Ali BÜYÜKKİLECİ - Newton - Katip Çelebi  ©

Ali BÜYÜKKİLECİ - Newton - Katip Çelebi 

Ali Büyükkileci – Izmir Institute of Technology 

Researcher Links Travel Grants Recipient

Research Topic: production of functional food ingredients with potential health benefits

Using these low value residues as functional food ingredients will lower the cost of healthy foods and increase the availability to a greater number of people in Turkey

I visited the University of Reading between 15 June and 29 July 2015. The visit was funded by the Newton-Katip Çelebi Researcher Links Programme and my objective was to perform scientific research including laboratory studies, knowledge sharing and starting collaborations. My research involved testing agricultural residue and whether they can be used as functional food ingredients. I chose the University of Reading because of their prominent expertise and experience as well as the great facilities. Using these low value residues as functional food ingredients will lower the cost of healthy foods and increase the availability to a greater number of people in Turkey. 

Consumer demand for foods with additional health benefits, which are called “functional foods”, is increasing. One of the challenges for the food industry is to produce foods with increased functions using economical and sustainable processes and make these foods available to large numbers of people. Agriculture is one of the leading industries in Turkey and as a result large amounts of low value residue are left over.

I have been working on the production of functional food ingredients with potential health benefits for a couple of years at Izmir Institute of Technology (Iztech),  where exploring ways for low environmental impact methods to extract and recover value added materials from agricultural residues.These left over residues can be measured in our laboratory in Izmir using simple techniques. However, more sophisticated tests were needed for me to show their potential as food ingredients. The Department of Food Sciences in UoR is one of the most distinguished institutions in this area and it has research facilities for testing the functional properties of the food components. During my visit, I used these facilities to assess the potential of the materials that I had produced in my home institution and discussed the results of the laboratory work with professors and other scientists. The results from this research visit showed that the carbohydrates produced in IzTech and tested in UoR, have the potential as a ‘functional food ingredient’. More intensive analysis will be performed in the both institutions with an effort to elucidate the mechanism of the effects of the tested materials.

In a nutshell, studying at the UoR where there is a long history of prebiotic research and well equipped facilities allowed me to test the material I had extracted with greater precision and validity. Furthermore, it helped me to learn new, innovative research techniques in my research field and evaluate and shape my research activities. The outcome of this study will be published in scientific journals and presented at different conferences.

Given the importance of foods with positive health impact, this research is important for developing countries where the price of healthy food is expensive and not affordable for the majority of the populous. This research helps the farming industry in developing countries, such as Turkey, by adding value to the agriculture residue, producing functional food ingredients in an economical way and increasing the production of healthy foods. The decrease in prices and the increase of production allows a greater share of the population to be able to consume such foods.

Not only does this research have the potential to make healthy foods available to a greater number of people in Turkey and increase agricultural economic development, but it will also have positive health impacts that will ease the burden on the health care system. This is because the benefits from these residues include reduced risk of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders and increased mineral absorption.

IIn addition to the laboratory work, I was able to make several connections and we have agreed on collaborating in the near future. In my opinion, my visit has greatly improved the already established connections between IzTech and the University of Reading. There is great potential for collaborative research activities between these two institutions.

At UoR I worked with researchers and students from various countries. That was a great chance for me to see how different people approach science and research. I think that this helps scientists to have a wider vision and to think globally.

It was also a nice chance to see the UK and experience a new environment. I took the opportunity to travel the area surrounding Reading on the weekends. Reading is a student town, there are many options for students for accommodation, food, shopping, entertainment etc. The campus and the city are clean, organised, green and peaceful. London is only half an hour away by train. There is a lot to see and do in London.

Finally, I would like to mention that the financial support of the Newton-Katip Celebi Fund enabled me to have a comfortable time in the UK. I would like to thank the Newton-Katip Çelebi Fund for this great opportunity. The visit was a great chance for me to improve the quality of my research and further my career in an international context. Also, it was nice to experience the British culture and work environment.