Innovation in the food and drink sector is a key ‘weapon in our arsenal’ as we battle the challenges that are impacting on our food system. It is important that we address important dietary targets including sugar, salt, fat and calorie reduction, as well as ensuring the supply system is sustainable and the products produced affordable and acceptable. Our research aims to connect our understanding of the role of the gut microbiota in host health with advanced technologies in food engineering and formulation.
To do this, we are using modern DNA sequencing technologies is allow us to monitor the microbiota that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract, this is essential if we are to understand how diet impacts on the gut microbiota.
It is also important that we understand the role microbial species play in metabolising the major macronutrients in our diet such as protein, fat and fibre.
These microbial fermentation products include both beneficial metabolites such as the short chain fatty acid; butyrate, as well detrimental compounds including heterocyclic amines and nitrosamines. At the Rowett we have unique capability to measure a wide range of these dietary metabolites.
We also have a large and unique collection of microbial species and this allows us to explore the activity of keystone species or groups of bacteria, as well as identifying those responsible for the production of dietary metabolites.
To understand the role these metabolites might have on our health, we can test their bioactivity in specially designed model systems.
We can then use this information to design functional foods to target prevention of dietary related disorders such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, as well as certain cancers.
We test these formulations, as we do when assessing the impact of diet in human dietary interventions in our specialised human nutrition unit.
Understanding the role of the gut microbiota in the provision of dietary metabolites and their impact on human health coupled with advanced food technologies is delivering exciting opportunities in food formulation. These targeted approaches to the design of healthy food could contribute to more effective food supply systems, as well as alleviating the burden of nutrition-related disorders.