Care for a veggie? Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, and other leaders at the Food Innovation Center are collaborating to solve nutrition problems.
Would you try a piece of soy-almond bread? How about sample a glass of tomato-soy juice? These are just two products that have been through clinical trials at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Ohio State's Food Innovation Center, which was formed in October 2009, is developing foods like these to improve nutrition and prevent certain cancers. The Center is also concentrating on other nutrition-related concerns, like obesity, food safety and the world's growing population. "The new Food Innovation Center is exactly the mechanism that can contribute solutions to critical global challenges in food and nutrition," explains Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, program leader of Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention and director of the Prostate and Genitourinary Oncology Clinic.
The Center, which began with a five-year, $3.75-million grant from the University, is a joint effort among more than 80 faculty members from 12 Ohio State colleges. "You can count on one hand the number of academic institutions that have colleges of agriculture, business, public health and veterinary medicine, integrated programs in human nutrition and food science, as well as a comprehensive cancer center on one single campus," Dr. Clinton says.
So far, the "functional foods," or foods that provide additional health benefits, have put the Center in the spotlight. A trial for the tomato-soy juice (which may have properties to prevent prostate cancer) is set to end by the late spring. The soy-almond bread, enriched with natural cancer-fighting chemicals, is supported by the National Institutes of Health. And a strawberry confection has been in a clinical trial to study its impact on oral health.
The goal is to get these products into large-scale cancer prevention studies, and ultimately on grocery store shelves—a process known as the "From Crops to the Clinic to the Consumer" initiative. Besides maximizing a food's health benefits, scientists work to make it appealing to consumers. Yael Vodovotz, PhD, associate professor of Food, Science and Technology, explains, "Our research also optimizes the food to make sure that it tastes good and has a reasonable shelf life."