WeFood: Innovating in food to be more sustainable

3 October 2023

Boosting the immune system is possible through nutrition. An adequate intake of probiotics maintains a balanced microbiota and also generates substances that eliminate unwanted micro-organisms and active compounds with an immunomodulatory effect.

Foods that boost the immune system

A healthy diet, in line with our nutritional needs, is necessary for good health and to maintain a strong immune system to help protect the body from external invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins. At TECNALIA, we develop ingredients and foods with immunomodulatory effects and Mari Carmen Villarán, Director of the Healthy Food Area, spoke about all this at "WeFood. Innovating in food to be more sustainable", which was held in Valencia and organised by Cajamar.

Cajamar WeFood is the forum on food trends that aims to respond to such important challenges as: the progressive demand for food for the well-being and health of consumers, meeting the demands of transparency, safety, health and sensory quality that consumption 4.0 implies, as well as consolidating the replacement of synthetic ingredients with others of natural origin, improving the design of packaging and food preservation and, finally, materialising the efficiency and added value that the circular economy brings to the food industry in order to obtain sustainable food.

This third edition, under the title "Innovating in food to be more sustainable",highlights the collaboration between companies and technology and research centres to promote innovation and technological development.

Developing ingredients that improve life quality

TECNALIA is the technological partner that accompanies food companies on their path towards innovation, in search of ingredients and food that help to improve the competitiveness of the sector and life quality for people.

Villarán participated in the block on "Ingredients with immunomodulatory effect (Immune System)", explaining the main causes that affect our immune system (such as stress, lack of sleep, food and excessive consumption...), among other factors. In this respect, she highlighted a key point: boosting the immune system is possible through nutrition. With an adequate intake of probiotics, we can maintain a balanced microbiota and also generate substances that eliminate unwanted micro-organisms and active compounds with an immunomodulatory effect.

In this respect, TECNALIA works on obtaining Probiotics and Postbiotics, from the isolation and identification of the microorganisms, the definition and optimisation of the culture media and the processes for their production and their vehiculisation to guarantee their bioavailability, validating the functionality of the developments by means of "in vitro" studies.
It also works on obtaining metabolites with immunomodulatory effects, from the identification of raw materials and the establishment and optimisation of the processes to obtain them, to the encapsulation of these compounds to guarantee their functionality, which is validated by means of in vitro tests. We also apply omics techniques to identify the target metabolites.

A clear success story is Ingredalia, a company with which TECNALIA has worked on the identification of raw materials to obtain glucosinolate precursors of sulforaphane (broccoli by-products). Epidemiological studies have shown that regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables reduces the risk of some types of cancer and helps to regulate the activity of the immune system. Companies like Ingredalia have ingredients that provide us with the best of broccoli. They combine the sulforaphane precursor sulforaphane compound (glucoraphanin, for the curious) and the enzyme in a microencapsulated ingredient to ensure stability, bioavailability and the required sulforaphane supply.

Find out more about this project and our work in the development of functional ingredients and compounds here.