Archive for the ‘Food science’ Category

Aust researchers’ wheat genes discovery has potential to boost food security

The discovery of genes that determine the yield of flour from wheat could increase milling yield, boosting food security and producing a healthier flour.

University of Queensland researchers believe the discovery could increase the amount of flour produced from wheat by as much as 10 per cent. .

Wheat — the leading temperate climate crop — provides 20 per cent of the total calories and proteins consumed worldwide. Wheat grain is milled, or crushed, to make flour for bread and other food products.

UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation Director Professor Robert Henry said his research team had pinpointed the genes that control a cell protein which acts like a glue, holding the wheat grain’s endosperm, wheat germ and bran layers together.

“Wheats that produce less of this glue-like protein come apart more easily in the milling process,” he said.

“This increases the efficiency of processing and improves the nutritional profile of the flour as more of the outer parts of the endosperm — rich in vitamins and minerals — are incorporated into the flour.

“This applies not only to white flour but also to wholemeal flour.

“Potentially we can take high-yielding field wheats that have not traditionally been considered suitable for milling, and turn them into milling wheats.

“This will improve on-farm production and reduce post-harvest wastage and the amount of resources used to grow the wheat.

“And, by getting a few per cent more flour from the 700 million tonnes of wheat produced globally each year, we will be producing significantly more food from the same amount of wheat,” he said.

Australian wheat traditionally attracts a high price in the market because it has a reputation of giving high flour yields.

“We haven’t been able to genetically select for this trait at early stages of breeding before,” Professor Henry said.

“The effect of this cell adhesion protein explains the difference between wheats that give us 70 per cent flour when we mill it, to 80 per cent, which is quite a big difference.”

Professor Henry said this knowledge could be employed immediately in wheat breeding programs.

“It means that we can produce premium wheats more efficiently and push the yields of quality premium wheats up.”

The team is now looking at DNA testing to breed wheats based on this new molecular discovery. Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

Advertisements

Food exports of the future boost brainpower, flavour and texture

AgResearch scientists are leading new research which they say could revolutionise New Zealand foods – with new ways of boosting flavour and texture, and products designed to make our brains perform better.

Supported by industry and research partners, AgResearch programmes have recently been awarded more than $21 million by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund.

“The future for New Zealand food exports to the world is premium quality and adding as much value as possible to our products,” says AgResearch Science Group Leader Dr Jolon Dyer.

“This cutting edge research will look at how we can help deliver premium foods by taking the eating experience, and the health benefits of the food, to new levels.”

The first of two AgResearch-led programmes, supported by commercial partner Fonterra, and with research partners, the Riddet Institute, the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland, Flinders University (Australia), University College Cork (Ireland), and Illinois University (USA), is called Smarter Lives: New opportunities for dairy products across the lifespan, and focuses on how foods can influence brain performance via the `gut-brain axis’.

“Our gut influences just about everything we do and its connection to the brain is essential to leading healthier lives. People are looking for products that help brain development in children and provide better brain performance through adulthood,” says programme leader Dr Nicole Roy.

“One way is through eating foods that boost brain performance. There is mounting evidence to suggest that frequent consumption of dairy products or probiotics may do just that, but we don’t yet know how. The key is in the two-way communication between the gut and the brain.”

“We’ll be using cutting-edge techniques to understand how dairy ingredients and probiotics can work together to send signals from the gut to optimise brain development and performance. We’ll also be developing prototype foods that combine ingredients in a way that promotes those benefits.”

The second programme, Accelerated evolution: a step-change in food fermentation led by AgResearch, with research partners the Riddet Institute, Callaghan Innovation, Teagasc (Ireland), University of Bologna and Kyoto University, looks at how fermentation – one of the oldest and most economical methods of producing and preserving food – can make products stand out from the crowd, with fewer additives.

Common fermented foods include cheese, yoghurt and sauerkraut.

“We’ll be looking at the process of fermentation, and how we accelerate the process using different scientific methods to create new and desirable flavours and textures for products such as dairy, meat and seafood,” says programme leader Dr Li Day.

“We’ll also determine how these new fermented foods can be identified uniquely with New Zealand, and experienced and enjoyed by consumers internationally.”

