The Irish-based study lead said food scientists, medical scientists and pharma companies must work together to produce functional foods to treat chronic conditions.
A team of researchers based at the Bernal Institute in University of Limerick (UL) have developed a new guide to designing functional foods to treat various chronic conditions.
Functional foods are foods that provide nutrition and act in a way that positively affects the body, similar to medicine.
According to the research, food has the potential to help in the treatment of heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.
“The capacity for our food to do more than provide us with nutrition is huge and relatively unexplored,” said study lead Daniel Granato, professor in food science and health at UL.
“Cardiovascular diseases are a main cause of death but they can be prevented. By bringing food scientists, medical scientists and pharma companies together we can employ the same methods used in producing medicinal drugs and produce foods that might mitigate health conditions,” Granato added.
The study has been published in Trends in Food Science & Technology, an academic journal. The UL researchers were joined on the project by academics from the Federal University of Alfenas and Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil.
Granato and his team proposed an accurate computational approach to designing functional foods by predicting their bioactivity. This allowed the researchers to map how different food components benefit the body.
The study also drew attention to the potential of functional foods to treat illnesses and lessen the burden on the world’s health services. Functional foods are not too available on the market, despite their potential to help prevent conditions such as type-2 diabetes and glucose intolerance. These are both major contributors to heart disease.
Food science, cardiovascular disease therapy and computer modelling should be linked to produce functional foods that can mitigate atherosclerosis, according to Granato. He urged food and pharma companies to take note.
“This is critical to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in good health and wellbeing, as well as ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages, by optimising discovery of bioactive compound sources, and reducing time to market for new functional foods,” he said.
Granato’s co-author and senior lecturer in the UL Department of Biological Sciences, Dr Andreas Grabrucker, said this approach could go far beyond heart disease.
“It will be the basis of a new research project at UL that aims to identify functional foods that lower the risk for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” he claimed.
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