Massey researcher forges collaborations in Germany

Professor Bernhard Breier recently delivered the Hohenheimer SchlossGeister lecture at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany.

Professor Bernhard Breier.

Massey University academic Professor Bernhard Breier is back on New Zealand soil, following a whirlwind trip to Germany that saw him deliver the prestigious Hohenheimer SchlossGeister lecture at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart.

His presentation, entitled “New pathways to metabolic health – perspectives from down under”, explored three main research themes he and his team have pursued in order to better understand the causes of chronic metabolic diseases and ways to prevent them.

“I discussed a well-established line of research about long-term health consequences of maternal nutrition during pregnancy. There’s a considerable amount of evidence supporting the possibility that the early-life environment of a mother can potentially cause epigenetic changes in her offspring. In particular, poor maternal nutrition influences the susceptibility of future health problems, including metabolic and cardiovascular disease for the child,” Professor Breier says.

“I also spoke about how our current research into the sensory world of food investigates the influences of sweet and fat taste perception on dietary intake and eating behaviour. There are fascinating new insights suggesting preferences for sweet and fatty foods are important contributors to increases in body weight and metabolic disease risk.”

Professor Breier, the Chair of Human Nutrition at Massey, also highlighted the PROMISE study, which is investigating the gut microbiome, exploring a new pathway to obesity prevention and metabolic health. “We are currently characterising the gut microbiome in two populations with markedly different metabolic disease risk - Pasifika and European women - with different body fat profiles, normal and obese. We test whether taste perception, diet, sleep and physical activity are key pathways that modify the gut microbiome and its impact on metabolic health.”

Professor Breier spent a week at the University of Hohenheim, working on collaborative projects. “We have now established strategically important research collaborations with the Hohenheim Research Centre for Health Sciences, integrating our work with top European researchers in the areas of microbe-host interaction and functional metabolomics.”

The research collaborations are the result of a Memorandum of Understanding and Collaboration Agreement with the University of Hohenheim, signed in April, of which the Health Research Council-funded PROMISE Study is one of the key starting points for the research collaboration.

Professor Breier also visited the Max Rubner-Institut, the Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food in Karlsruhe. The institute’s research focuses on public health nutrition and consumer health protection in the nutrition sector and it advises the German Government in these areas. Professor Breier met with key researchers and established formal research collaborations to identify novel biomarkers for metabolic health.

He says one of the German Government’s top research agendas, the reformulation of foods to improve population health, was at the centre of many discussions. “Our new research on the link between sweet taste perception and total calorie intake supports the scientific evidence base for an urgent need for food reformulation to improve health outcomes. There is a strong political will in Europe to improve the food we eat.”

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