Gut research funding to improve health via food
06 December 2022
The University of Reading has been announced as one of six publicly-funded hubs for diet and health research and innovation. The hubs, which are funded by several UK agencies, led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, will drive progress in our understanding of the relationship between diet and health, exploring the benefits that functional foods could offer us.
Almost £15m has been invested in the new Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club (OIRC), with Reading securing a share of the fund to focus on the role of “functional foods” in recovery.
Lead researcher, Dr Gemma Walton, University of Reading, said: “Trillions of bacteria inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract – in simple terms, we have microbes in our guts, and that’s actually a very good thing. They grow within us and produce a range of end products that can impact on our health. We’re looking at how gut microbes can impact on recovery, after exercise, mental stress, or physical illness.
“The diet we consume influences this microbial community, and that means we can alter these inhabitants through food and drink, thereby having an influence on health.”
The research project, “INvestigating the role of Functional foOds and beveRages to iMprove health and recovery (INFORM)”, is multidisciplinary, and aims to understand the potential for functional foods – foods with health-giving additives – to improve human health, via impacts on the gut microbes.
Co-investigator, Kieran Tuohy, University of Leeds, said: “We will be investigating how a range of products, including various prebiotics, probiotics, and plant stanols, could impact on the gut microbiome and how this may correlate to recovery from exercise, illness, or mental stress.”
The INFORM hub has been gathering together experts in the gut microbiome, mental health, sports and exercise, bone health, metabolism and some specific clinical conditions, along with members of the food, healthcare and sport industries.
Initially funded for five years, INFORM remains open to new members.