A poster by Sebastian Achterfeldt was awarded first prize at the Nutrition Society Postgraduate Conference. The poster describes Sebastian’s research which is focussed on understanding whether anthocyanins can reduce certain risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
Anthocyanins are brightly coloured pigments found in a number of different foods, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and aubergines. A number of previous studies have shown that people who eat diets rich in high-anthocyanin foods have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. However, fruit and vegetables contain many other potentially beneficial compounds, so it is not possible to say for certain that the anthocyanins are responsible for the protective effects.
Sebastian’s work will fill in these missing gaps in our knowledge. He is using anthocyanin-rich tomatoes, developed by Professor Cathie Martin at the John Innes Centre. They are identical to normal tomatoes except that they have been modified to produce high levels of anthocyanins. This makes an excellent tool for this study as diets can be made identical apart from the anthocyanins, and their use as a tool was of particular interest to other students and speakers at the conference.
The results from these experiments are still being collected and will be published in a peer reviewed journal, but they should help inform the nutritional advice given by national authorities and health professionals. Sebastian is hoping to present the work at the Royal Society of Medicine Conference on “Dietary Strategies for the Management of Cardiovascular Risk”, which is jointly organised with the Nutrition Society. The presence of high class techniques and expertise at the IFR was recognized and mentioned by many participants at the conference who expressed an interest in future collaborations.
Sebastian’s research is part of the ATHENA Collaborative Project (Grant No. 245121) funded by the European Commission (Framework 7 Programme) that is addressing how well dietary anthocyanins protect against different chronic diseases. The Institute of Food Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.