Could ancient Peruvian crops promote a healthy gut and help those living with type 2 diabetes?

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett institute have teamed up with a company seeking to revolutionise global nutrition through the development of scientifically advanced functional ingredients, to examine the health benefits of non-conventional crops and to develop ways of incorporating them into everyday food.

UK-based company Perubien focuses on promoting the health benefits of these Peruvian crops to diversify UK nutrition. From November it will work with a Rowett scientists using functional food, natural products and microbiology expertise to turn these more unusual crops into specialised ingredients and will study their systemic and microbial metabolism and health benefits.

Together they have won a competitive Innovate UK grant through the Better Food For All programme to research Peruvian crops such as purple corn and yacon, which have their origins in the agricultural wonderland created by the Peruvian ancestors half a millennium ago when they cultivated a range of crops to rival today’s farmers.

The potential health benefits of consuming yacon

Yacon means ‘water root’ in Quechua, a pre-Hispanic language from Peru and its tubers were historically highly valued as a wild source of thirst-quenching refreshment for travellers but in recent years it has been shown to benefit the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aid digestion.

Its liquid can also be drawn off and concentrated to produce yacon syrup which has the sweetness of honey or other plant-derived sweeteners like maple syrup, but without the calories.

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