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Dr Paul Blatchford awarded Emerging Researcher Grant

10 May 2016

Dr Paul Blatchford has been awarded an Emerging Researcher Grant by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to examine how bacteria and microorganisms in the gut may be improved using enteral nutrition and curcumin, a bright yellow naturally occurring plant compound.

Dr Blatchford's two-year project, in collaboration with Gastroenterologist Professor Andrew Day of the University of Otago and Christchurch Hospital, is titled "Improving gut microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients using enteral nutrition and curcumin".

"Gut microbiota is the name given to the microbial population living in our intestine. In healthy individuals there is plenty of diversity and key beneficial bacterial species" says Dr Blatchford.

"In contrast, patients with Crohn's disease have lower bacterial diversity in their colon and an absence of beneficial bacterial species. The result is debilitating IBD characterised by pain and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract lining. With this research we're looking at how a nutritional intervention might help people with Crohn's disease."

The main objective of this study is to use advanced laboratory gut models to investigate the potential of different combinations of enteral formula and curcumin for correcting the gut microbiota of Crohn's disease patients and ultimately helping alleviate the symptoms of IBD.

Dr Blatchford is part of Plant & Food Research's Food Nutrition & Health Group and while only graduating with a PhD last year, possesses over 10 years' professional experience in several related fields including Medical microbiology; Quality control; Drug discovery; Development and microbial ecology. The group uses a multi-disciplinary approach to understand digestion, absorption, and fermentation of different foods as they pass through the gastrointestinal tract. They study the impact of food on human health - glycaemic impact, metabolic health, nutrient bioavailability, immunity, and the biochemical signalling taking place between the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system (gut-brain axis) involving intestinal microbiota which are thought to play an important role in healthy brain function.

Plant and Food Research's science evaluates the health and wellness efficacy and benefits of plant- and sea-based foods and derived compounds, to support existing products and prototype functional foods and ingredients. Dr Blatchford's HRC grants will further support investigations into the microbiota-mediated impact of food on health.

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