Digestive Health

Assembling the puzzle of functional gut disorders and defining Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Our research focus

Gastrointestinal dysfunction makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients. Discomfort and inflammation are other unwelcome gut-related effects. Diet is a factor but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, especially when it comes to making cause-and-effect claims for particular foods. A pivotal weakness is the lack of understanding of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is a common problem in Asian populations. This prevents New Zealand food producers making valid claims for gastrointestinal health benefits. To address this, High-Value Nutrition’s Digestive Health programme is conducting in-depth research, primarily via access to a large cohort of patients with IBS who are precisely phenotyped. Clinical evidence shows a food-health relationship for gut function and comfort using accepted biomarkers. The characterisation and description of biomarkers creates opportunities for  innovative food and beverage products from New Zealand. The Digestive Health programme is also working alongside industry, in a co-funded research project with a2 Milk Company.

The investigators

Professor Nicole Roy

Nicole Roy is the Principal Scientist and Science Team Leader of Food Nutrition and Health for AgResearch and is based in Palmerston North. Her research interest is in how nutrition and food components can modify inter-organ nutrient partitioning. Nicole is also an adjunct associate professor and senior lecturer at the Riddet Institute.

Dr Matthew Barnett

Matthew is the lead for the research project a2 Milk for gut comfort, jointly funded by High-Value Nutrition and the a2 Milk Company. He has held a range of roles at AgResearch Ltd, including research associate and research scientist. Matthew is involved in a range of projects investigating the importance of nutrition for health throughout life.

a2 Milk for digestive health

Dr Matthew Barnett, Senior Research Scientist at AgResearch Ltd, and Dr Andrew Clarke, Chief Scientific Officer at a2 Milk, are working on a project to research whether milk from a2 cows prevents intestinal inflammation, and are therefore suitable for people who don’t consume milk due to intolerance symptoms.

Digestive Health highlights

Foodomics 2019 brings international experts on the High-Value Nutrition eco-system to New Zealand

Foodomics 2019, hosted by the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge team from the University of Auckland, will provide a platform for the country’s researchers and businesses taking premium foods for health and wellbeing to the world to gather to collaborate and learn about the latest research and opportunities.