It is general knowledge that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy. However, relatively little is known about the relationship between the specific nutritional values of different fruit and vegetables and their effects on health.
Consequently, it is currently not possible for producers to make health claims for their fruit and vegetables. Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo and Vers+, together with businesses and academic institutions (HAS University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences and Maastricht University) are going to use the subsidy awarded by the Dutch Top Sector to bring about a change in this. ‘The one or more values of Fruit and Vegetables’ project is intended to ensure that there is a scientific basis for supporting our health using natural products.
Evidence for the value of preventive health
Fruit and vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and contain relatively little salt and saturated fat. However, it is difficult for producers to show which nutritional substances fresh produce contains, resulting in a lack of evidence for their beneficial effects on health. Improved evidence for the preventive health benefits of fresh products will allow new markets to be opened up as well as having positive effects on price-setting and increasing the market share. Rob Baan, one of the project’s initiators says, “I am delighted that we are moving towards providing evidence for the beneficial health effects of fresh fruit and vegetables. Horticulture is the medicine cabinet of the future.”
A response to new insights
It is not only the horticultural sector who will benefit from the project’s findings. It also offers major advantages for consumers. Saskia Goetgeluk, chair of Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo explains: “Through this project we are responding to new insights in food science. We can view food as the new pharma. The combination of these academic institutions brings both research and the application of knowledge a step nearer to the business world.” This project is creating insight and hence transparency about the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables and their effects on health, thus allowing consumers to make more considered choices in the composition of their dietary habits or diet.
Innovative methods of measuring
During the programme, two innovative methods of measurement are being developed and combined in order to define the nutritional values and health effects of specific types of fruit and vegetables. The method of measurement is being developed by the HAS and Avans Universities of Applied Sciences, working together within the Grow Campus. The foundation of establishing which active substances are found in certain sorts of fruit and vegetables and what the health effects of these are, is an accurate method of measurement. This is crucially important. According to Herman Peppelenbos, senior lecturer of Green Health at HAS University of Applied Sciences, “During the project, the existing methods are being compared, combined and optimised for a number of major products and relevant nutritional values. The innovative method of measurement thus created is exchangeable, more efficient and cheaper, making it possible to carry out more frequent routine checks of what various products contain.”
To provide evidence of the beneficial health effects of fruit and vegetables, Maastricht University is involved. In the project, an innovative challenge model is being developed to ascertain the health effects of various nutritional substances in fruit and vegetables. Dr Alie de Boer, Maastricht University: “The development of such a model is in line with the current scientific discussion about measuring and providing evidence for the effects you can expect from food. By further developing such methods, in the future we will be able to measure a combination of nutritional substances and health effects for the whole product. This is the first important step towards this type of method of measuring health benefits.”