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Outstanding workshop on Plant Pigments and Human Health – join the new network!

The EPSO workshop on Plant Pigments and Human Health was held in the Costa Brava, Spain, on 24-26th May.
 
Fifty five researchers from 39 organisations - including research institutions, universities and food companies – from 16 countries attended the workshop, from across Europe, New Zealand and the USA.
 
Attendees were welcomed to the workshop by Karin Metzlaff, Executive Director of EPSO, and Karla Falloon, representing the New Zealand Ministry for Science and Innovation — one of the sponsors of the event.
 
Chiara Tonelli, representing the EC Food Advisory Group and the organising committee, talked about the priorities of the European Framework Programme, and Carlos Serovia Perez from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III spoke about the Joint Programming Initiatives, in particular Healthy Diet for Healthy Life.
 
The first session addressed fundamental research into the identification, biosynthesis and regulation of plant pigments, with an introductory keynote by Mary Ann Lila from the Plants for Human Health Institute in North Carolina, USA. The session concentrated on chemical synthesis and metabolism of pigment compounds commonly found in fruits and vegetables.
 
The second session, initiated by Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre, UK, discussed the genetic mechanisms of anthocyanin and carotenoid production in specific key crops – tomato, corn, apple, berries and grapes. The speakers also presented new technologies developed to facilitate genome studies in plants.
 
A session on bioavailability and delivery of pigments in the diet was opened by Paul Kroon of the Institute of Food Research, UK.
 
Speakers presented current understanding of the absorption of plant pigments in the human body, and the methods of processing and delivery that could be investigated to optimise any pigment research aimed at human health.
 
The second day of the workshop was opened by Lynn Ferguson from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who introduced the topic of health claims and functional foods. Talks presented current research on how pigments may influence human health, and the complexity of whole system interactions and consumer drivers in developing these foods.
 
The final theme was the role of pigments in specific human disorders, opened by Michel de Logeril from the University of Grenoble, France. Current research was presented on the effects of plant pigments in cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disorders, such as asthma and arthritis, neurodegenerative disorders and on gut microflora, including cell, animal and human trials in these areas.
 
Key themes raised throughout the programme were the need for research in: understanding the mechanisms of action of plant pigments in the human body, particularly mechanisms reaching beyond antioxidant effects; designing model foods and clinical trials that aim to address health claims; dosage, composition and delivery of plant pigments for effectiveness and absorption in the diet; new analytical and pre-clinical tools; and a greater focus on prevention of disease rather than therapeutic treatment.
 
The discussions from the workshop will be incorporated into a white paper that will be presented at European and national levels to guide funding and support decisions, specifically highlighting research at the interface between plant science and human health, an area not routinely recognised by regulatory and funding agencies. Anyone who would like to submit ideas or comments for possible inclusion in this white paper should contact: Cathie Martin or Chiara Tonelli.
 
Allan White, one of the organisers from New Zealand, will soon start a dedicated website to foster networking of the experts interested in this cross-disciplinary approach.
For more information, watch the EPSO workshop page where you can find the abstract book including the list of participants at the workshop.
 
All participants were excited by the excellent science presented at the workshop and the inspiring discussions: Paul Kroon, Institute for Food Research Norwich, UK ‘It was a very good meeting, very stimulating and useful’; Roger Hurst from Plants and Food CRI New Zealand ‘this is the best conference I have been to’; Mary Ann Lyla, Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina State University ‘Not just the venue (gorgeous), but the outstanding concentration on hot topics so near and dear to our hearts. Uncommon for sure to have a gathering of scientists all spot-on intensely focused on plant pigments and health – what a rare treat to have the movers and shakers in the science of pigments and health all in one place. Well done – you really pulled off a stellar conference.
 
A big thank you to all participants, speakers, sponsors and helping colleagues for making this workshop a great success!
 
Contacts: Karin Metzlaff & Allan White (networking, input to policy discussion);  Cathie Martin & Chiara Tonelli (input to White paper)
 
 

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EPSO is an independent academic organisation currently representing 61 institutional members bringing together more than 204 research institutes, departments and universities from 29 countries in Europe and beyond.