Conference to study benefit of certain foods

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

KANNAPOLIS — Nearly 100 scientists from around the globe will gather at the Sixth International Workshop on Anthocyanins Sept. 11 through 14 at the N.C. Research Campus.
Anthocyanins are bioactive compounds that are found in blue, red or purple fruits and vegetables. Among the research breakthroughs to be showcased will be a new technology that researchers believe could revolutionize the functional food industry.
The conference is hosted by the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute and coordinated by its director, Dr. Mary Ann Lila. Most of the conference will be held at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord.
The conference, “Celebrating the Vivacity of Color,” will share information on all aspects of the biosynthesis and function of anthocyanins in plants and their applications in agriculture, food products and human health. Recent research has pointed to a strong role for natural dietary anthocyanin pigments in alleviating Type 2 diabetes and symptoms of cardiovascular disease; combatting obesity; improving cognitive and motor function, especially age-related symptoms; and the amelioration of several types of cancers.
For the first time publicly, N.C. State and Rutgers University will disclose information about a major new development that allows health-protective anthocyanins and other fruit components to be naturally concentrated in a shelf-stable, low calorie, highly nutritious and good-tasting food product. The research team believes this technology will solve some of the most important challenges faced by the food industry today.
Functional foods contain natural components from plants that prevent chronic disease, enhance human metabolism and impart beneficial components for overall health maintenance.
“What is innovative about this new technology is that it is a platform for cost-effective delivery of health-beneficial compounds to the general public,“ Lila said in a press release.
“For example, we know that some of our research has demonstrated that blueberries alleviate the neurodegeneration that is a symptom of Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “By being able to deliver a daily dose of helpful phytonutrients in a food product that is derived from fruits or vegetables, we have the potential to advance the treatment of Parkinson’s and other diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.”
Intake of the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables remains low for most Americans. According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the average U.S. resident consumes only 51 percent of the recommended levels of fruits and vegetables. Researchers believe this new technology could help Americans increase their intake of beneficial compounds provided from plant crops.
“This can be a convenient way for people to get their daily dose of fruits and vegetables,” Lila said. “It doesn’t replace the need for consuming fresh produce but it will enhance and supplement the daily diet.”
This innovation is expected to help North Carolina farmers and agribusiness as well. North Carolina fruits and vegetables have been used in much of the research.
“It has the potential to result in small-scale manufacturing in the state, including both food and cosmetic companies,” she said.
The healthy concentrate from this process will be made available to food, pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical companies. The proprietary process starts with fruits and vegetables.
Over the past two years, researchers have learned how to extract the most beneficial compounds from fruits and vegetables while excluding waters, oils and sugars, which also means fewer calories. Among the phytonutrients that become part of this innovative matrix are anthocyanins, beneficial alkaloids and terpenoids, catechins, flavonoids, gingerols, glucosinolates, isoflavones, polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, punicalagins, quercetin and resveratrol.
The process is suitable for many fruits, vegetables, nuts, tea and cocoa. Researchers have studied this new process with apples, blueberries, broccoli, chicory, cinnamon, citrus, cranberries, ginger, muscadines, pears, pomegranates, rhubarb, sweet potatoes and watermelons.
While the research is a joint effort between the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute and Rutgers, a new company, Nutrasorb LLC, will produce and market this new innovation commercially. The Rutgers spin-off will operate a subsidiary at the N.C. Research Campus, in addition to its headquarters in New Jersey.
Researchers with Lila’s lab at the N.C. Research Campus, along with Dr. Slavko Komarnytsky, a plant biologist specializing in pharmacogenomics with the Plants for Human Health Institute, and Dr. Diana Roopchand, Rutgers University, will present research findings related to this new technology.
The N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute is part of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. The campus is a public-private venture including eight universities, the David H. Murdock Research Institute and corporate entities that collaborate to advance the fields of nutrition and health. Learn more at