SINGAPORE: A new research laboratory focusing on creating healthier food products for Asian consumers was set up on Tuesday (Jun 19), with the aim of exploring more nutritious alternatives such as plant proteins and cholesterol-friendly cooking oils.
Jointly set up by agribusiness group Wilmar, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF), the S$110-million-dollar facility will be one of the first to conduct research on the dietary preferences of the Asian population to help tackle lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes both in Singapore and the region.
With more than 400,000 Singaporeans battling diabetes, the lab’s research into the impact of diet on health - in particular research specific to Singaporeans’ genetic makeup - will help the country win the war on diabetes, said National Research Foundation Chairman Heng Swee Keat during the launch of the lab.
“The issue of diabetes is particularly important in Singapore," said Mr Heng. "One in three Singaporeans have a lifetime risk of getting diabetes."
“The corporate lab will … study how our diet impacts personal health and provide advice on food ingredients (and) food combinations that will promote health and well-being specific to our genetic makeup.”
The collaboration could benefit Asian populations in particular, said laboratory director Assoc Prof Matthew Chang.
Citing a "lack of understanding" of clinical aspects of food and ingredients on Asian populations, he said: "With this collaboration, we think we can better identify what makes food better and healthier, which can bring a lot of health benefits to the population, including Asian populations, in particular the elderly and diabetic patients."
“The paradigm change in food is creating a growing trend towards ‘food as the new medicine’,” said Wilmar chairman and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong, citing the example of “designer cooking oils” for the elderly and those with metabolic diseases.
The WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory will also look into designing greener technologies for the production of consumer products used in industries such as food and nutrition, as well as flavours and fragrances. It targets to develop 11 healthier food products, and train more than 60 researchers and PhD students in food and nutrition as well as synthetic biology-related industries over the next five years.