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Functional foods - the new 'medicine'

In less than ten years, more than two-thirds of the Australian population will be classified as overweight or obese.

The prevalence of chronic lifestyle conditions such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney damage and arthritis are growing at an exponential rate. There is an urgency to find viable and sustainable solutions. There is a need to change the way the public views the role of food in relation to health to overcome the global obesity epidemic. One way of targeting this is to use the foods that are grown in our region and use it in ways that it can provide health benefits.

Helping consumers become healthier is big business. Global consumer spending on nutraceuticals is expected to top $207 billion.
The Queen Garnet plum has the ability to deliver optimal health benefits to reduce the risks associated with chronic lifestyle disorders.

The healthy colour

UniSQ researchers are investigating the potential for this and other functional foods to reverse human obesity and chronic inflammatory diseases affecting the heart, liver, kidney and joints. The variety is amazing, as purple carrots and corn, seaweeds, chia seeds, citrus, coffee, oats, sorghum and cardamom can provide evidence for such health benefits.

The team within the UniSQ Functional Foods Research Group is providing the foundation for this development of scientifically proven functional foods that deliver optimal health benefits to reduce the risks associated with chronic lifestyle disorders.

UniSQ researchers leading the way

Professor Lindsay Brown
Professor (Biomedical Sciences)

Human trials

The Group is also moving towards the start of human intervention trials, using the Queen Garnet plum in an elderly population. The translation of results from animal studies to human trials is being strengthened by national (University of Newcastle, Swinburne University and University of South Australia) and international collaborations (Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network and St Boniface Research Centre).

Most recently, tests involving the plum discovered that rats fed the plum’s juice returned to their normal body weight and that damage to their hearts and livers was reversed, due to the exceptionally high levels of anthocyanin - a chemical compound with exceptional anti-inflammatory effect.

Innovations in food science are directly contributing to the development of new crops and providing industries with the capability to deliver higher returns directly to farmers in Australia and around the world. UniSQ Researchers are also working with industry to develop health products from Queensland-grown produce to uncover the benefits of functional foods; contributing to a healthier future for all.

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