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Scientists unlocking the energy of fermentation for novel, healthy plant-based foods

Fermented foods have an extended association with health advantages. But beyond traditional wisdom little is in fact known concerning the interaction between fermented foods and human health. Today, for example, you can find few dedicated studies examining the mechanisms behind any impact fermented foods is wearing health insurance and an in-depth understanding of how fermentation microorganisms and fermented foods connect to the human gut microbiome is missing.

A fresh research study, HealthFerm, aims to reveal this topic and examine how fermentation could be leveraged to build up new sustainable plant-based ingredients.

The four-year effort, which launched today, is jointly funded by the EUs Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. Its organisers believe it might have a substantial bearing on innovation in the plant-based space.

The study undertaken in HealthFerm will potentially have a wide-reaching effect on not merely individual, societal and planetary health, but additionally the wider EU food industry through greater resource efficiency and increased usage of plant-based recycleables, explained Christophe Courtin, Professor of Food Biochemistry at KU Leuven and coordinator of the project.

Probing fermented foods, the gut microbiome and health

Currently, we reply on spontaneous fermentation processes to build up fermented foods that, hopefully, will deliver health advantages.

This is simply not probably the most efficient approach. But without proof concrete health outcomes and a knowledge of how fermented foods support a wholesome microbiome, the researchers behind the HealthFerm project say it really is impossible to create fermented foods with optimal wellbeing benefits.

The project therefore aims to recognize how fermented foods support human health by creating a better knowledge of the interaction between food fermentation microbiomes, fermented grain-based foods and the human gut microbiome.

Of particular interest to us can be how dietary changes including fermented foods can reduce inflammation and the chance for chronic diseases such as for example obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiometabolic diseases, Prof. Courtin detailed.

The task package centered on health will undoubtedly be led by Prof Kirstin Verbeke of KU Leuven. The researchers use human intervention studies that compare a plant-based diets incorporating fermented ingredients with standard plant-based diets.

Sustainable plant-based ingredients

In the centre of HealthFerm lies a community-science approach, combining citizens, artisans and companies who’ll collect food fermentation microbiomes in Europe and worldwide to be analysed. The scientists will map the biodiversity of microorganisms used to ferment different foods.

HealthFerm will build with this knowledge to devise novel foodstuffs that enhance the sensorial and health advantages of both traditional foods, like sourdough bread, it said. The European researchers also desire to support the development of new sustainable plant-based dairy and meat alternatives by addressing a few of the challenges faced by the plant-based food sector, including flavour and processing issues.

Fermentations will alter the sensory profile of recycleables and perhaps generate compounds connected with, for instance, umami taste, Professor Armando Perez-Cueto of the Department of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Science at Ume University, told FoodNavigator. Prof Perez-Cuetopointed to the exemplory case of soy sauce, that is fermented from soy beans and wheat.

The project will concentrate on legumes, including pea and faba, in addition to cereals like wheat and oat. HealthFerm hopes to leverage side streams from the processing of the grains to lessen waste in the meals system and boost efficiency.

Consumer acceptance assessed

Prof Perez-Cueto will lead the task package assessing consumer behaviour within the project.Evaluating consumer perceptions of fermented plant-based foods can help make sure that the innovations appearing out of HealthFerm will deliver the intended effect on human and planetary health, bringing a consumer-centric method of the R&D efforts.

We shall develop innovative and tasty fermented foods, tested by consumers, relying on the culinary expertise of the partners. We shall evaluate changes in consumer acceptance towards fermented plant-based foods at population level through two pan EU surveys. And we’ll evaluate changes in consumer attitudes, perceptions and taste after experiencing our innovative fermented foods, Prof Perez-Cueto explained.

The HealthFerm consortium comprises academic, clinical and industrial partners from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and HOLLAND.

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