Scientists at the University of Warwick and consumer goods manufacturer Unilever are joining forces to identify whether the nutrients in everyday fruit and vegetables could help to improve people's cardiovascular health and protect them from Type-2 diabetes.
The research collaboration has been set up to better understand if the nutrients and bioactives in fruits like grapes, strawberries and olives - in the right combination - could have a greater impact on people's heart and vascular health.
The study's hypothesis is that the nutrients found in fruit help to trigger cell defence mechanisms in the tissue walls of blood vessels which not only protect them from the damage caused by the ageing process, but also help to prevent the onset of Type-2 diabetes. If proven, it would be the first time a direct association has been made between eating fruit and improving heart health.
During the three-year programme, innovative screening technology developed by the University of Warwick will be used to identify which fruit and vegetables have the right nutrients to have a positive impact on people's vascular health. These findings will then be used to develop prototype products to be tested on human blood vessels using in vitro trials.
If successful, clinical trials of the prototype products would then be carried out on middle-aged, overweight volunteers using state-of-the-art metabolism research equipment at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwick Trusts (UHCW). The volunteers will have their blood vessel function and glucose levels monitored to demonstrate which foods directly activate and optimise protective qualities and functions within our bodies.
The £1.1m research study, which has been co-funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Unilever, might one day result in a new range of healthy products which contain ingredients designed to help improve people's cardiovascular health.