Damson plums to be assessed for compounds with potential health benefits

A development grant for $50,000 has been awarded by the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge to Foot Steps Limited in Karamu, Hastings. The grant will support a six-month project to explore the bioactive compounds of Damson plums to better understand the relationship between the plums and potential health benefits.

Even though food has long been used to improve health, more recent knowledge about the relationship between high-value foods and health benefits is driving advancement in this area.

The project will be conducted through close collaboration with the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence at Massey University in Palmerston North.

Damson plums are a type of plum with a deeper purple colour (more like blueberries).

They have great potential to be considered as a high-value food, or as a functional ingredient, that can be used in food products developed for particular health benefits.

Purple fruits – such as blackcurrants, blueberries, and plums – are already established as rich sources of anthocyanins, which have been linked to several health benefits.

Plums are considered a fruit with a high concentration of bioactive compounds or phytochemicals, such as vitamins (A, C, and E). They also contain other compounds, which contribute to their antioxidant capacity.

“We are interested to explore whether damson plums, as a potential high-value food, may have any health benefits beyond their basic nutritional value by decreasing the risk of chronic diseases,” says Shayne Walker, Director of Foot Steps Limited.

“Like High-Value Nutrition, we have bold and ambitious plans to explore the bioactive compounds of Damson plums as a sustainable and potentially health promoting food,” says Mr Walker.

“We hope to develop this product to export quality, and showcase Mātauranga through the integration and acknowledgment of our tikanga values. We also anticipate that examining plums will ultimately help inform consumers and support their food choices,” he says.

Joanne Todd, HVN Challenge Director, says the six-month project will provide scientific data on the biochemical composition and functionality of compounds in Damson plums and determine the nutrient content and bioactive compounds present at different stages of ripening and harvest. It will also map out regulatory considerations for exporting functional products based on Damson plums.

The project also seeks to understand opportunities to improve the commercial, social, health, and cultural value of the Damson plums through exploring their impact on immune health.

Dr Ali Rashidinejad, the project leader at the Riddet Institute, says the project has already made good progress with the preliminary results demonstrating the Damson plums are  a great source of some of the vital nutrients and potent bioactive compounds.

“Based on our systematic review of the literature so far, it’s surprising that little is known about their nutritional and bioactive composition”, Ali says

The HVN Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health attributes of New Zealand-produced foods for our major export markets.

The Challenge will, over the next three years, fund a number of projects through a competitive contestable funding process, and has recently approved other contestable funding projects that will be completed together with business partners.

The HVN Contestable Fund Request for Proposals remains open for applications. Read more HERE

Source:  High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog