A new innovation hub led by Southampton researchers aims to transform the nutritional quality of food and drink sold in the UK.
The Diet and Health Innovation Hub is one of six across the country in an investment of almost £15 million.
They are funded by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC), Innovate UK and DEFRA.
The new hub is directed by several researchers from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.
The Southampton-led hub will bring together leading researchers, industry experts and other stakeholders to develop more healthy eating options.
It is a collaboration with the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Reading and Quadram Institute Biosciences in Norwich.
The hub will focus on the role of good nutrition in:
promoting early-life development
supporting body and brain function and resilience from adolescence into adulthood
contributing to healthy ageing in later life
Professors Philip Calder, Jon Swann, Keith Godfrey and Dr Caroline Childs are all involved in leading the new hub.
Prof Calder said: “Obesity is a major challenge in our society, but so is undernutrition and many people have nutrient gaps in their diet. These can be addressed by helping people to make healthier dietary choices including providing better quality food and beverages that are affordable and available.
“This award is a fantastic opportunity for us to work with our partner institutions and with industry to find solutions that help people to improve their health through what they eat and drink. We also want to make sure that we foster the next generation of researchers, so parts of our award will be used specifically to support early-career researchers.”
Public health challenge
Poor diet has a huge impact on public health. There remains a major challenge in producing and encouraging the uptake of healthier, more nutritious food products in the UK.
Mark Spencer, Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries, said:
“I am delighted that scientists and experts can now come together in these new innovation hubs to convene the latest science around obesity and healthy eating.
“Together they can work to close the knowledge gaps between current dietary trends and obesity, whilst improving our understanding of the relationship between food and health. Supporting this research is part of our commitment in the food strategy to boost healthier, more sustainable and accessible diets.”