The grants provide a scientific platform for researchers to connect, collaborate and promote the awareness of food ingredients throughout Asia, and this year’s BASF grant programme has targeted scientists in China, Indonesia, Singapore and India for their research work on plant sterols.
“While plant sterols have been used extensively in Europe and the US, awareness and research in Asia is still very limited,” said Tina Low, director of BASF Human Nutrition across Asia-Pacific.
“By focusing this year’s grant on Asian countries, BASF hopes to generate more research on the health benefits of plant sterols.”
Plant sterols are one option to meet the growing health risk from Asian consumer tastes moving in a Western direction, which has, over recent years, led to increasing rates of cardiovascular disease.
These phytosterols can be found naturally in vegetable oils, legumes, nuts and grains, and can lower LDL cholesterol levels and help to block the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the bloodstream.
BASF says an intake of 1-3g of plant sterols and sterol esters per day can substantially and consistently lower blood levels of total cholesterol by 6-10% and LDL-cholesterol by 8-15%.
Three scientists from China, three from Singapore and one each from India and Indonesia were selected by BASF’s Scientific Advisory Committee for awards based on a review of papers they wrote on heart health.
The committee involved scientists from academia, government and industry. Each researcher received a grant of €25,000 in their local currency to fund a 12-month study. The researchers will present their findings at the 2014 grant programme ceremony.
“We know that many Asians are not getting enough plant sterols in their diets, so we hope to support research into supplementation,” said David Cai, of BASF Human Nutrition.