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Finding scientific backing for health claims

How healthy are fresh fruits and vegetables actually?

That fruits and vegetables are healthy is a generally accepted fact. However, relatively little is known about the specific nutrients in fresh fruit and vegetables and their health benefits. Dutch growers are therefore not permitted to place health claims on their fruit and vegetables. In order to change this, a subsidy has been awarded to Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo and vers +, together with companies and universities (HAS University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences and Maastricht University). The 'De Waarden van Groenten en Fruit' (The Values of Vegetables and Fruit) project aims to establish the scientific basis for why fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy.

Fruits and vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fiber and contain relatively low amounts of salt and saturated fat. However, it is difficult for growers to determine the exact amounts of these nutrients in fresh produce and fruit. That means they can't write on the label exactly how healthy the product is. With a more detailed scientific basis for the preventive health value of fresh products, new markets can be created and there can be a positive effect on pricing and market share. Rob Baan, one of the initiators: "I am very pleased that we are taking the step towards substantiating the health effects of fresh fruits and vegetables. Horticulture is the pharmacy of the future."

This offers important advantages for consumers as well. Saskia Goetgeluk, director of Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo: "With this project we are responding to new insights in the food sciences, seeing nutrition as the new pharma. Through this combination of knowledge institutions we bring both science and the application of knowledge a step closer to the business community. This project creates insight and therefore transparency about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables and their health benefits. As a result, consumers can make a more well-informed choice in the composition of their diet.

Measuring techniques
In the program, two innovative measuring techniques are being developed in order to determine the nutrient levels and health benefits of specific fruits and vegetables. The methods are being developed by HAS and Avans University of Applied Sciences, who work together within Grow Campus. HAS lecturer Herman Peppelenbos: "For the project, existing methods are compared, combined and optimized for a number of important products and relevant nutrients. The innovative measuring technique that this creates is interchangeable, more efficient and cheaper. This makes it possible to routinely check what's in the different products."

Health benefits
Maastricht University is also involved in substantiating the health benefits of fruit and vegetables. An innovative challenge model is being developed to determine the healthy effects of the various substances in fruit and vegetables. Dr. Alie de Boer, Maastricht University: "Developing such a model is in line with the current scientific discussion about measuring and substantiating the effects that you can expect from nutrition. By further refinement of these methods, in the future it will be possible to measure a combination of nutrients and health benefits of the entire product. This is a first and important step towards such techniques for measuring health benefits."

Project information
Participating institutions: Maastricht University, HAS University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Control Food and Flowers Foundation.

Companies involved: Bejo, Brightlabs, Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo, Blue Berry Platform, Green Agro Control, Innovation Quarter, Koppert Biological Systems, Koppert Cress, Eminent Food, Van Rijsingen Green.

The project will start in 2019 and runs until 2023. The project is still open to participation by additional partners. Financial support comes from Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen.

Source: Innovation Quarter

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