The authority today disclosed details of some of the projects it is working on. One of these includes looking at how discarded parts of fruit and vegetables can be turned into useful by-products. Teagasc researchers are also collecting data on mircoflora levels in the gut, which they say could help develop functional ingredients in this area. Scientists from Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre have found a potential use for waste as a potential source of antioxidants, they said. One of their findings is that onion peels, a common by-product of food processing, have a higher antioxidant activity than their flesh. Their work in this area adds a novel approach to onion and antioxidant research, which in the past has been linked to protection against cataracts and heart disease as well as cancer. Onions are rich in a flavour compound known as quercetin, a potent antioxidant, also found in apples, red berries and other vegetables. The scientists are also looking at: · Polyacetylenes. They are studying how the bioactive compounds, which have been linked to having an anti-tumour benefit, are affected by by processing techniques such as canning. · Beta-glucan. Work will be carried out to see whether the soluble fibre is better than inulin at reducing blood cholesterol. · Gut health. Together with Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre, a baseline of microbiota of the gut in a large sample of elderly people in Ireland. Professor Paul Ross, head of the biotechnology department, said: "Such a platform will not only give us detailed information on what the profile of a healthy gut population looks like in the elderly, but should also inform us of how it may be perturbed in key disease states including obesity, gut infection, irritable bowel syndrome and hypertension. "Such research will also explore how diet can positively influence the microflora, and thus provide the food industry with key information for the design and development of future functional foods to target this highly vulnerable and growing population." Teagasc scientists are also looking into how sodium can be replaced in ready meals with herbs and spices, which will not only be able to be substituted for flavour and preservative functions, but are also high in antioxidants.