Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 10, 1999

Guelph to study whether added food ingredients can fight disease

Does adding ingredients known to treat or prevent a disease to food products protect the consumer against the illness? University of Guelph researchers hope to discover the answer through the new Human Nutraceutical Research Unit.

The unit will perform human research trials on food products containing nutraceuticals. "Nutraceutical" is one of the terms used to describe natural food ingredients that are known to fight or prevent disease. Examples include Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils that reduce triglycerides, a known risk for heart disease, and margarine containing plant sterols, which lower blood cholesterol.

"When these ingredients are incorporated into food at certain levels, the food has a drug-like effect," said Bruce Holub, Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences. "This has been confirmed in medical journals for some natural ingredients and is accepted in the medical profession, but there need to be additional human studies. The effectiveness of many products has not been proven through controlled research."

The research and education carried out by the unit will strengthen the University's role as a leader in the field, researchers say. The research unit will test and develop new food products and organize nutraceutical education programs.

"Our primary function is to carry out research on specific nutraceuticals and then advise government agencies and industry on their efficacy," said Julie Conquer, unit director. The research unit will be managed by Conquer and associate director, Prof. Bill Bettger, both from the Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences. Holub and other faculty will form the research advisory board and conduct research trials. The team will also include other nutraceutical specialists, nutritional research scientists, exercise and performance specialists, medical practitioners with an interest in nutraceuticals, and dietitians.

In collaboration with the Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC) and the Laboratory Services Division, the research unit will formulate and prepare nutraceutical products. It will also develop new food and nutraceutical products through collaborations with the Department of Food Science, the Department of Animal and Poultry Science and other University departments. Undergraduate and graduate students will gain experience in preparing nutraceuticals and running human research trials.

Funding for the research unit will come from industry, research grants and the University, with revenue generation also anticipated from outreach education programs. For example, the research unit will hold a mini-symposium this summer to educate health professionals about the effect of nutraceuticals on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

For information, contact (519) 824-4120 Ext. 6171. For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, Ext. 3338.

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