Researchers find a2 Milk is digested differently to conventional milk

New research from New Zealand has found that a2 Milk™ prevents some symptoms of dairy intolerance and eases others, even though it contains the same amount of lactose as conventional cow’s milk.

The research findings were presented to a major conference in Chicago early this week.

A strikingly different pattern of digestive symptoms was found in people identified as lactose intolerant after drinking a2 milk compared to conventional milk, says study lead Dr Amber Milan, a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute (see press statement HERE).

The institute is conducting the research jointly with AgResearch.

“a2 Milk was at least as effective as lactose-free milk at preventing or easing some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, including nausea, stomach pain and bloating, but didn’t reduce levels of flatulence and gastric reflux,” says Dr Milan.

“The women’s self-ratings of ‘overall digestive comfort’ were the same after a2 Milk™ as after regular milk, suggesting over the course of 12 hours, the other symptoms were unpleasant enough to not shift overall digestive comfort.”

Conventional milk contains both the A1 and A2 types of beta-casein, a protein comprising 25-30 per cent of total milk protein. It’s thought that originally all cows produced only the A2 protein type, and the A1 mutation appeared 5000-10,000 years ago. a2 Milk ™ comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 type.

“There is some eevidence that the symptoms of lactose intolerance may be influenced by the proteins in milk,” says AgResearch senior research scientist Matthew Barnett.

“We wanted to investigate this more closely.”

Globally, about 70 per cent of adults consider themselves lactose intolerant, and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant symptoms after consuming it.

The study was the first to compare the digestive response to conventional milk, a2 Milk and lactose-free conventional milk between people who are able to digest lactose, people with lactose intolerance and people with dairy intolerance.

It was funded through the New Zealand Government High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge with co-funding from The a2 Milk Company Limited.

Participants were 30 healthy young women (aged 20-30, BMI in the normal range) who said they had trouble digesting milk, and a control group of 10 dairy-consuming women.

First they drank 50g of lactose – equivalent to about a litre of milk – to determine if they had lactose intolerance or not. Then, on three separate visits, the same women drank 750ml of the three types of milk.

Immediately after the women consumed the milk, and at 30 minute intervals for three hours, the researchers took blood, urine and breath samples, measured their waist, and performed MRI scans. The women also recorded how they felt for the 12 hours following consumption.

Analysis revealed that the lactose intolerant women:

    • Did not feel nauseous or have an urgent need to go to the toilet after drinking a2 Milk and lactose-free milk,but did after drinking conventional milk;
    • Had fewer bowel movements over the three hours both after a2 Milk™ and lactose-free milk compared to conventional milk;
    • Were half as likely to report abdominal pain, fullness and bloating over the course of 12 hours both after a2 Milkand lactose-free milk relative to conventional milk;
    • Experienced a smaller and later rise in breath hydrogen after a2 Milk versus conventional (breath hydrogen is a by-product of gut bacteria digesting any lactose that isn’t absorbed by the body, and is partly responsible for symptoms like bloating and flatulence);
    • Experienced the same levels of flatulence and gastric reflux after drinking a2 Milk and conventional milk, self-reported similar levels of “overall digestive discomfort” both after a2 Milk and conventional milk (lactose-free milk was rated most comfortable on this measure);
    • Experienced a higher spike in insulin levels immediately after drinking lactose-free milk, but not after a2 Milk and conventional milk (to be expected because lactose-free milk is created by breaking down lactose into two simple sugars). Spikes in insulin can affect metabolism in many ways, for example lowering blood sugar and making you feel hungrier sooner.

Dr Milan says animal studies show a breakdown product of the A1 protein causes inflammation in the small intestine, which seems to somehow exacerbate lactose intolerance.

“What our findings suggest is while we can’t fix the inability to digest lactose, we might be able to minimise the exacerbating action of the A1 protein.”

The researchers also showed that dairy intolerance is distinct from lactose intolerance. Dairy intolerant women reported all three milk types as equal in terms of digestive discomfort over the first three hours.

A planned second study by the same team will track the effects of a2 Milk on gut comfort over two weeks, focussing on small intestinal inflammation.

