The Riddet Institute is part of an exciting and wide-ranging collaboration with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), one of Europe’s leading research centres. Both institutes have particular interests around factors that affect protein digestion, and there are several joint projects currently underway to explore different aspects of this.
As part of this collaboration, the Riddet Institute is currently hosting PhD candidate, Kera Nyemb. Kera is supervised by Professors Françoise Nau and Didier Dupont at INRA and Associate Professor Shane Rutherfurd from the Riddet Institute. Kera is part of a team investigating aspects of protein digestion in the gut, using both in vitro and animal models.
In work recently published in the journals Food Chemistry and Food Research International , the team found that heating egg white under different conditions enabled manipulation of the protein nanostructures that were formed. They subsequently analysed how these proteins were broken down at different stages of digestion in vitro , and found significant differences between them. This suggests that the way that the egg white proteins are cooked may impact their digestibility, which has important nutritional consequences. While Kera is in New Zealand, she will be working with Shane and other Riddet Institute colleagues to undertake this same experiment using a pig model.
“My project is interesting because understanding the relationship between food structure and health can help us to better design foods for certain categories of people with particular dietary needs, such as neonates, infants and the elderly”, she says.