Universidad Nacional del Noroeste de la Provincia de Buenos Aires - Investigación
July 04, 2016 | 4 ′ 57 ′′
The original idea was associated to the low consumption of fruit and vegetables in children, which contributes to the increment of diseases. The work was done departing from the discipline called industrial enzymology and it was focused in extracting important compounds from fruit, like natural pigments, which have a remarkable antioxidant or health protection capacity. The researchers explain that the results are an achievement of the public university.
Infantile nutrition is a crucial topic for public health: not only undernourishment worries, but also malnutrition and sedentary lifestyle. The growing number of children that suffer overweight (and obesity) and the negative impact this has on health are related to the appearance of certain pathologies at early and adult ages. Numerous epidemiological studies show that the diet plays a fundamental role in the prevention of chronic diseases: it is the consumption of fruit and vegetables that is associated to the reduction of the risk of having degenerative diseases.
Departing from this problem, Alicia Gallo, who is a researcher and professor at the Universidad Nacional del Noroeste de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (UNNOBA), together with a team of collaborators and students, carried out the project “Desarrollo de bebidas y alimentos a base de vegetales con enzimas como coadyuvantes del proceso”. This undertaking started in 2012 and after two years of research, the product was obtained.
Gallo, who is associate professor of Food Engineering, remembers the origin of this collective task: “We were worried about the scarce consumption of vegetables and fruit, mainly in children and young people with evident changes in their nutrition and increment of obesity. We looked for alternatives which could be useful for children and adults in face of the low intake of these products. Departing from these concepts, the proposal of developing drinks or other food more attractive for consumption emerged”, explains to Argentina Investiga Gallo, who led the work with the Dr. in Chemical Sciences María José Torres, the BS in Food Victoria Rebuffo and the Food Engineering Érica Masini.
This research started with the aim of getting innovative and attractive food, which do not exist in the current market. The main objective was to develop food that provide proved antioxidant action food. With the incorporation of enzymes, researchers worked to optimize formulations with vegetable antioxidant mixes and to adequate the processing conditions for final consumption.
Gallo has been working for years in what is known in the discipline as “industrial enzymology”. This is how she explains the project: “As we worked selectively, we contributed to extract some important compounds from fruit like, for example, natural pigments, which have a remarkable antioxidant or health protective capacity. Then, the vegetable tissues, which can be hard and difficult to digest or little attractive for consumption, can be softened through enzymes and permit us to formulate more acceptable food for consumers”.
What we obtained was a dehydrated product with lyophylized drying. After extracting water, the nutrients remain in the raw material, which is later processed. “Part of our project was to find the conditions, the most efficient concentrations to achieve the objective we searched for”, expresses Gallo.
“There are hard vegetables, like carrot, pumpkin or chard. These vegetables, which are highly consumed by adults, are in general rejected by kids due to their texture. Our idea was to make powders which can become soup and which are easy to prepare. Unlike these products, whose base is carbohydrates, our idea was to prepare or offer a kind of alternative with less caloric value, higher concentration in the fruit and vegetable components and, effectively pleasant for the palate”.
With the research result, Dr. Gallo considers that “now, the challenge is institutional”. “The National Universities have not gone through the patent way yet, especially in nutrition. We have to learn to protect these productions that belong to the institutions. We cannot forget that we achieve these advances within the UNNOBA: the institution is the mother of this result. The day we see in the region’s supermarkets a product with the label “developed in the UNNOBA”, we will have fulfilled the objective. It would be excellent”, concluded Gallo.
Dirección de Comunicación Institucional
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