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EU commits €6m to immunity-functional foods fibre research

17-Feb-2012

EU commits €6m to immunity-functional foods fibre research

A €6m European Union project is investigating ways to advance research and develop fibre-based ingredients for functional foods and food supplements with a focus on immune function.

The 4.5 year project unites five European research institutes, eight small and medium size enterprises and four European universities, with Juriaan Mes from Wageningen University Food & Biobased Research in the Netherlands coordinating endeavours.

Research indicated that some specific polysaccharides, for example those from the cell wall of yeast or those that are present in various plant products, can activate the immune system starting from the intestine, even when no intruders are present, » the project states.

Various polysaccharides have been shown to activate macrophages which can ‘digest’ pathogens and unwanted cells. An activated, warned or primed first layer of defence can help to improve the overall resistance of humans. »

Polysaccharide interventions among the elderly will be one point of focus.

« Other parts of the EU FibeBiotics project support product development to be sure that the final products still contain the bioactive polysaccharides and that these are not degraded or inactivated because of enzymes or other suppressors in the food matrix, » it added.

« Besides that, it is important to classify the different types of polysaccharides into groups with different levels of activity, as not all will have identical effects on the immune system. Polysaccharides are also known to stimulate the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut and, consequently, have an indirect effect on the immune system and support maintenance of health. Also these effects will be studied in the laboratory and during the large scale human trials. »

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