For Immediate Release
October 10, 2006
Contacts: Ellen Ternes, 301-405-4621 or email@example.com
Functional Food Research Wins Yu Young Scientist Award
For her innovative work with nutraceuticals -- natural ingredients used as food additives to prevent disease -- Liangli Lucy Yu, associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science, received the 2006 Young Scientist Award in September from the American Chemical Society (ACS), Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division.
Says Jane Leland, Program Manager, GTQ Research at Kraft Foods and chair of the ACS Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division, "Dr. Yu has developed an outstanding research program in nutraceutical and nutritional chemistry that may have great impact on human health in the future. Her group has discovered and developed a number of novel nutraceutical products that may be used to prevent aging-associated health problems such as obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases."
Among other discoveries, Yu has patented a way to prepare and add edible seed oils and flours, which contain natural anti-inflammatory agents, to foods, to suppress chronic inflammation. Some of the ingredients, such as cranberry and grape seeds, are waste by-products of fruit processing or seed oil production.
Yu talked to Newsdesk about her work and the future of food as preventive "medicine."
Q: Describe your research.
Yu: My goal is to help people improve their health. I study bioactive factors in edible materials. Some of them are foods and byproducts of food production, such as seeds from cranberry juice production. These products have great potential for enhancing human health and quality of life. And because they are byproducts that are normally thrown away, they are low cost. They also may add value to the fruit production and processing industry.
Q: What are some of the nutraceuticals you work with?
Yu: One of the things I work with is anti-inflammatories. Chronic inflammation leads to a lot of aging problems and disease, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. A number of these diseases you don't see until you have a real problem. So prevention is a long time effort. I'm looking at one of the most effective ways to deliver preventive agents, such as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants -- putting them in food. Functional food is the best and most practical approach for health promotion and disease prevention, especially for those diseases that have no medicine to affect a cure, such as cancer.
Q: What do you have to consider in adding nutraceuticals to food?
Yu: One of the things we study is the kind of foods you can add to. You have to think about the consumer --acceptability, cost, the benefits, convenience, consumer confidence, will it make money? Are people willing to put it on the market? You also have to consider storage and processing, which may affect the release of the bioactives.
Q: Why seeds?
Yu: Consumers want all-natural products. We selected grape and berry seeds, which not only have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, they add natural flavor and color and natural preservatives. You can create a seed oil, meal or flour. Which seed or form you use depends on the food.
Q: How do you determine dosages that insure the bioactives are effective?
Yu: We tell the food company, "Here's something of promise." They then conduct animal study and clinical trials.
Q: What kinds of foods have you added nutraceuticals to?
Yu: We have added nutraceutical ingredients in several bakery products such as bread, muffins and pizza crust, instant microwavable muffin mix, as well as yogurt. Theoretically, one can make any kinds of foods "functional." Practically, lots of research has to be conducted before one may create a successful functional food product.
Q: Talk about your work with the chitosan, which is found in crab shells.
Yu: We examined and compared commercial chitosan samples with different characteristics for their capacity to bind fat, cholesterol, and bile acids. These properties are important in body weight control and reducing blood cholesterol. We also developed utilization of chitosan derivatives in controlled release and targeted delivery of bioactive factors to improve the safety and effectiveness of these bioactive factors, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
Q: What is the future of nutraceuticals?
Yu: As more evidence builds that nutraceuticals and functional foods may benefit human health, consumers would like to have such products with improved sensory properties, effectiveness, safety, convenience, stability, and cost. This will continue to offer opportunities and challenges for nutraceutical research and development. Future nutraceutical research will require more multidisciplinary efforts.
Q: How did you get interested in this field of research?
Yu: In China I was head of a technical department of a cosmetic company, developing skin care products. Before that, my research focused on discovery and development of anti-aging drugs. When I was at Purdue University working on a Ph.D in food science, I decided on nutraceuticals and functional foods. Then, after working at Kellogg, I decided on academia, where I can work on what I want. And I like to work with the students. For me, it's not just a job, it's a part of my life.
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