Food, health and nutrition

supermarket shelves with convenience foodDietary related diseases such as obesity and hypertension are major 21st century chronic diseases reaching epidemic levels. This threatens to overwhelm the health service and is already costing the economy billions of pounds a year.

At the University of Birmingham, our researchers are developing healthy foods that are convenient, safe and accommodating to a normal diet. We are focussed on understanding and manipulating the microstructure of foods to engineer products to deliver all the desired consumer attributes, but with controlled energy and salt delivery to give a dramatic reduction in the amounts of fat, sugar and salt consumed in the diet.

Design of lower fat foods

Research carried out at the Centre for Formulation Engineering has led to the adoption of novel process techniques by a range of multinational food businesses including: Unilever, Cargill and PepsiCo, to engineer a series of fat-reduced foods, such as chocolate, baked goods, low-fat spreads, dressings, margarine, sauces and mayonnaise. Our research is also enabling the food industry to address the specific challenge of producing volume-sales food products that have low or zero-fat content whilst retaining the taste and texture demand by consumers. We are working on a number of projects that aim to reduce the fat, sugar or salt content of products, investigating ways to sustain the release or target the release of nutrients to particular parts of the digestive system, and seeing how foods might have a positive effect on appetite (either making us feel fuller quicker, or fuller for longer).

Eating and digestion

We are developing an understanding of eating and digestion - exploring how the design of foods can be used to get specific performance in the human process, including consumer psychology and sensory attributes.

Lowering environmental impact

We are designing food processes with zero waste to lower environmental impact. The University of Birmingham is also working with the Crop Trust and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN to systematically plan and implement effective conservation of crop wild relatives (CWR). CWR are wild species which include the natural diversity required to provide resistance to pests, diseases and global climate change.

Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food is a partnership between the University of Birmingham, University of Nottingham and Loughborough University. In collaboration with a growing list of major industry partners, the Centre has a focus on ‘post-farm gate to supermarket shelf’, and more specifically, the implications of these activities on the areas of resource efficiency and sustainable production. Taking a food system approach, the Centre will provide a resource efficient and food secure future for the UK food industry by engendering vision in the UK science base and improving uptake in the industry.

Health psychology

In the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, researchers seek to better understand healthy eating including the mechanisms behind the development of unhealthy eating behaviours. This research theme focusses on understanding people’s emotions, cognations and behaviours in maintaining health, adapting to ill-health, and coping with or managing long-term conditions.

Read more about our food technology and strategy at the University of Birmingham.