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Bio-analytical Research

Food for Health – Functional Foods

Part of the Teagasc Food Bioscience programme research at the bio-analytical facility at Ashtown will focus on the extraction, purification, profiling and characterisation of new and novel molecules which can confer a health benefit beyond basic nutrition (i.e. nutraceuticals). There will be a strong focus on chemical characterisation of these compounds.

Three sources of these compounds will be explored:

The marine environment

The island of Ireland has a great marine biodiversity and consequently holds a large variety of marine foods. There is only limited activity aimed at exploiting these resources as sources of functional foods or functional ingredients. Three potential sources of bio-active molecules from the marine environment will be examined: marine algae, marine discards / marine by-products and aquaculture resources.

Terrestrial plants

A diet rich in plants has been shown to have a protective effect against a number of degenerative diseases including certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The effects of known nutrients and bioactive compounds, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and fibres, cannot wholly explain the benefits of a high intake of vegetables. It seems that other compounds with beneficial health effects such as phytochemicals are also present in vegetables. Three main avenues for plant derived bio-active molecules will be explored: fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Animal muscle, processing discards and by-products

Animal muscle is an unrivalled source of high quality protein, which could potentially harbour biologically active peptides for use in functional foods. While the potential of other animal derived proteins such as milk proteins as a source of bio-active peptides is well known animal muscle protein is less well characterised. Processing of meats generates substantial quantities of by-products and waste. These valuable resources are currently either converted to low value products or discarded at a cost to the manufacturer.