Eat your veggies, nutriscientists advise

It's not rocket science - eating your fruits and vegetables will make you healthier, say delegates at an international nutrisciences conference in Charlottetown.

It's not rocket science — eating your fruits and vegetables will make you healthier,say delegates at an international nutrisciences conference in Charlottetown.

Paula Bickford, a professor at the University of Florida, recommends lots of fruits and vegetables for health. ((CBC))

Close to 200 researchers in nutrisciences, the study of naturally occurring healthy compounds, are at this week'sNational Research Council Institute for Nutrisciences in Charlottetown to share their findings. While much of the science is complex, at least part of the message couldn't be more straightforward.

"A cup of blueberries in the morning, a big spinach salad, those kinds of things do benefit," said Paula Bickford,a University of Florida professor ofneurosurgery and pharmacology.

"When I talk to my Mom, sometimes I have to say, 'Mom, you were right. Eat your fruits and vegetables.'"

Ginseng being used for Parkinson's

While the scientists agree on the general health benefits, most of the workbeing presented at the conference is of a much more specific nature.

Harold Robertson,a Dalhousie University researcher, is focusing on the impact of elements of ginseng on people with Parkinson's disease.

"It's so exciting because we now have a compound that we could start treating patients with tomorrow," said Robertson.

Harold Robertson of Dalhousie University is excited about how ginseng helps Parkinson's patients. ((CBC))

"We know it's safe. It's been used for 5,000 years, thanks very much. We could go ahead [and] treat patients with it."

The science of nutriceuticals goes well beyondfeeding particular foods to people withcertain health problems. At its highest level, itinvestigates how to best deliver naturally occurring compounds toindividuals who need them.

It is the refining aspect of the conference that brings Jim Kaput to Charlottetown. His Chicago-based company, Nutragenomics, is looking for the latest research that his company can help develop into a consumer-ready product.

"The work that we do in the laboratories will not help anybody unless we convert it into industry and into economic development," said Kaput.

Company owner Jim Kaput argues that naturally occuring compounds need to be converted to products to bring real benefits. ((CBC))

It is that opportunity for economic development that has Michael Mayne, research director at the Institute of Nutrisciences, excited for Prince Edward Island.

The institute had its official opening last year, and Mayne sees it as a centrepiece in building a nutrisciences industry on the Island. That industry in already worth $60 million a year, and Mayne hopes there will be spinoffs for agriculture and the fisheries. New products, he reasons, could mean valuable new harvests.

"I want to see that have an impact in the next five years and maybe, hopefully, shorter, to our primary industries.

"They're still the economic drivers in this province."

Mayne believes this conference, which ends Thursday, will put P.E.I. squarely on the nutrisciences map.