Simultaneously, a Collaborative Research & Development (CRD) Program was also launched to explore the effects of polyphenol and probiotic combination on gut microbiota and associated intestinal markers. These two five-year research programs entail a $3 million plus investment over five years and they are designed to generate high-quality scientific evidence supporting the development of new natural food ingredients to promote human health.
Developing effective dietary supplements and functional foods
The global rise in several chronic disease (e. g. obesity) is driving steady growth in the market for functional foods and nutraceuticals, which may top $50 billion in 2018. Experts are beginning to understand the essential role of gut microbiota in preventing chronic disease and the importance of a balanced diet in maintaining good health. There is a special emphasis on the positive impact of the consumption of fruits and vegetables linked to the benefits attributed to the fiber and polyphenols they contain. These two natural components appear to have a decisive impact on the modulation of the microbiota. While the effect of fiber on the microbiota has been investigated for quite a long time, the positive modulation of the microbiota with polyphenols is an emerging science. The understanding of these effects is a promising area of research that would do both – help to explain the impact of fruits and vegetables on health, and also open the door to the development of effective new dietary supplements or functional foods.
Partners’ shared expectations for solid scientific findings
Through this research program and drawing on its expertise in fruit and vegetables and their health benefits, Diana will continue to explore the positive effects of natural extracts containing specific polyphenols on the gut microbiota.
“The PhenoBio Chair will reinforce the scientific positioning of Diana as a world leader in the processing and valorization of fruits and vegetables for healthy solutions. Our goal is to discover and propose new health solutions through Nutrition, by leveraging key scientific partnerships” said Diana President Jean-Yves Parisot.
The purpose of the PhenoBio Chair, directed by Yves Desjardins from the Department of Phytology in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University Laval, is to identify how specific polyphenols (tannins, quercetin) found in certain fruits (e. g. cranberries, strawberries, cloudberries, camu camu, banana peels), or vegetables (onions) reciprocally interact with the gut microbiota, using advanced technologies (metabolomics and metagenomics). The chair will have two main objectives: to develop innovative technologies to extract and concentrate polyphenols from fruit & vegetables and their co-products, and to demonstrate the prebiotic effect (i. e. the positive impact on the gut microbiota) of various fruit and vegetable extracts. This research program will bring together experts from different scientific domains (e. g. phytology, microbiology, cellular biology, bio-informatics) to address the complexity of the mutual interaction of polyphenols and probiotics with the gut microbiota.
“We will study the effects of tannin-rich extracts on the reciprocal interaction that arises between the intestinal microbiome and these molecules in order to improve our understanding of the physiological mechanisms behind their health effects,” explained Yves Desjardins, also coordinator of international affairs at “Institut sur la nutrition et les aliments fonctionnels” (INAF). Based on these findings, Diana will develop new and effective natural polyphenol extracts.
“Through the CRD platform, we will develop combinations of polyphenols and probiotic bacteria in order to assess their effect, understand their mechanisms of action and demonstrate their effect on the gut microbiota. In each program, we’ll be looking for ways to use coproducts such as banana peels from the Diana Food plant in Ecuador, as well as local Nordic berries like cloudberries. Valorizing by-products constitutes also a major interest of Diana, echoing at the same time its historical sustainable way of working,” underlined Denis Guyonnet – Diana Nova, Scientific & Innovation Director.
For the Laval University, the Chair will play an important role in developing a center of excellence in human nutrition and health. “The Chair will serve as a strategic platform for developing knowledge and pooling know-how through cutting-edge studies in prebiotics,” added Eugénie Brouillet, Vice-Rector of Research, Creation, and Innovation at Laval University.
“NSERC is proud to support this Industrial Chair, which is a concrete result of the close and efficient research and development partnership between the Laval University and Diana,” said Marc Fortin, Vice President – Research Partnerships at NSERC.
The innovative five-year Industrial Research Chair & CRD Programs will bring together experts from different scientific domains to investigate the prebiotic effect of fruits and vegetable polyphenols and their synergistic effects with probiotics. With new knowledge, the projects will have scientific impact on the mutual interaction between polyphenols and the gut microbiota and could lead to the development of a new generation of natural products to promote human health by nutrition.