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Food & Beverages

New Zealand has biotechnology research strengths in functional food, nutraceuticals and nutrigenomics.

Food and nutrition research is driven largely by the rising cost of healthcare, the ageing population and the increase in lifestyle diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. There is also a worldwide trend towards maximising our health and wellbeing through lifestyle and diet.

Functional foods are whole foods that are fortified or enriched to provide health benefits. Examples include plant sterol-enriched margarines that reduce cholesterol levels and omega-3 enriched ice cream or baked products that provide protection against heart disease.

Nutraceuticals are natural components of food that deliver a health benefit. For example, at Plant & Food Research (formerly HortResarch), they are looking at extracts from green-lipped mussels and the Pacific oyster as a source of dietary iron.

Nutrigenomics aims to customise an individual’s diet and optimise health benefits by looking at the interactions between food and genes.

Get focus story: Nutrigenomics

The following broad areas of research are likely to have a significant impact in the future:

  • Bioactives – identifying valuable bioactive compounds in foods and enhancing their production and extraction.
  • Functional foods – improving methods for identifying and evaluating components of functional foods to reduce the risk of chronic disease and maximise health and wellbeing.
  • Selective breeding and genetic modification – improving nutrient levels in foods through marker-assisted breeding of crops and possibly genetic modification.

New Zealand has biotechnology research strengths in functional food, nutraceuticals and nutrigenomics.

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