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Public-private research partnership announces £4M of projects to improve UK diet and health

A unique public-private partnership between 3 Research Councils and 15 food and drink companies had yesterday (06. August 2008) launched £4M of research projects with the aim of improving scientific understanding of the key issues linking diet and health so that food companies can address obesity, heart disease, anaemia and other health problems to the benefit of the consumer.

The Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) is managed and led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and aims to bring together food and drink companies, public research funders and academic scientists to ensure support to the very best UK science so that consumers can quickly benefit from a better understanding of the link between diet and health. Funding has been awarded to university and institute scientists across the UK to investigate three main areas:

* How foods can be developed to help fight obesity;

* The processes that affect our decisions about what food we eat and the portion sizes we take;

* The benefits to health of various nutrients found in foods - including fruits, vegetables, cocoa, wine and tea - and how best such nutrients can be efficiently delivered to where they are needed in the body.

The nine projects announced today are the first funded since DRINC launched in April 2007. A second round of projects worth another £3M will be funded in 2009.

Dr Doug Yarrow, BBSRC's Director of Corporate Science, said:
"The funding of these projects by DRINC represents an open and transparent collaboration between publicly funded science and the food industry. This work will ensure that the food industry can access the best of UK science to address some of the most important health issues faced by the UK today."
Dr Alistair Penman, Chair of the DRINC awarding panel and independent consultant, said:

"The projects funded by this partnership represent both world-class science, with some of the best diet and health researchers in the UK involved, and relevant science that we think will make a real, beneficial difference to the way we eat and the health of people in the UK."

A full list of projects funded by DRINC is listed below. Amongst the highlights are:

* Satisfying foods - research at the University of Birmingham to develop mechanisms for keeping the stomach fuller for longer and also tell the brain that the stomach is pleasantly full. The research could lead to new foods to tackle obesity by telling the brain to stop eating sooner and preventing snacking between meals.

* Why do we 'supersize' - researchers at the University of Bristol will examine the psychology behind how filling we think a food will be before we decide how much of it to eat. The work will help us to understand how to present food so people take in reduced levels of calories.

* Maximising the health benefits of chocolate, tea and wine - it is well known that the flavanols in cocoa, tea and wine have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. However, processing these foodstuffs, such as through heating, dramatically affects flavanol content. Researchers at the University of Reading will examine flavanols in cocoa and investigate what happens to them in the human digestive system and how they have a beneficial effect on human cells.

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