A food research collaboration between ANSTO, The University of Queensland and CSIRO
Fundamental research into the correlation between the nanostructures of foods and how these are altered by processing will shed light on how these modifications affect nutrition and long-term health.
4 July 2006 | Updated 11 January 2012
Investigating the molecular structure of foods
Understanding the structure of ingredients that go into food and aspects of food safety will provide Australian scientists with the ability to design new foods with improved taste, texture and health-improving qualities. A research collaboration between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the University of Queensland and CSIRO is seeking to determine the molecular structure and function of the foods we eat.
The partnership brings ANSTO’s sophisticated capabilities in characterising materials together with CSIRO’s broad food research capabilities through its Food Futures and Preventative Health Flagships, and Food Science Australia.
Understanding the structure of ingredients that go into food and aspects of food safety will provide Australian scientists with the ability to design new foods with improved taste, texture and health-improving qualities.
Manufacturing better foods
Fundamental research into the correlation between the nanostructures of foods, such as starches and proteins, and how these are altered by food processing will shed light on how these modifications to foods affect nutrition and long-term health.
Understanding the physical and biochemical properties will enable food researchers and manufacturers to model, predict and control the behaviour of raw materials and ingredients. This knowledge will assist in developing foods with specific health benefits.
One of the most serious health issues for developed countries is the rise of diet-related non-infectious conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and colorectal cancer.
Starches have a particularly important role to play in preventing and managing these problems. Most modern starchy foods are digested very quickly and efficiently in the human small intestine. This gives rise to a high glycaemic index which is thought to contribute to greater risk of diabetes and its complications.
The Food Futures Flagship research team in the Future Grains, Grain-baseed Food and Feeds theme is developing novel wheat varieties with a high proportion of amylose, a low glycaemic index (GI) and suitable food characteristics for incorporation into breads, cereals and other foods.
The Preventative Health Flagship is researching ways of preventing colorectal cancer through delivering health-promoting short chain fatty acids and other food components to the large bowel using starch derivatives and starch/protein complexes.
This research with ANSTO will provide the physical understanding of the structural events in processing and the changes that occur in food. This will give new insights into ways in which the health potential of these approaches can be maximised.
Applications for research
The potential outcomes of this research includes:
understanding the structure of compounds, such as resistant starch and how it is digested, its positive health benefits in the bowel and affects on blood glucose control for diabetes
understanding how foods are altered when they are processed. For example, how foods change on drying so that new methods may be developed to re-hydrate them to give better texture and flavour
new ways to improve manufacturing processes to maintain the flavour, texture and nutritional quality of foods
determining how food spoilage organisms (bacteria and fungi) interact with foods and ingredients so that better ways can be developed to eradicate them and extend shelf life while retaining consumer acceptance and nutritional quality.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) operates Australia’s only nuclear reactor and is the national nuclear research and development organisation and the centre of Australian nuclear expertise.
With approximately 860 staff, ANSTO is responsible for delivering specialised advice, scientific services and products to government, industry, academia and other research organisations.
produces 70 per cent of Australia’s radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine
irradiates silicon for the semiconductor business
conducts intricate materials research by utilising the neutron beams its HIFAR reactor produces.
The University of Queensland
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, is an international leader in research and teaching in a comprehensive range of disciplines, including the biosciences, nanotechnology, sustainable development and social science.
UQ aims to deliver research outcomes and research training programs that meet the highest standards of quality. In partnership with government, industry and donors, UQ has developed six globally-recognised Research Institutes:
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN)
Diamantina Institute for Cancer, Immunology and Metabolic Medicine
Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB)
Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR)
Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and
Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI).
Learn more about Food Futures Flagship.