The Greenshell™ mussel (GSM) Perna canaliculus is an iconic New Zealand seafood product that is highly valued by consumers in New Zealand and overseas for its unique flavour and visual appeal, and increasingly for its anti-inflammatory properties. Funded by the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, researchers led by AUT will develop a new GSM product supplemented with Fucoidan, a unique compound found in the seaweed Undaria pinnatifda, the benefits of which may have strong anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects.
Professor Jun Lu from AUT University has been awarded $803,000 in contestable funding from the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge and co-funding from their industry partner Beyond Capital MedTech Management Ltd to extract fucoidan from seaweed Undaria pinnatifida grown in New Zealand on mussel long lines, formulate a mussel-fucoidan prototype supplemented food product, and evaluate the product in a randomised controlled clinical trial in ethnic Chinese subjects with joint pain and pre-diabetes. Other collaborators include researchers from the University of Auckland and the National University of Singapore.
Undaria pinnatifida – otherwise known as Wakame – is a species of kelp that is native to Japan and forms a core part of the Japanese diet. In New Zealand Undaria pinnatifida is classified as an ‘unwanted organism’ under the Biosecurity Act 1993 and as a pest in many regional pest management strategies due to its ability to grow invasively on any hard surface, including GSM mussel lines.
With the high-value foods market (especially China) showing appetite towards products with combined active ingredients associated with multiple health benefits, the study’s industrial partner, Beyond Capital MedTech Management Ltd (BCM), is interested in developing a mussel + fucoidan supplemented food product, which has a distinctively palatable New Zealand flavour, using a waste product (seaweed) from the mussel industry.
“This HVN project will create an opportunity for Asian consumers to know and accept New Zealand green shell mussel plus fucoidan as a high-value food” says Joanne Todd, Director, High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. “This will particularly benefit New Zealand, leading to greater awareness and demand for these products in our export markets,” she says.
“Successful development of a mussel-fucoidan product will not only add value to mussel export but also add value to seafood export with the addition of fucoidan to the industry, which previously did not exist,” says lead researcher Professor Jun Lu. “The planned clinical trial will put us in the forefront of the science of mussel-fucoidan combinations in creating high-value foods for health, and to provide validated health claims for the product and the industry,” he says.
The research team will explore whether the combination of mussel + fucoidan has any benefit on inflammation, immune stimulation and glycaemic control. There is almost no current clinical data about this.
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 other contestable funding projects that will be completed together with businesses partners.
Notes: Fucoidan is a sulphated polysaccharide extracted from the seaweed U. pinnatifida, which is an invasive species infesting long lines of mussel farms in New Zealand. U. pinnatifida is currently a waste product which interferes with the mussel harvest machinery.
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.