05 December 2023 / Intelligence reports / Vitagora publication / Science and technologies

Vitawatch for December: your agrifood intelligence bulletin


Food and health, formulations and processes, consumer behaviour, sustainable agriculture... Around the world, research teams are exploring and building innovative solutions for healthier, sustainable and tastier food.


Read about probiotics and sports performance, the Mediterranean diet and cholesterol-lowering supplements, riboflavin and mental health in obese people, a new natural antioxidant sensor, the influence of odours on our food choices, edible food packaging made from bacterial cellulose and CIRAD's agro-ecological approach to the sugar cane sector.


Use your scientific intelligence to help you innovate in the food industry!

Food and health

Probiotics combined with training could improve sporting performance

A study carried out in China on sixteen top-level male cross-country skiing athletes looked at the effects of 8 weeks' supplementation with Bifidobacterium animalis on lipid metabolism and physical performance.


The sixteen athletes were divided into 2 groups: the first consumed ordinary yoghurt, while the second consumed yoghurt enriched with Bifidobacterium animalis (BL-99). After analysing the intestinal flora, it was found that the probiotics had increased in abundance by a factor of two in the first group, and by a factor of forty in the second. The second group also saw an improvement in their physical performance, with an increase in their maximum oxygen consumption and an increase in the strength of their knee joint flexors and extensors.


"Our preliminary pilot study suggests that 8 weeks of BL-99 supplementation combined with training can improve lipid metabolism and exercise performance, and that short-chain fatty acids may play an intermediary role in this process, but the mechanisms remain to be further explored ".


Source : https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2023/10/30/study-in-cross-country-skiers-suggests-probiotic-alongside-training-could-improve-performance


The Mediterranean diet improves the cholesterol-lowering potential of dietary supplements containing plant sterols

Plant sterols are recognised natural lipid-lowering agents because they alter the absorption of intestinal cholesterol via different mechanisms, but their effects are highly dependent on the individual.


Scientists at the University of Bologna (Italy) have studied the links between the cholesterol-lowering effect of a dietary supplement containing 2.5g of plant sterols and the individual's diet. The results of their study showed that the sterol supplement was more effective when combined with the Mediterranean diet. This observation could be explained by the fact that the Mediterranean diet is made up of a greater quantity of polyphenols, which slightly inhibit cholesterol synthesis.


Source: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/21/4555


The impact of riboflavin on the mental health of people suffering from obesity

It has been shown that obese people generally suffer from malnutrition, particularly deficiencies in micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). These deficiencies are not necessarily due to poor diet, but can also result from the inflammation associated with obesity, which has an impact on the absorption and metabolism of nutrients. Some of these nutrients play an essential role in the nervous system, and their deficiency may be associated with neurological problems such as depression and neuropathy.


In a study published in Nutrients, Greek researchers have confirmed the link between riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the mental health of obese people "and underline the importance of monitoring both nutritional status and mental health when managing obesity".


Source : https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/20/4464

Food formulation / process

A new natural sensor for the antioxidant potential of molecules

Essential in the fields of health and nutrition, antioxidant molecules slow down or prevent the oxidation of other chemical substances. They therefore have beneficial effects at moderate levels, but can damage cells, lipids, proteins or even DNA if their concentration becomes too high, thereby encouraging the onset of disease or even cancer.


While ways of controlling and monitoring the synthesis of antioxidant molecules already exist, some can be restrictive, costly or difficult to implement.


A team of researchers from TBI (Toulouse Biotechnology Institute) at the University of Toulouse has developed a test for detecting and quantifying certain antioxidant molecules (resveratrol, gallate, epigallocatechin, quercetin, astaxanthin, etc.) using brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The test also shows that it is possible to monitor the biosynthesis of antioxidants directly in the microorganisms that produce them. By genetically modifying a yeast, the scientists were able to monitor and quantify the synthesis of a 'natural' type of antioxidant: carotenoids.


Source : https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/24/14/11800

Consumer behaviour

Our brains, influenced by smells that make us eat less sweet and less salty

Reducing the amount of sugar and salt in food is a major health policy issue.


Researchers at the CSGA (Centre des Sciences et du Goût et de l'Alimentation) in Dijon are working on the role of odours in the perception of sugar and salt. While this role has been proven, a recently published study shows that the phenomenon is even more effective in people suffering from obesity.


In this study, 38 obese and 43 non-obese participants tasted 13 sweet drinks (apple juice, cocoa, water) and 4 savoury drinks (pea soup, water) containing different taste-enhancing odour molecules: vanilla, strawberry or lychee to enhance sweetness; smoked bacon and smoked garlic to enhance saltiness. The phenomenon of reinforcing odours is more easily observed in obese people than in people of normal weight, particularly in certain products such as apple juice. While scientists have observed structural differences in the cerebral areas that process this reinforcement of flavour by smell in obese people, the cerebral mechanisms that explain this difference in perception are still being studied.


Source : https://www.inrae.fr/actualites/ces-odeurs-qui-trompent-notre-cerveau-nous-font-manger-moins-sucre-moins-sale

Food safety / packaging

Bacterial cellulose-based edible food packaging could replace single-use plastic

To reduce the use of plastic packaging, bacterial cellulose films represent an interesting alternative for food applications. Despite their environmentally-friendly synthesis process, non-toxic nature, robust mechanical strength and biodegradability, they have the disadvantage of high hygroscopicity, which leads to a reduction in strength and barrier properties.


In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Hong Kong, a bacterial cellulose-based composite packaging was developed, incorporating soy protein isolate and a calcium alginate-polyethylene glycol physical interpenetration as a composite coating.


The resulting biobased composite material is edible, stable in water, highly transparent, totally resistant to oil and completely degradable in 1 to 2 months.  It therefore has considerable potential applications in food packaging and other value-added sectors as a replacement for non-degradable plastics.


Source : https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jsfa.12758

Sustainable agriculture

CIRAD focuses on agroecology for the sugarcane sector

Sugar cane is the basis for many products: sugar, rum, fertilizer, bioenergy, etc. Crops therefore need to be intensified to meet growing world demand.


To achieve this intensification through virtuous and environmentally-friendly farming practices, CIRAD in Montpellier (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement) is working in particular with eRcane, a sugarcane research centre based on La Réunion, where sugarcane cultivation covers half of the usable agricultural area. "On Réunion, Guadeloupe and Martinique, developing alternatives to herbicides is the absolute priority", explains Christophe Poser, correspondent for the sugarcane subsidiary at CIRAD.


In the French overseas territories, sugar cane is already grown in a rather virtuous way, with limited use of chemical inputs. Among the possible avenues, research is exploring varietal improvement, better knowledge of pests and diseases, new farming practices involving digital technology, organisation of the sector, etc.


Source : https://www.cirad.fr/les-actualites-du-cirad/actualites/2023/transitions-agroecologiques-pour-la-culture-de-canne-a-sucre



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