Scientists have discovered a way of making naughty food healthy

Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University are carrying out research that promises to make some of our favourite processed foods healthier.

A talk in Cambridge this Saturday, dubbed “Burgers, bacteria and heart disease: Making sense of the processed food debate”, will unveil how some of the nation’s most loved meals could become far less harmful.

Dr Erridge has discovered that many processed foods contain chemicals that cause our immune systems to be over-activated.

Molecules called PAMPs (pathogen associated molecular pattern) are released by a certain type of bacteria that tends to grow in commonly-used ingredients of many processed foods, with minced meat and chopped onion particularly susceptible.

When our body detects these chemicals, inflammation is triggered. This inflammation is thought to increase our risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes. In a recent study, the researchers found that a diet low in PAMPs reduced inflammation within just one week.

Dr Erridge, Senior Lecturer in Biology of Disease at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “We found that ready meals and minced meat-based products, such as sausages and burgers, are the foodstuffs that most frequently contained high levels of PAMPs. Moderate levels were also found in many cheeses and chocolates.

“The PAMPs were found to retain their harmful properties even after cooking for up to two hours. Using the test we have developed, we believe it should be possible to help manufacturers produce almost any current food in a manner that results in a low content of PAMPs, with the same ingredients, taste and cost.”

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Dr Erridge’s talk is one of 10 Cambridge Science Festival events taking place at Anglia Ruskin’s East Road campus on Saturday, 24 March.

Other free talks include “Making sense of the early years” with Dr Sarah Kuppen, and “Attraction explained: the science of how we form relationships” with Professor Viren Swami.

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