Dr Madalina Neacsu
Dr Madalina Neacsu

Dr Madalina Neacsu

Dipl Eng, MSc, PhD

Research Fellow

Accepting PhDs

About

Gut Health Theme, Rowett Institute,

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

University of Aberdeen

Foresterhill,

Aberdeen, Scotland,

AB25 2ZD UK

Biography

Madi studied biochemical engineering (1995-2000) at the University Babes-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, followed by a MSc in bio-catalysis (2000-2001) from same University and a PhD in Natural Products Chemistry and Biotechnology (2001-2006). After the PhD years spent with prestigious fellowships in several European Universities(Finland, Belgium, Spain), she specialised on functional food development in both academia and industry. Madi has contributed to the compilation of dossiers for successful ESFA-approved health claims. She received funding from the Scottish Government (2012-2016) to investigate the potential for sustainable and healthy high-protein ingredients. This work was followed by another Governmental funding (2016-2022) programme focussing on developing technologies for designing specialised functional foods exploring the potential of high protein crops such as hemp and buckwheat for T2D prevention/maintenance. Her work translates key findings from human studies into bioactive-formulations, functional foods/ingredients using a zero-waste approach, contributing to a circular nutrition and a greener economy. Madi recently has been responsible for product development in a GCRF grant with Malawi (2017-2020) which, has contributed to bring a scientifically proven, patented fair-trade nutraceutical product closer to market. Currently, Madi is leading a five-year Scottish Government funded research programme (2022-2027) on hemp a carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly crop  for diet biodiversification in Scotland.  Madi’s work involves working across industry and academia for the promotion and understanding of the chemistry and biology underpinning all aspects of food science. She actively participates in knowledge exchange activities, specifically raising public awareness of the importance of consuming plant-based foods, being recently awarded (2020) The Principal Excellence Prize on Public Engagement with Research.

External Memberships

Member of “The Royal Society of Chemistry”

Latest Publications

View My Publications

Prizes and Awards

- Principal’s Excellence Award for Public Engagement with Research (2020)

 - Mars Award for Polyphenol Research, International Polyphenols Conference 

Research

Research Overview

 

  • Identify novel crops, suitable to grow in Scotland, which can provide sustainable sources of nutrients and establishing their nutritional and phytochemical profile. Currently, my work involves crops like: buckwheat, hemp, potato bean (Apios Americana).
  • Assess the nutritional and health impact of food crops on humans through running acute and chronic human dietary intervention studies, acquiring crucial information on their key bioactives bioavailability and metabolism.
  • Understand the bioavailability, metabolism and bioactivity of dietary bioactives: my research focuses on:

-determination the form and concentration of key dietary metabolites following the consumption of plant based foods.

-ex vivo assessment of plant bioactive metabolites bioactivity at nutritionally relevant concentrations and forms.

-developing methods of synthesis, measuring and isolating of biomolecules from diets and their metabolites from human biological samples.

  • Translate key nutritional research findings into specialised food formulations/ingredients and novel foods:

-design of biological active food formulations, and functional foods to prevent or aid metabolic disorders. This can support claims for a range of diverse health promoting products.

-industry engagement to address demand and find solution to reformulate existing foods for better nutritional profile and/or to reduce food and agricultural by products/waste though developing novel foods while contributing to zero-waste processes, a greener economy and a circular nutrition.

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Nutrition and Health.


Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Nutrition and Health

Supervising
Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Nutrition
  • Food and Beverage Production
  • Food Science
  • Food and Beverage Studies

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

Hemp crop.jpg

Hemp: a climate resilient crop for the future of Scottish agriculture (2022-2027) The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan includes reference to carbon sequestration options for agriculture. Hemp has a great capacity for carbon sequestration, contributing to a greater biodiversity, land recovery and remediation. Therefore, could play a role in the development and expansion of a low carbon, environmentally responsible industry, bringing a new ‘cash-crop’ to Scottish agriculture. Emerging hemp industry has an innovative opportunity being part of the solution to contribute and to give scope for GHG removal activities to the farmers and to increase the agriculture diversity. The research project aims to support hemp as a climate resilient food crop that promotes biodiversity, green economy and therefore climate change by: i) Stimulate the Scottish farming sector to run GHG removal activities; ii) Identify opportunities for the Scottish food and drink sector to promote sustainability and iii) Understand nutrition sufficiency and consumer acceptance of hemp food as part of low carbon footprint diet.

Aberdeen University research inspires first commercial production of cold pressed hemp oil in Scotland (pressandjournal.co.uk)

Discover Scotland’s initiative on hemp (cannabiswealth.co.uk)

Could hemp be the next dietary hit? | The Scottish Farmer

Hemp and buckwheat are valuable sources of dietary amino acids, beneficially modulating gastrointestinal hormones and promoting satiety in healthy volunteers - PubMed (nih.gov)

 

                    zero waste.jpg                                                                   

Revalorising agricultural and food by-products:

Hemp: Examining the potential for reducing and revalorising waste in the hempseed food chain as part of the circular economy (2021-2024). A project co-funded by the Good Hemp UK - a partnership initiated through an MRC Proximity to Discovery Industry Engagement Fund (P2D) grant - and CONACYT, the Mexican Council for Science & Technology; aimed to revalorise co-products from hemp food industry and deliver novel functional food products.

Fava bean: The UK is the largest producer of broad bean in Europe. This leads to important amounts of by-products such as hulls which are largely discarded. Valorising this material as food represents an opportunity to reduce food waste, to contribute to a circular nutrition. To understand the bean hulls’ nutritional (and health) potential involves assessing the way our body metabolise the nutrients and bioactive molecules after we eat the bean hulls.

 

Buckfood Project. The current work has a strong focus on developing technologies for designing specialised functional foods exploring the potential of high protein crops (i.e. buckwheat, hemp) for T2D prevention/maintenance. Buckfood human study looks at the potential of buckwheat rich foods in modulation of postprandial glycemia in people living with Type 2 diabetes.  Rowett Institute on Twitter: "It's #WorldDiabetesDay today. #Research from @MadalinaNeacsu3 looks at how functional plant food ingredients could ameliorate glucose metabolism and help people living with type 2 diabetes. #leadingideas @SEFARIscot @aberdeenuni https://t.co/AwSiht6kI3" / Twitter

 

 

Novel Crops Project. Establish novel or underutilized crops as best candidates for food security and for a healthy sustainable diet. Study the nutritional composition of food crops such as buckwheat, hemp, or potato bean to assess their potential to contribute to future protein demand and agricultural diversification in Scotland. Explore their food and agricultural by-products to be revalorised for food and feed applications. Furthermore to understand these crops potential to contribute to diet biodiversification and meeting the reduction of Green House Gas Emissions in Scotland. Hemp’s role in diet biodiversification and reducing greenhouse gas emissions | SEFARI

Hemp and buckwheat are valuable sources of dietary amino acids, beneficially modulating gastrointestinal hormones and promoting satiety in healthy volunteers | SpringerLink

Nutritional and chemical profiling of UK-grown potato bean (Apios americana Medik) reveal its potential for diet biodiversification and revalorisation - ScienceDirect

Hemp Project | The Rowett Institute | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

 

 Gut health and heart disease Project: Development of specialised food: Exploring various dietary components and strategies (specific Gastro Intestinal Tract targeted food) to deliver functional foods and ingredients as part of nutritional therapies to tackle atherosclerosis. Functional food and gut microbiota -Dr Madalina Neacsu (panopto.eu)Microbiota-directed food formulation | The Rowett Institute | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

Knowledge Exchange

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Hemp for the future: This is a activity we run in schools across Scotland exploring the hemp crop. Hemp is a carbon-neutral, zero-waste crop used for materials, food, energy and personal care. Research at the Rowett Institute investigates hemp as a source of healthy and sustainable food, showcasing Scottish Government funded work on Scottish grown hemp for food and work with major UK hemp food producers. Furthermore, within this activity are discussed other possibilities hemp brings as an agricultural crop, its multitude of uses, and its potential as climate change champion contributing towards a net-zero society. 

