Dr Matt Miller from the Cawthron Institute has received an investment of $1,000,000 from the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge and industry partners for a second programme of research to investigate the anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits of Greenshell™ mussels. This HVN funding was announced today at the 2019 New Zealand Aquaculture conference, where Dr Miller spoke about his research in a presentation titled ‘Musseling-up: enhancing Greenshell™ mussel value’.

The multi-disciplinary, world-leading research team assembled for this programme reunites and strengthens the successful collaboration between industry and leading New Zealand science established in the previous programme, including the Cawthron Institute, Sanford Limited and Massey University, with the addition of researchers from AgResearch and Plant & Food Research.

Sanford is New Zealand’s largest Greenshell™ mussel producer, generating over 40% of the country’s output, and is actively working to improve all aspects of Greenshell™ mussel breeding, production, processing and food innovation.

The research team aims to identify and validate the health benefits of Greenshell™ mussels by using a systems nutrition approach and novel methods to develop a better understanding of the relationships between inflammation, metabolism and musculoskeletal function.

The programme builds on earlier HVN funded research where scientists discovered the novel health benefits and protective properties of Greenshell™ mussels and enabled the research team to develop a better understanding of the potential for developing premium mussel products with more benefits for the seafood-eating public.

Greenshell™ mussel is New Zealand’s leading aquaculture species, but it is currently undervalued as international consumers do not realise the health benefits of this food.

“The goal of this research is to provide scientific evidence of the anti-inflammatory properties of Greenshell™ mussel, which in turn will add value to exports of this iconic New Zealand kaimoana,” says Joanne Todd, Director, High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. “The foremost impact of this research will be the economic growth for New Zealand aquaculture sector through validation of health benefits” she says.

The programme will measure the effects of Greenshell™ mussels on acute and chronic inflammation, as well as effects on joint and muscle function. This work follows on from key novel findings from the previous HVN-funded programme and will establish a new health and marketing opportunity for greenshell mussel foods. The trials will be conducted by Plant & Food Research Limited and Massey University.

The programme will also merge evidence-based research with Māori knowledge of the traditional and customary usage of  Greenshell™ mussels to further validate the health benefits using historical and scientific evidence.

“Clinical research represents a huge opportunity to raise the value of Greenshell™ mussel food products by providing evidence of the seafood’s bioactivity to international health conscious consumers,” says Professor Richard Mithen, HVN Chief Scientist.

“The major benefit of this programme is the benefit to New Zealand of validating the health benefits of an iconic kiwi food product, particularly in regional New Zealand where mussel production occurs,” says Professor Mithen. “Benefits of this programme will occur across the wider New Zealand mussel industry with value created  for all mussel producers and connecting industries, and open up options for marketing further novel functional foods,” he says.

The HVN Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health and wellbeing attributes of New Zealand produced foods for our major export markets. The Challenge will over the next five years fund a number of projects through a competitive contestable funding process, and has recently approved two innovative projects that will be completed together with Māori businesses partners. High-Value Nutrition is one of the eleven National Science Challenges. The Challenge has a $45.6 million budgeted research investment over the next five years.