Dr Andrea Braakhuis from the University of Auckland has received $122,160.00 of funding from the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge and industry partner Ārepa for a 24 month project, which will develop and test a new anti-pollution smart drink to combat the effects of air pollution and improve aspects of performance.
Air pollution, including smog and ozone, has been estimated to be responsible for several millions of deaths worldwide each year, the majority of which are attributed to cardiovascular causes.
Regular aerobic exercise is recommended by physicians to improve health and longevity. However, people exercising in urban regions are often in contact with air pollution, which includes particles and gases associated with respiratory distress, poor lung function and irritation.
To date, little is known about how air pollution and exercise together affect lung function, and to what extent dietary or specific products nutritional properties can help mitigate its effects.
Dr Braakhuis and her team will work with Ārepa, a New Zealand based food-technology company that currently produces a ‘natural smart drink’, which claims to boost cognitive health.
One of the main ingredients in Ārepa is Neuroberry blackcurrants, a specific variant of the berry unique to New Zealand.
“We propose to develop and test a smart drink containing key nutrients thought to improve athletic performance and lung function,” said Dr Braakhuis.
“The idea is to support those exercising and living in polluted environments. We believe that by incorporating the exercising public into our study, this will allow research to be conducted on a poorly investigated topic and assist the development of a new smart drink to assist the exercising public to better deal with air pollution,” she said.
Data from previous studies has shown improvements in cognitive function in athletes given Ārepa, and athletic performance has been found to improve after consumption of New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins.
“The anthocyanin-rich berries grown in New Zealand are anti-inflammatory and contain bioactive compounds that may support lung function for those exercising in polluted environments,” said Dr Braakhuis.
“We propose to develop a product with blackcurrant and other ingredients that are likely to support optimal athletic performance and lung function,” she says. This will be an extension to the current successful product line of Ārepa."
Joanne Todd, HVN National Science Challenge Director, said the project fitted in well with the project's Immune Health stream, as it specifically targetted the effects of air pollution on lung function, immunity and inflammatory processes.
The HVN Challenge is a research programme dedicated to health and wellbeing attributes of New Zealand produced foods for major export markets.