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Grant Helps Find Function in Foods

Courtesy of NC A&T University

Biotechnology Research Grant

Shengmin Sang is re-defining function of functional foods.

He’s convinced that compounds isolated from ginger, wheat bran, tea, and other common foods can be put to better use in preventing disease.

Sang is the lead scientist for functional foods at North Carolina Agricultural & Technological University’s Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

In late 2011 the Biotechnology Center awarded Sang a $75,000 Biotechnology Research Grant to help him study the combination of aspirin and a natural compound found in blueberries that he believes might help prevent colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of death from cancer among both men and women worldwide.

The research helps Sang put scientific rigor onto the nutraceutical realm. Grape seed extract, for example,is widely studied and sold for its apparent ability to strengthen and protect living cells. The main ingredients of interest are natural compounds found in plants called bioflavonoids. Sang suspects the beneficial effects of flavinoids from blueberries could be similar to, but stronger than, extracts from grapes.

The Biotech Center isn’t alone in its admiration for Sang’s work. Last November, Sang received a Young Investigator Award by the scientific committee of the 2011 International Conference on Food Factors at the organization's conference in Taipei, Taiwan, and he went there to give a speech on his work.  

He also has a $361,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the possibility that an extract from ginger root might help prevent lung cancer. And the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative also gave him a $143,000 grant to study the medicinal potential of foods.