Leading horticulture and medical researchers have teamed up to explore how ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ and ways to breed new, healthier apples in Western Australia.
Department of Agriculture and Food and University of Western Australia (UWA) joint-researcher Michael Considine has played a key role in the research.
Dr Considine said the research results would lead to improved apple varieties and market awareness to drive apple consumption and improve the nation’s dietary health.
“Our initial research showed for the first time that apples can improve clinical indications of cardiovascular health, including blood pressure and its response to stress,” Dr Considine said.
“What’s more, it showed that a flavonoid-rich apple can provide greater health benefits and Western Australia‘s Pink Lady™ apple is richer in these particular flavonoids than some other apples.
“Flavonoids are natural compounds, often called antioxidants, which are concentrated in some plant foods. There are more than 3000 naturally-occurring flavonoids, and the dietary effect of each is known to be different.
“The initial project, funded by the department and the Australian Research Council, has led to new research on ways to breed and commercialise better flavonoid-rich apples.”
The current research project includes plant breeders and geneticists from the department’s Australian National Apple Breeding Program based in Manjimup and researchers from UWA’s Schools of Plant Biology and Medicine and Pharmacology.
Dr Considine said the new national project would focus on aspects of the breeding process and the market knowledge required to deliver a healthier apple to the consumer.
“The new project will explore genetic variation and ways to speed up the breeding process by targeting certain traits, and an investigation of the appetite of local and export markets for a flavonoid-rich apple,” he said.
“An application for additional funding from the Australian Research Council has been submitted to bolster the science behind a healthier apple. A result is expected by late June 2014.”
The new project is funded by the department with support from local organisation Fruit West and national bodies, Horticulture Australia and Apple and Pear Australia.
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