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Research_

Food for health

Improving human health and wellbeing in the agrifood industry
We’re exploring the knowledge and platform technology needed by the agrifood industry to produce safe and sustainable food products and processes that have a positive impact on society.

Agrifood refers to the business of producing food agriculturally. The Agrifood industry is a highly integrated value chain spanning a full range of food and beverage related enterprises operating from ‘paddock to plate’.

Our research is supporting the agrifood industry by providing the expertise and platform technology need to produce safe, sustainable, nutritious and personalised food products and processes.

We’re also providing advanced analytics to empower food producers to provide sceptical customers with hard, empirical data on their products.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor David Raubenheimer, Professor Stephen Simpson, Associate Professor Andrew Holmes, Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Associate Professor Laurence Macia, Dr Dale McClure, Dr Mark Read, Dr Peter Valtchev

Our collaborators: Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company Ltd

The gut microbiota interacts closely with the host and its nutrition, eliciting profound impacts on host health. There is great interest in promoting microbial-dependent health benefits by manipulating the carbohydrate profile of food, especially by increasing dietary fibre content. A key challenge of this is understanding why dietary fibre supplementation does not produce the same microbial response and health benefits in all individuals.

We hypothesise that different types of dietary fibre and the interactive effects with other diet components shape microbial interactions. To test this hypothesis, we functionally categorised carbohydrates and dietary fibre into four types based on host and microbial-accessibility. We are investigating ten carbohydrate profiles of four dietary contexts, enabling us to map the effects of dietary nutrition to the gut microbial composition, diversity and activity, as well as impacts on host physiology, metabolism and immunity.

We aim to gain a perspective on the microbial and host responses to diet, allowing targeted diet manipulations to modify the gut microbiota and influence host health in personal dietary choices and treatment therapies.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Associate Professor Andrew Holmes, Dr Dale McClure, Dr Mark Read

Our gut contains a complex community made up of millions of microorganisms, these have a large impact on our health. In the gut these microorganisms can interact with each other and our diet to produce compounds which can benefit our health; they can also produce compounds which are not desirable. Understanding the complex interactions in this community is difficult and performing experiments can be very challenging.

We aim to develop lab and computer-based models of the gut microbiome. The end goal of this project is to develop a tool which can be used to simulate the interactions between microbes in the gut. This model can then be used to develop new diets or other interventions which can promote favourable health outcomes and avoid undesirable effects.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Dr Peter Valtchev

We're developing a new “Gut-on-a-chip” microfluidic platforms to address existing product development challenges in pre-clinical studies. Animal models are commonly used for this purpose, but their physiological responses are different from human and they usually fail to predict the actual human clinical outcomes.

Due to these limitations, developing a successful active compound often takes a long time and is expensive. Organ-on-chips are an emergent technology that enables the high throughput screening of bioactive molecules. Designing gut-on-chip to study will help to evaluate the impact of food compounds on inflammatory responses in the human gut.  

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor David Fletcher, Professor Timothy Langrish, Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Dr Dale McClure

Our collaborators: Professor Paul Singh (University of California Davis, USA), Associate Professor Gail Bornhost (University of California Davis, USA), Dr Simon Harrison (CSIRO)

Understanding how the stomach breaks down food is essential in engineering foods with improved health properties. However, there are obvious challenges with performing experiments in this area.

We aim to develop and validate cutting-edge computational tools which can be used to simulate the stomach. Once these tools have been developed, they can be used to model the stomach, thereby giving an improved understanding of how food breaks down. This can potentially be used to develop foods with improved functional properties, which in turn may lead to improved health benefits for consumers.