 

Aust-US research team unlocks secret of an enzyme’s role in cheese-making

A discovery which explains the regulation of an enzyme in the bacterium Lactococcus, which is used as a starter culture in cheese production, has important implications for industrial cheesemaking.

The new knowledge on the inner workings of the bacterium has been reported by researchers at the University of Queensland School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Columbia University and University of Washington. 

UQ Associate Professor Mark Turner said the research provides new insights into the food bacterium.

“Australia produces more than a billion dollars’ worth of cheese each year, and Lactococcus is the most commonly used starter culture,” Dr Turner said.

Two UQ PhD students in Dr Turner’s food microbiology research laboratory – Thu Vu and Huong Pham – found the enzyme known as pyruvate carboxylase was essential for efficient milk acidification, an important industrial trait in Lactococcus starter cultures.

Dr Turner said the enzyme was essential for synthesising the amino acid aspartate, and bacteria defective in the enzyme were unable to produce high levels of lactic acid in milk, which is required for the first stage of cheese making.

The collaboration also found that a recently discovered small molecule in bacteria, called cyclic-di-AMP, directly binds to and inhibits the pyruvate carboxylase enzyme.

“The molecule is essential for growth in a wide range of bacteria, including many human pathogens, and we are only in the early stages of understanding how it controls important processes in bacteria.”

Dr Turner this year won the 2017 Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Keith Farrer Award of Merit, which recognises achievements in food science and technology in research, industry and education.

The bacterium research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (doi 10.1073/pnas.1704756114).

Taste and health affect consumer choices for milk and non-dairy beverages

Education on nutritional value and correcting misconceptions should be a focus of the dairy industry, if it is to benefit from recent research findings on consumer behaviour in the US.

The researchers from North Carolina State University used surveys, conjoint analysis, and means-end-chain analysis to uncover the underlying values among dairy milk and non-dairy beverage consumers.

Their aim was to learn more about what affects consumer decisions regarding fluid milk purchases, researchers

The results of the study highlighted the most important factors for both milk and non-dairy beverages, which were the same: they must be healthy and taste good.

In recent years, retail sales of fluid milk have changed significantly and per capita consumption has decreased at a rate of 830 mL per year since 1975.

Between 2011 and 2014, sales of fluid milk have decreased 3.8% but the amount of non-dairy, plant-based beverages sold increased 30% between 2010 and 2015.

No previous work directly studied values held by consumers and how those attitudes influence milk purchases.

To assess this, a survey was completed by 999 primary shoppers between 25 and 70 years old, 78% female and 22% male, who reported purchasing dairy milk, non-dairy beverage, or both at least two to three times per month.

Most consumers (87.8%) did not follow a specific diet or claim to be lactose intolerant (88.4%). Twenty-seven percent of consumers purchased one or both beverages more than once a week, 47.0% purchased one or both beverages once a week, and 25.0% purchased one or both beverages two to three times per month.

Consumers ranked fat as the most important attribute in dairy milk, whereas sugar level was most important for non-dairy beverages. Dairy milk consumers reported a preference for 2% or 1% fat, and almost 70% of dairy milk sales in 2014 were reduced or fat-free milk.

Non-dairy consumers preferred plant beverages that were naturally sweetened or had no added sugar. Almond beverage was the most desirable plant-derived beverage, representing more than 65.0% of non-dairy beverages sold in 2014.

Protein had universal appeal for both milk and non-dairy beverages, with higher utility scores for higher levels of protein content.

“We found that consumers choose milk based on habit or because they like the flavor. Milk that is appealing in flavor could convince nondairy beverage drinkers to consumer more dairy milk; likewise, lactose-free milk or milk from grass-fed cows might also be appealing,” lead author Kara McCarthy said.

“By further focusing consumer education on trust building as well as nutrition, farm practice, and animal welfare, the appeal of dairy milk could be broadened.”

With the results of this study in mind, along with the many features attractive to consumers of both dairy milk and non-dairy beverages, the dairy industry can more effectively market and position milk as well as dispel any misconceptions

This AgScience post is based on a report posted by Science Daily (HERE).

