The demand for healthy food, and thus the analysis of healthy ingredients in food, is increasing. But how do you know what useful substances are in a tomato, carrot or broccoli and what effect these have on your body? Little is known about it. The top sector project ‘The value(s) of fruit and vegetables’ aims to change this. Breeder Takii is one of the participants, writes Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo.
Through this project, companies, researchers and students are working together on innovative measurement methods to measure the different effects of different ingredients from fruit and vegetables. In addition, the effect of these substances on the human body is investigated.
Rogier Laurens (photo Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo)
Rogier Laurens is senior Portfolio Manager Vegetables at grower Takii Europe in De Kwakel, near Aalsmeer. The company is a subsidiary of Takii & Co Ltd. From Japan, one of the world’s largest vegetable and flower seed growers.
“We know that fruit and vegetables are healthy, but we do not know exactly what the phytonutrients and health effects of specific fruit and vegetable varieties are. With measurement methods that we are developing within this project, it is possible. It allows us to better communicate the value of our vegetable varieties.”
The goal of Takii Europe is to market healthy and tasty vegetable varieties. “Many people do not reach the daily recommended amount of at least 250 grams of vegetables and 200 grams of fruit per day,” says Rogier. “If you don’t reach that amount, you also get too few phytonutrients. We think it’s important to develop new vegetable varieties that – even if you eat less than the recommended amount – still ensure that you get enough healthy nutrients “In Japan, country for our parent company, they have been working on this technology for a long time. Why do you think the Japanese live so long on average?”
There is even a tomato on the market in Japan, developed by Takii, which must carry the label ‘Food with functional claims’. “A clinical study shows that this tomato contains twice as much lycopene as a regular tomato. This study allows this tomato to claim health benefits in Japan, making it the only science-based tomato in the world. How great would it be, if we could can this also be done in the Netherlands in the future?”
The focus of this top sector project is on lycopene and glucosinolates. These substances belong to the phytonutrients: nutrients that a plant produces itself. The plant uses these substances for a smart built-in defense system that protects it from insects or diseases. It is suspected that these substances can also have this effect in the human body. “Studies show that phytonutrients can be beneficial against cardiovascular disease and can reduce the risk of chronic disease and cancer,” Rogier said.
Lycopene is found naturally in carrot and tomato and acts as an antioxidant in the human body. Glucosinolates are found in various types of cabbage, and the specific breakdown products of this substance, such as sulforaphane, can help inhibit inflammation in the human body.
The project has been underway for almost four years, and the final results will be presented during the final symposium ‘Towards the real value of fruit and vegetables!’ presented on Thursday, November 17. But Rogier can already lift a small corner of the veil. “We have succeeded in developing a method with which we can measure the effect of an ingredient on the human body, and we can also demonstrate this effect. But we are not there yet. For example, what happens to a product if you consume it : where does it end up in your body and where is it broken down A substance breaks down into several molecules in your body: what effect do those molecules have? Together we go further!”
The power of fruits and vegetables
Takii wants to use the developed techniques and research as a basis for follow-up research in his own company. But then the focus is not only on lycopene and glucosinolates. “Scientific experts have identified more than 25,000 thousand phytonutrients in plant foods, thousands of which are in fruits and vegetables. So we are far from done discovering the power of fruits and vegetables. I think that breeders will eventually be able to easily measure them yourself.” which – and how many – ingredients are in their products. If I look even further into the future, I see a consumer measuring the ingredients of a carrot or tomato with his own phone and from this he decides for himself which product he wants, but that’s going to take a while.”
Source: Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo