Sustainable Novel Food Formulations and Bioactive-Ingredients for Human Health

It is challenging to achieve a balance between nutritional and sustainability demands in a healthy human diet. Through human dietary interventions, we will elucidate a healthy and nutritional balanced diet. This will involve proving the functionality and biological activity of diverse ingredients, which will help prevent diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In order to do this, it is crucial to identify novel crops, suitable to be grown in Scotland, which can provide sustainable sources of nutrients. To do this effectively, we will need to work closely with agronomists and plant breeders to improve nutritional quality in a sustainable way for the environment. In additional to optimising the macro- and micronutrient content of these crops, my particular interest is in the non- and anti-nutrient phytochemicals, in establishing their forms, concentrations, absorption, metabolism and their key role in a healthy human diet.

This research will create an information platform to advise, assist and support the Scottish industry to face challenges and respond to changes; and will contribute to individual and public health.

Research focus

Conducting human studies:

  • Habitual consumption of plant protein dietary study

Currently, I am conducting research which examines the effects of supplementing diets with alternative (vegetarian) sustainable sources of protein grown in Scotland on human nutrition. In particular, we assess the potential of these alternative protein sources to complement meat only diets and measure satiety, postprandial effects and metabolite bioavailability through a series of acute and chronic human dietary intervention studies. A personal challenge is to find and establish novel or underutilised crops as best candidates for food security and for a healthy sustainable diet.

Bioavailability and metabolism of food components:

Understanding availability of dietary components in the human body and how the food/plant matrix and/or the cooking and food processing can affect their bioavailability concentrations and forms is critical for human health. There is a gap in the knowledge base regarding the provision of standards to measure systemically-available metabolites and novel bioactives. It is also important is to obtain a clear picture of the forms and concentrations of these components after consumption. One research focus is the provision of these metabolites and to establish a collection, which will provide a better understanding of the absorption and bioavailability of targeted phytochemicals studied in human dietary interventions.

Informing Bioactivity:

Identification of the bio-available components of the diet and understanding the forms in which they are present after human consumption allows the ex vivo assessment of their bioactivity at relevant concentrations. This is achieved by specialised analytical techniques for measuring targeted molecules, especially non- and anti- nutrients. This is critical for designing human dietary interventions and in the selection of potential biomarkers of efficacy. I am constantly developing methods of measuring and isolating of biomolecules from diets and their metabolites from human biological samples in order to achieve their accurate biological functions.

Disease preventative/protective sustainable diets and food ingredients:

By identification of the biological activity and nutritional value of certain dietary components, we gain the information and facilitate the design of sustainable diets, plant bioactive-formulations, functional foods, and food active ingredients. These diets have potential to prevent/protect against human diseases such as cardiovascular pathologies, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. My expertise is in the design of biological active formulations, mainly plant based which can be implemented in foods and nutraceuticals. This can support claims for a range of diverse health promoting products.

Health impacts of sustainable ingredient selection in the food and drink industry

The Scottish food and drink industry faces many challenges, but one of the main concerns relates to food security. Climate change, increased fuel costs, and changing demographics all add to this uncertainty. However, the industry still needs to be able to provide affordable, acceptable and nutritious food. This programme is examining how well Scottish sourced plant proteins can contribute to the human diet in terms of nutritional value and physiological effect. The focus of this work is on replacing or augmenting traditional sources of protein in normal, healthy, balanced diets read more.


Scottish Government Strategic Partnership (2012-2016): Healthy and Sustainable Ingredients for the food industry.


Neacsu, M., Fyfe C., Horgan H., JohnstoneA. M. (2013) “Appetite control and bio-markers of satiety with vegetarian (soya) and meat based high-protein diets for weight loss in obese men, a randomised trial”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (submitted).

Neacsu, M., McMonagle, J., Fletcher, R.J., Scobbie, L., Duncan, G.J., Cantlay, L., De Roos, B., Duthie, G.G., Russell, W.R. (2013) “Bound phytophenols from ready-to-eat cereals: comparison with other plant-based foods”, Food Chemistry, 141 (3) pp. 2880- 2886

 Bunea A., Andjelkovic M., Socaciu C., Bobis O., Neacsu M., Verhé R., Van Camp J. (2008) “Total and individual carotenoids and phenolic acids content in fresh, refrigerated and processed spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.)”, Food Chemistry, 108, 2, 649-656.

Neacsu, M, Eklund, P. C, Sjöholm, R. E., Pietarinen, S. P., Ahotupa, M. O., Holmbom, B. R., Willför, S. M., (2007) “Antioxidant flavonoids from knotwood of Jack pine and European aspen”, Holz-Roh. Werkst., Holz Roh- Werks., 65, 1-6.

Neacsu M., Micol V., Perez L., Willfor S., Holmbom B., Mallavia R., (2007) “A Novel Antioxidant Phenyl Disaccharide From Populus Tremula Knotwood”, Molecules, , 12, 205-218.

Additional activities

Mars Poster Prize for Polyphenol Research “Synthesis of systemically-available flavonoid conjugates” 4th International Conference on Polyphenols, Leeds, UK 2010.

 Invited lectures:

  • “Sustainable diets for the future; plants as alternative protein sources to meat”, The 12th International Symposium Prospects for the 3rd Millennium Agriculture (Cluj, Romania; 2013)
  • “Legume as a sustainable and healthy source of protein, for the food industry”, UK Legume meeting (Dundee, UK; 2013)
  • Organising committee for theSustainable Ingredients for the Scottish Food & Drink Industry workshops”: Workshop 1: Primary processors and Workshop 2: Secondary processors and retailers.
  • Program Workshop Report to Primary Producers, Secondary Processors and Retailers