New research on health benefits of fruit and veg

**The University of Warwick and consumer goods manufacturer Unilever are carrying out joint research in an effort to find out whether the nutrients found in fruit and vegetables could help to protect people from Type-2 diabetes and improve their cardiovascular health.**

This collaboration hopes to gain a greater understanding of the role played by the nutrients and bio-actives of certain fruits in improving people’s vascular health.

The joint research forms a three-year programme in which the University of Warwick will use innovative screening technology to identify which fruit and vegetables have the relevant nutrients supposed to have a positive impact on the body.

The hypothesis behind the study is the idea that the nutrients found in fruit may help to trigger cell defence mechanisms in the tissue walls of blood vessels, which both protect them from the damage caused by the ageing process and helps to prevent the onset of Type-2 diabetes.

If this hypothesis can be verified, it will be the first time a direct link has been proven between fruit and an improvement of the health of one’s heart.

Professor Paul Thornalley from WMS explained: “Linking the expertise from industry and our scientific research, added to the ability to trial foods in a clinical setting at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), gives us a perfect platform to drive the research forward.

“We believe we can harness the health-giving properties of fruits such as grapes, strawberries and olives to raise the body’s natural defences against developing heart disease and diabetes and therefore help tackle the growing problems of declining health in our ageing and increasingly overweight population.”

The £1.1m research study, co-funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Unilever, aims to create a new range of products which can aid in improving cardiovascular health.

The research will be based in WMS, with any potential clinical trials to be carried out within the Human Metabolism Research Unit facility at UHCW.

With regards to student participation, Prof. Thornalley told the _Boar_: “There will be an option for a trainee doctor in [WMS] to join the project research team next year as we prepare for and conduct a clinical dietary intervention study with our new test food.

“Unilever are already supporting a PhD student in our team working on a separate but related project. There may be further opportunities for additional PhD student support as the project proceeds from now to the completion in May 2015.”

Prof. Thornalley believed that this participation could greatly benefit the student(s) involved, adding: “Involvement of a trainee doctor will give experience of clinical research – specifically design, implementation and data analysis in a dietary intervention study with healthy volunteers.

“Our current Unilever funded PhD student is gaining experience of working with food chemists in Unilever – particularly research being done at Unilever to develop and produce healthier foods.”

Dr Gail Jenkins, based at Unilever’s Research & Development laboratories at Colworth Science Park, added: “It’s a hugely exciting challenge which could significantly help us encourage our consumers to take small everyday actions to improve their health.”

This comes as a part of Unilever’s larger commitment to improving health, nutrition and hygiene, with the aim of helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.

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