The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) recently announced research project funding that includes a pulse research project at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) at St. Boniface Hospital. $575,456 over 3 years was awarded to CCARM under the Strategic Project Grants (SPG) Program. The program’s goal is to increase research and training in targeted areas that could strongly enhance Canada’s economy, society and or environment within the next ten years.
The award was part of the announcement made January 20th by the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), and Stephen Woodworth, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre.
Peter Zahradka, CCARM Principal Investigator and Team Leader, says the investment will be used to identify and characterize the molecule in pulse crops that has been shown to decrease arterial stiffness. It is hoped that this molecule will then be made available for incorporation into novel enriched or fortified functional food products, or utilized in its purified form as a nutraceutical. The CCARM team includes Carla Taylor and Michel Aliani, Faculty of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba. Their research findings can potentially lead to the development of products for human consumption that will enhance the commercial value of pulse crops due to strong market interest in the underlying therapeutic applications.
A previous study by Zahradka & Taylor showed in humans with peripheral artery disease that consuming more pulses can stop and possibly reverse arterial stiffness, the hallmark of atherosclerotic disease. Since atherosclerosis is the root cause of most cardiovascular deaths (heart attack, stroke), and there is no pharmacological agent currently available to treat this disease, the NSERC Strategic Program is providing funds to this research team to identify the bioactive molecule contained in pulses that provides these health benefits. This work will require the development of new techniques for monitoring arterial stiffness in animals. The research will look at the four varieties of pulses used in the original study (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas) to determine which contains the greatest amount of the bioactive molecule, then fractionate the pulse to find which part of the seed contains the bioactive. The information obtained from this work will assist with the identification and characterization of the bioactive molecule, which will enable its use as both a therapeutic and a preventative agent.
“The availability of foods or supplements containing a molecule capable of reversing arterial stiffness would represent a major step forward in our ability to reduce death due to cardiovascular disease”, says Zahradka. “This would change the emphasis of the current therapeutic approach which focuses on managing the symptoms to actually being able to treat the actual disease.”
About The Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) is dedicated to investigating and understanding the potential health-related benefits found in nutraceuticals, functional foods, and natural health products (health food). Its vision is to add value to agricultural commodities and finished products through innovative functional food and nutraceuticals research. CCARM represents an ongoing unique partnership between St. Boniface Hospital, the University of Manitoba, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and is located within St. Boniface Hospital Research and the I.H. Asper Research Institute.
About The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects.
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