Research will help firms support health claims

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sciences research council, Health claims, Nutrition, science

Food manufacturers should be able to make far more scientifically based health claims for their products, if a series of research products dealing...

Food manufacturers should be able to make far more scientifically based health claims for their products, if a series of research products dealing with obesity and satiety prove successful.

Nine three-year research projects were last week approved for £4M of funding under the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC)​, a joint public-private research initiative, which is managed and led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Seven more projects are likely to receive approval in 2009 in a second funding round worth over £3M. These will also focus on diet and health; how experimental psychology influences satiety and weight management and exploring ‘biomarkers’ for gut health.

“The shortest term deliverable is the fact that this sort of research will enable manufacturers to make properly supported health claims,” said DRINC co-ordinator Professor Peter Schroeder. “The second thing is that there will be new products for which proper claims can be made. The third thing is that a bigger portion of our biological science will be devoted to this field, with the longer-term spin-off that people stay healthier.”

Among a variety of research areas covered under the first round are a number of projects dealing with aspects such as the physiological and psychological factors behind obesity. They include one on foods that provide satiety; one on the decisions people make around portion sizes; and another on eating behaviours which drive chronic over-consumption. A further project will investigate how the digestive system sends signals to the brain to indicate whether nutrition is required or eating should cease.

The nine successful projects were selected from 114 submissions, which were whittled down to a short-list of 23 featuring “high quality science”. The level of submissions was “amazing”, according to Schroeder. All project submissions have been given feedback and those that were highly regarded but just failed to receive funding in the first round have been advised to resubmit in the second funding round, said Schroeder.

“The science and technology is now available to tackle the really difficult biology questions,” said Schroeder. “If you really want to understand the impact of what you eat and what you are, you’ve got to understand the interaction between what you eat and the human gut and that is fiendishly difficult; and [in the past] the tools weren’t really there - but now they are there.”

The other important development that now makes such understanding possible, added Schroeder was the emergence of experimental psychology and human behaviour in this area. “There are some extremely good projects in there.”

Some 15 food and drink companies, including names such as Britvic, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Danisco, Danone, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé, Pepsico, Unilever and United Biscuits, are behind the five-year DRINC programme, which also has the support of the Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Other organisations involved include Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association and Leatherhead Food International.

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