$20m nutrition centre looking at food that can curb appetite

$20m nutrition centre looking at food that can curb appetite
A CNRC researcher attending to a study participant who is using the BodyPod, which measuresbody fat levels.
Sunday, Feb 02, 2014
The Straits Times
By Lee Jian Xuan

SINGAPORE - Bread that can help lower blood sugar levels sounds like a dieter's dream.

But the yeasty idea will become a reality by this year, thanks to the work going on at a newly opened nutritional research centre.

Developing food that can help consumers curb their appetite and so watch their weight is part of the work being done at the $20 million Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC), said its director, Professor Jeyakumar Henry.

"We hope to make food the new medicine," said Prof Henry, who previously headed Britain's first Functional Food Centre specialising in research on glycaemia, or blood sugar, and weight maintenance.

The CNRC, touted as Asia's first "under-one-roof nutritional research centre" started operating last October. It is a joint venture between the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the National University Health Systems.

The CNRC will study diseases commonly associated with modern lifestyles, in particular obesity and diabetes which are prevalent in Singapore's adult population.

A 2010 survey by the Ministry of Health - the latest available at the national level - found 10 out of every 100 Singaporean adults were obese, up from six in 1998, while 11.3 per cent of the population were diabetic, up from 9 per cent before.

The centre will also study nutrition issues concerning women, children and the elderly.

Speaking at the centre's opening at the National University of Singapore (NUS) yesterday, A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh said the centre will combine "whole body nutrition research with the understanding of Asian dietary habits".

So far, the centre has done about 10 preliminary studies involving over 200 participants, said Prof Henry.

The studies include research on sensitivity to flavours between different ethnic groups, and whether foods of low glycaemic level can reduce appetite.

The centre also boasts facilities like a "calorimeter" that measures an individual's energy intake and output, and a product development kitchen.

Meanwhile, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan, who was also at the event, said the university is looking to offer a postgraduate programme in nutritional sciences, to develop more talent for the food and nutrition sector.

The CNRC's opening comes after A*Star inked a wide-ranging three-year agreement with food giant Nestle last week to get scientists from both sides to conduct research on ingredients and the connections between diet and disease.

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