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New Zealand universities unite in national nutrition challenge

Three New Zealand universities to collaborate in a new, national nutrition challenge

Food scientist

The University of Auckland will team up with the University of Otago and Massey University to participate in New Zealand’s first High Value Nutrition Challenge.


The Challenge, launched by the New Zealand government, is one of ten funding deals within the National Science Challenge, and will examine ways to increase the quality of New Zealand food exports and local products. All areas of funding address areas of key importance to the New Zealand economy via scientific research.


 ‘New Zealand has world-class food scientists,’ Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said in a government release. ‘The Challenge will provide the science to underpin and enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high-quality, safe foods with validated health benefits.’


University scientists, working in collaboration with those from Crown Research AgResearch and Plant & Food Research will undertake research that helps New Zealand companies produce healthier foods in line with global demands. Researchers will also seek to validate health claims of high-value food products to establish new markets for export, as well as investigate new possibilities for muscle, joint and bone health.


Other areas of interest include how certain foods may aid recovery from injury, enhance immunity levels or improve people’s overall health at different stages of their lives.


A total of NZ$30.6 million (US$17.88 million) has been allocated to the ten-year project, with a further NZ$53.2 million (US$46.17 million) available following a successful review after five years.


University of Auckland Chair in Nutrition David Cameron-Smith highlighted the importance of the Challenge to both the economy and national health.


‘The government has clearly signalled the science challenges must involve cutting-edge clinical, food and consumer science research that takes us in a new direction,’ he said in a university release.


‘Food is central to our economy and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to both enhance health and contribute significantly to this country’s export success.’


The Challenge will also involve research driven by principles of Matauranga Maori, an inclusive term that refers to traditional concepts of knowledge and modes of thought, into Maori foods, medicines, and new production opportunities.


Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey has identified global needs for sustainable, nutritious food production, particularly with a growing global population.


‘Our scientists are working hard to develop healthier foods that are affordable, accessible and taste good,’ he said in an official release. ‘One billion people are malnourished. According to the United Nations, we need to produce 70% more food over the next two decades.’


In New Zealand, food standards and general wellbeing are key national concerns.  As well as sporting consistent high scores on international quality of life and happiness surveys, New Zealand ranked within the highest bracket in the Oxfam Food Index, a measure of which countries have the most plentiful, healthy food. The nation also ranked first in the 2014 Social Progress Index, an overall measure of how a nation works towards the greater wellbeing of its people.


The University of Auckland is the nation’s highest-ranking university, and ranks within the world’s top 100 for Life Sciences.


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