The Norwich Research Park has over 60 food and health research groups based within it's partner institutions. We work across the whole spectrum from crop breeding for optimising the nutritional status of foods, through investigating the mode of action of particular compounds at a molecular level through to understanding the role of foods in preventing disease in individuals as well as the population at large.
Mode of action of food components and nutrients
A strong evidence base for health claims for foods is important for industry and health authorities. Understanding the mode of action of individual bioactives established at the molecular level is critical for this. At QI and UEA’s Department of Nutrition we have expertise in measuring the entire metabolic fate of food components through digestion and conversion by gut microbiota to absorption and further metabolism by human tissues. We combine this with the use of the latest ‘omics’ technologies to measure changes in metabolism and gene expression to establish the sites of action of particular food derived metabolites and the mechanism by which they confer health benefits.
Human Food and Nutrition Trials
Norwich Research Park has long standing expertise and excellent facilities in human intervention trials to investigate particular nutritional components and to demonstrate food functionality. These are based in the QI's Human Nutrition Unit and the Clinical Research Facility jointly managed by UEA and the NNUH. The Park also has considerable strengths in the analysis of large, long term cohort studies which generate new hypotheses for interventional studies.
GI Tract in health and disease
A healthy gut is an essential gatekeeper for a human health. The importance of the gut microbiota and its role in food digestion and interaction with the gut lining is increasingly clear. The Park has a significant strength in GI tract research from the fundamentals of gut biology, including microbiology and immunology at the Quadram Institute (QI) through to gastroenterology at Norwich Medical School at UEA and research clinicians at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. We are developing a comprehensive understanding of the host-microbe-food interaction which are indispensable for the development of more healthy modern foods and improved (customized) therapies for patients.
Nutrigenomics for stratification of patient and population cohorts
It is widely recognized that diet is one of the most important environmental factors that influence gene expression and thence impact health status. The Earlham Institute (EI) is an essential partner for our research groups requiring new bioinformatics methodologies to understand the ‘big data’ generated by our studies. Strategies for the stratification of intervention cohorts (patients and healthy volunteers) by using genomics data are being developed.
Improved crops and food for health
Scientists at the John Innes Centre focus on using their world leading expertise in the genetics of plants to develop crops containing enhanced or optimized concentrations of specific nutrients. One example is broccoli – developed with enhanced concentrations of glucoraphanin - is now sold as Beneforte broccoli through supermarkets. Purple tomatoes developed at JIC with high concentrations of particular anthocyanins are used to test the role of individual compounds in the prevention of disease. Our research will also help in the design of new and reformulation of existing processed foods which are designed to put a brake on the development of obesity and the health issues which subsequently emerge.