 

My work involves working across public, industry and academia for promotion and understanding of the chemistry and biology underpinning all aspects of food science. I actively participate in knowledge exchange activities, specifically raising public awareness of the importance of consuming plant-based foods, being recently awarded (2020) The Principal Excellence Prize on Public Engagement with Research.

 

 

Taste of Plants Project.This project consists of a novel format knowledge exchange event aimed to communicate SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) research to key stakeholders. Taste of Plants Project | The Rowett Institute | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

If you want to know more about this project you can follow the link: Taste of Plants | SEFARI

 

A taste of plants recipe book. We have recently been studying how different sources of protein may contribute to healthier diets, could help Scotland be more sustainable (both economically and environmentally) and help reduce its dependence on imported foods and ingredients. Our research has looked at the potential to use our land in different ways.

A Taste of Plants Recipe Book | The Rowett Institute | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)

Collaborations

ERASMUS+ Interinstitutional Agreement between University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj Napoca, Romania and The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, UK.

This grant facilitates the mobility  and exchange of postgraduates research students and staff for specific complementary projects and lecturing.

Miguel Hernandez University, Elche Spain and Mitra Sol Spain: development, production and scale up technologies for functional foods and ingredients using food and agricultural by-products.

Pablo Olavide University, Spain Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville (upo.es)Assessing the potential of agricultural and food co-products to develop functional ingredients for chronic disease prevention and maintenance.

Funding and Grants

 2022-2027: Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (PI, fully funded, approx. £1.8M): Hemp: a climate resilient crop for the future of Scottish agriculture

2022-2027: Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (co-PI, fully funded, approx. £1.6M): Supply Chain-Driven Food and Drink Reformulation to achieve Scotland’s Dietary and Climate Targets

2021-2024: CONACyT Mexico and Good Hemp company UK (PI, approx. £120K PhD studentship), The potential of hemp and co-products to diversify the food ingredients and diet composition. The development of foods and functional food ingredients while reducing waste from hemp food production and deliver a circular nutrition.

2020    SEFARI Gateway ROF, Hemp for 45 (co-PI)

 2019    SEFARI Gateway ROF, A Taste of Plants (PI, £13,000) 

 2016-2022       Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (PI, fully funded, approx. £1M/year)

Novel Crops (Productive and Sustainable Land Management and Rural Economies)

 2018    MRC Proximity to Discovery Grant Mobility grant to engage with Industry (PI);

 2016-2021       ERASMUS+ Mobility grant (PI);

 2017-2020       BBSRC Global Challenges Research Fund (£473,600; co-PI,), Moringa; delivering nutrition and economic value to the people of Malawi;

 2015-2018       CAPES Brazil (PI, approx. £100,000, PhD studentship), Developing novel sustainable functional food ingredients;

 2014-2015       FHIS grant with industry (PI, approx. £10,000) Formulation of a meat free version of traditional “Scotch pie” and asses its nutritional benefits.

Teaching

Teaching Responsibilities

Coordinator on Line Msc Course (RN5503): Development and Coordination of Clinical Nutrition for Disease Prevention (including course design)

 

Lecturing: 

RN5005 - Food Reformulation: Theory & Practice

RN5503 - Clinical Nutrition For Disease Prevention

RN5504 - Nutrition And Health Through The Life Stages

RN5505 - Clinical Nutrition

Non-course Teaching Responsibilities

PhD supervision:

Miss Ashley Ward

Miss Verena Schmidt

MSc supervision and BSc supervision

Publications

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Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals