€5m Irish project seeks sea-based nutrients

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags In vitro Nutrition

An Irish initiative is looking at ways of extracting nutritional extracts from various marine sources with seaweed and shellfish showing the most potential so far.

The Irish government-funded Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative (NutraMara project) kicked into life in March, 2008, and joins members of industry such as the Irish seaweed extract specialist, Marigot, which has supplied some of the calcium-based seaweed extracts used in the research, with researchers drawn from a wide range of institutions.

Fish sources were also being investigated.

Project scientific manager, Dr Maria Hayes, of the Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre, said the five-year project was moving ahead after a slow start due to recruitment issues. It was coming close to testing shellfish and seaweed extracts in food matrices and conducting in vivo ​intervention trials. In vitro ​studies and bioassays had been conducted.

“The potential to turn waste streams into something beneficial to industry such as deriving chitin from waste shellfish is hugely exciting,”​ Dr Hayes told NutraIngredients.com this morning.

The crab and shellfish industries in Ireland are large as is the concomitant waste problem, part of the reason the project has won such substantial financial support from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods (DAFF) and the Irish Marine Institute.

“We are not sure when our research into how these waste streams will be finalised, or how long it might take for business to directly benefit from our research, but we are encouraged by what we have found so far,”​ she said.

One potential application was chitin-derived chitizan oligosaccharides in the prebiotics area.

With some questioning the long-term sustainability of the Irish seaweed supply, Dr Hayes, suggested genetically modified seaweed production may be an area of research for the future.

The project employs about 30 scientists and highlights its primary sources as:

(i) fish processing waste streams or rest raw materials

(ii) underutilised species of fish and seaweed including macro and microalgae

(iii) the development of value-added products from aquaculture – both finfish and shellfish.

Partners include the University of Limerick, the University of Ulster, University College Cork,University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland in Galway.

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