The Galician companies Hifas da Terra, Cuevas and Cía and Algamar have started the Neurofood project. This is an R&D initiative to develop functional foods and food supplements from Galician foods of high nutritional value such as medicinal mushrooms, chestnuts and algae. These have already confirmed the presence of certain triterpenoid compounds, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that could affect aspects related to neurocognitive development and, specifically, with perception, memory, attention and learning.
Representatives of the business consortium explained the global objectives and phases of the Neurofood project at the presentation ceremony held at the headquarters of the Foltra Foundation in Teo (A Coruña). As explained, in this project “ingredients of interest” will be selected, “specific processes” will be developed and “complex matrices” will be evaluated to prevent the compounds from losing qualities in the productive processes. Neurofood is a “comprehensive project” because it provides, after the research phases, the development of specific products and their functional validation in healthy individuals and patients, both early and advanced.
Hifas da Terra
Dr. Rodríguez Blanco, head of R&D health projects at Hifas da Terra, explained that European organizations have already expressed their concern about malnutrition in old age through calls under the Horizon 2020 program. malnutrition in children ages can have consequences that can be observed later, in old age a deficient or inadequate diet could have repercussions at a neurocognitive level. “As an example, deficiencies of vitamin B1 in the diet of a pediatric patient, translate into observable abnormalities in MRI,” he added.
As he recalled, the general public often speaks about the importance of diet in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases but “there is not the same degree of awareness about the nutritional implications of cognitive deterioration or dementia.” The Rotterdam study, published in the 1990s, showed that a diet rich in saturated fats, cholesterol, total fat, etc. it has a “negative impact” on the risk of suffering from dementia, while a diet rich in unsaturated acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 is “inversely proportional” to the risk of suffering from dementia.
Lion´s mane, Shiitake and Reishi
In the Neurofood project, Galician resources of “great nutritional value” will be used, such as mushrooms, chestnuts and algae that have already known compounds and which Hifas da Terra has been working on for years. These include alpha-linoleic acid, vitamin D and vitamin B12. The Applied Mycology biotech will work with mushrooms “of interest at a cognitive level” such as the lion’s mane, the Shiitake and the Reishi; some of which have shown “positive results” in neurological diseases.
The manager of Cuevas&Cía, Maite González, focused on the idea of developing, as a final goal of the project, a “stable and bioavailable functional food”. As noted, “as ambassadors of the Galician chestnut in the world present in 26 countries,” the disclosure of the benefits of chestnut is part of their mission.
Neurofood phases: 2018-2020
The Neurofood project, which will run until 2020, is in its initial phase. After having defined the final product collectively, the materials are being selected, the «sources of suitable active compounds» for the product with the «essential nutrients and suitable bioactive compounds». Entities such as the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), the University of Vigo (UVIGO), Anfaco-Cecopesca and the Technological Center of Meat will collaborate in the successive phases of the project collecting scientific evidence of the effects of the products and contributing their experience in the field of R&D. Likewise, the final validation of the product will be obtained from the protocols implemented by the Foltra Foundation, which will offer “valuable information” for the commercial future of the product formulated for proper neurocognitive functioning.
Cuevas & Cía
As detailed by Maite González, the different stages of the project include analysis of biomolecules, both in the raw materials and in the final product; compatibility studies of the different matrices and concentration ratios; compatibility studies, bioavailability and shelf life; as well as tastings and sensory panels to demonstrate the “maximum organoleptic acceptability”.
One of the starting premises for the elaboration of the resulting product of Neurofood is that it is framed in the “healthy” concept; question that would be determined, according to Maite González, by having a low glycemic index, being nutritionally balanced and easy to swallow, natural, ecological and without preservatives or colorings.
The Cuevas group spokeswoman did not rule out, once the project was finished, the possibility of the consortium developing a new range of products “more oriented to the health branch”.
The co-founder of Algamar, Fermín Fernández Sáa, highlighted the fact that through this project the development of «products of interest for health with Galician products of zero kilometer» was proposed. Algamar is defined as one of the first companies that bet on algae for food purposes. Its nutritional aspects highlighted its high protein content, its “high antioxidant capacity” and what they called a “nutrient cocktail”.
Sergio Baamonde López, Biologist and R&D member in Algamar, indicated that they will investigate which species of algae are most suitable for the final product and through which extraction processes the quantity and quality of their bioactive compounds can be optimized; activities that will be developed in collaboration with “high impact researchers” of the Universidade de Vigo and the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB) of Portugal.
Neurofood is an R&D project that is funded by the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) through the Conecta-Peme 2018 program (European Regional Development Fund) and has the support of the Ministry of Economy and Industry of the Xunta de Galicia and the Fundación Empresa-Universidad Gallega (FEUGA). More information about our research projects.