £717,106 – Prof Jeremy Spencer, University of Reading
Dietary studies using foods or extracts rich in compounds called flavonoids indicate they can enhance human cognition, memory and learning. This research will investigate how flavonoids affect cognitive function by examining their precise pathways of action in the body, informing more effective public health advice and allowing people to make more informed healthy food choices.
In 2007 BBSRC, in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), established DRINC with 15 company members.
Over £15M was provided to enable high quality research into diet and health within UK universities and research institutes, aimed at helping the food industry develop products that deliver enhanced health benefits for consumers. This research generated underpinning knowledge and improved skills in a research community that provides valuable pre-competitive outputs for the UK food and drink industry. In 2011, an evaluation of DRINC recommended continuation of the club to benefit UK industry by maintaining the UK's strength in diet and health research.
The second phase of DRINC was launched in November 2012 with support from BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC and MRC and 15 company members. The partners will provide a further £10M of funding for food related diet and health research.
The 15 DRINC industry members are: Campden BRI, Coca-Cola, Danone, DuPont, Leatherhead Food Research, Marks and Spencer, Mondelez, nabim, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Sainsbury's, Seafish, Sugar Nutrition UK, Unilever and Waitrose.
The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers' money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Twenty-nine MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed.
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