A new £5M (€6M) research project aims to provide small food firms (SMEs) with the scientific evidence to prove that bioactive peptides and polyphenols can help reduce deaths caused by heart disease.
The four-year project, 'Beneficial effects of dietary bioactive peptides and polyphenols on cardiovascular health in humans' (BACCHUS), will develop scientific evidence to support a causal relationship between consumption of these active ingredients found in foods such as fruit, wheat products and dry cured ham and beneficial physiological effects on cardiovascular health, such as the reduction of blood pressure.
"Heart disease is still the biggest killer. If you reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, you reduce the risk of death," said Paul Kroon, research leader and coordinator of the BACCHUS project at the Institute of Food Research (IFR). Incidents of cardiovascular disease have been rising and are now responsible for 47% of deaths in Europe, with associated health costs of £157bn (195bn).
The IFR-lead project funded under the EU's 7th Framework Programme will also help SMEs, which are developing innovative new products, to make successful health claim submissions to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), said Kroon.
"With polyphenols and bioactive peptides, very few health claims are being approved. It has proved hard to work out what dosage of peptides and polyphenols is needed to cause beneficial effects in humans, such as thinning of the blood and lowering cholesterol."
Researchers will tests humans to see what dosage of bioactive peptides and polyphenols is required in foods to enter the blood to produce a positive reaction.
"We want to provide the scientific evidence, new tools and the know-how to support firms' health claims," said Kroon. "The majority of the research data will be published. In addition, the project will generate case studies and best practice guidelines that will be available for all to read. The project will provide more information on how peptides and polyphenols work in the human body and knowledge of what the EFSA want and how to make a claim."
The British Nutrition Foundation will draft health claims guidance.