Journal Reference:

K.S. McCarthy, M. Parker, A. Ameerally, S.L. Drake, M.A. Drake. Drivers of choice for fluid milk versus plant-based alternatives:What are consumer perceptions of fluid milk? Journal of Dairy Science, 2017.

MPI’s honey test results prompt call from Labour for further restructuring

The Labour Party is reported to be calling for the Ministry for Primary Industries to be split again because it’s “too big” and failing industries like the lucrative manuka honey business.

Damien O’Connor, Labour’s spokesman for Primary Industries, said the 2012 merger of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Fisheries and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority was meant to be about efficiency.

But he said the ministry now was “simply too big” to have the expertise required in the highly technical areas of food safety and biosecurity.

His comments (HERE) followed MPI’s deputy director of general regulation and assurance, Bryan Wilson, acknowledging a problem with the testing of manuka honey.

The Government last month released its scientific definition to authenticate New Zealand manuka honey, which is the first step leading to a standard.

This followed claims in a British trade magazine, The Grocer, that consumers were being misled over what they are buying and at vastly inflated prices.

The honey industry earns $242 million in exports a year, about 80 per cent of this from manuka honey.

But some producers say up to 20 per cent of the purest honey – worth about $10 – 20 million – is failing MPI testing.

Radio NZ reported on this issue yesterday (HERE):

Independent industry adviser John Hill said he has had clients whose honey has failed under the proposed standards despite being some of the best in the country.

He said producers had been testing hundreds of samples of the best mānuka honey, worth up to $300 a kilogram, and about 20 percent had failed.

Mr Hill said the significant fail rate had huge implications for mānuka honey producers and he wanted MPI to sort it out as soon as possible.

He said it had already been a bad year for beekeepers, with the weather affecting produce.

Bryan Wilson was intervieweed for the Radio NZ news item.

He said there appeared to be a problem with the laboratory testing methods used, and work was being done to fix it.

“It’s the way in which the testing for DNA is undertaken. There is potentially some interference with some of the chemicals, so we’re working on how that might be fixed and we think we’ve got a solution,” he said.

Mr Wilson said the test was designed to separate mānuka honey from other sorts of honey.

“We are pretty confident in the way we have got that set up. We would expect a level of difference between what our tests show and what the industry’s tests show. That’s why we started this process in the first place.”

Submissions for fresh testing ends on 13 June. Mr Wilson was confident any issues could be fixed at the end of the consultation process.

Where’s the lab beef produced in a gadget at home? On the back-burner

Promises of lab meat were overly optimistic, Discovery magazine reports (HERE).

It has revisited an article it published in 2006, when biologist Vladimir Mironov dreamed of growing lab meat in a coffee-maker-like device that could, overnight, turn a few animal muscle stem cells into a nice chunk of meat.

The muscle cells would be harmlessly extracted from an animal and – with the right nutrients and environment – would multiply just as they would in their original host, but more rapidly.

The idea was to target three issues raised by traditional meat farming – protect animals from inhumane conditions and eventual slaughter; reduce the environmental damage of large-scale livestock operations; and give humans healthier meat and better food security.

In an update published this month, the magazine reports that Mironov’s vision hasn’t changed, but he’s put the project on the back burner. His lab at the University of South Carolina shut down in 2011 due to personnel issues and now he’s concentrating on organ printing at a 3-D bioprinting company in Russia.

“Maybe I will return to the topic,” he wrote in an email. “In vitro meat production is the inescapable future of humanity.”

Mark Post, physiology chair at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, shares Mironov’s optimism about in vitro meat’s potential. But he says the future isn’t in at-home devices.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see that as a very pragmatic solution,” says Post, who debuted his lab-produced meat (cost: $325,000 per burger) in a highly publicised taste test in London in 2013.

Instead, the focus now is on ramping up efforts to produce it in factory-like settings, Post said.

Bigger production would mean more burgers for more than just a few taste testers, while also sending costs way down.

“In essence, it’s available,” Post says, “but not at the scale that you need for [mass] consumption.”

His optimistic scenario — which depends on the production infrastructure being in place and regulatory approvals — is having a $10 cell-grown hamburger patty on the shelves in four to five years.

But production must be scaled “to a tremendous level” to meet the requirements of supermarkets.