Press Release – Lincoln University
New Zealand is uniquely positioned to show the world the economic and lifestyle benefits of a nutritional pathway to disease prevention and good health, says Lincoln University’s first Professor of Food Science, Charles Brennan who has come to the position from …20 December 2011
New Zealand ‘ideally positioned’ for food science leadership role
New Zealand is uniquely positioned to show the world the economic and lifestyle benefits of a nutritional pathway to disease prevention and good health, says Lincoln University’s first Professor of Food Science, Charles Brennan who has come to the position from a professorship in Food Chemistry and Nutrition in the United Kingdom.
“As a scientifically sophisticated and technologically innovative food-producing country with a health-conscious consumer base and a political commitment to ‘clean green’ environmental principles, New Zealand is well qualified to participate in global leadership in the area of nutrition and disease prevention,” says Professor Brennan.
“Historically New Zealand has often been prominent in this direction, such as with the introduction of iodine to salt in the 1920s for the prevention of iodine deficiency disorders like goitre; the Plunket Society’s work, from its foundation in 1907, on improving the diet of malnourished infants; and with the old Department of Health’s emphasis on the role of vitamin D in preventing rickets.”
Professor Brennan’s research interests lie in the interface between food science and human nutrition and he is internationally known for his work on how bio-active ingredients and processing manipulate the nutritional quality of foods, especially in relation to the glycaemic response of products.
“What this means is that manipulating the texture of food through, for example, extrusion processes, can alter its nutritional status.
“The role of food scientists and the food industry in achieving healthier foods is crucial,” says Professor Brennan. “For instance, by raising levels of dietary fibre in processed foods one can start to deliver nutritional benefits linked to sustained energy, satiety, weight loss and a healthier gut. Mitigating illness by food intake would have a huge impact on reducing the cost of primary healthcare costs and benefit everyone.”
Professor Brennan’s work has led to the authorship and co-authorship of over 200 scholarly works. Recent examples include papers on whether the food industry has a role in correcting dietary iron deficiency where it occurs; the physico-chemical characteristics of extruded snacks enriched with lycopene – a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes and elsewhere; and the utilisation of waste pumpkin material and its use in extruded snack foods.
He is particularly interested in the innovative use of food wastes in order to enhance the sustainability of food production, the utilisation of extrusion technologies for delivering bio-active components in functional foods, and novel engineering solutions to optimise food processing systems.
His personal research interest are centred on the functionality of biological food ingredients and understanding the human utilisation of manufactured foods in relation to nutrition.
Professor Brennan sees ‘bio-prospecting’ – searching for and finding useful ingredients to put into food and food systems – as the starting point for increasing export opportunities for New Zealand.
“Lincoln University has been remarkably successful over the years in producing innovative solutions for the food industry, and we have a great team at Lincoln University bursting with ideas to create a bright future for the food industry. But there must be a ‘whole New Zealand’ emphasis on best practice and selecting the optimal ingredients we have in New Zealand. Our close relationship with all the Crown Research Institutes, such as AgResearch and Plant and Food Research, means we have a unique opportunity to create wealth and health for New Zealand and beyond.”
Professor Brennan has a PhD in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of London, and is currently an editorial board member of five internationally peer-reviewed journals. At Lincoln University he joins the expanding disciplinary area of food science and is a member of the Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences. He will be involved in research relationships with AgResearch and the Food Innovation Network, which is based in Lincoln and exists at the interface of science and the food industry, seeking new items for New Zealand’s export markets.
The move to Lincoln University is a return to New Zealand for Professor Brennan, who spent nearly five years at Massey University as Professor of Food Chemistry and Director of the Food Division.