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New Professor Food for Thought and Bodies

A new professorial position in Biomedical Physiology at Massey University will lead to more research on innovation and adding value to food products, and is the result of a partnership with HortResearch, New Zealand’s largest horticulture and food research organisation.

University Vice-Chancellor Prof James McWha and HortResearch CEO Dr Ian Warrington signed a deed of agreement at Massey University, Palmerston North, on Monday (18 October).

Both said that was an exciting initiative and showed “what the future should be like,” co-operating closely on a range of projects.

Dr Garth Smith, HortResearch’s General Manager for Animal, Biomedical, Food, Forestry and Environment research, said that HortResearch’s decision was part of his organisation’s strategy to underpin work in bioengineering, neutraceuticals and lifestyle foods.

“Endowing a professorship at Massey University provides an excellent platform to grow domestic and international business that will mutually benefit our two organisations,” he said.

The professorship will be advertised later this month. The successful candidate will spend half their time on shared business opportunities with Massey staff, a quarter of their time in a teaching role and the rest on HortResearch work.

Food research is now about more than processing food and producing food that is enjoyable and nutritious. It also looks at food’s physiological effect on the human body, said Prof. Paul Moughan, head of the University’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health.

Functional foods – foods that are good for people as well as good to eat – represent a major opportunity for New Zealand food industries to add value to products. Well-known functional foods are oat bran-enriched products that help to lower blood cholesterol, and probiotic yoghurts, which enhance gut health.

Dr Warrington said that horticultural crops hold “huge potential” through improvements in dietary intake to enhance human health and reduce the incidence of disease.

“HortResearch and Massey University have the combined skills to ensure that high nutritional value is obtained from new crop varieties, to understand the impacts of food types on human health and to identify ways of enhancing human performance.

“We now have a programme that will integrate our understanding of the value of our crops from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s food intake and metabolism.”

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