​Nutraceuticals Research Group

​The Nutraceuticals Research Group is a multidisciplinary team involved with on-going research to investigate the extraction, characterisation, enhancement and protection of bioactive compounds (nutraceuticals) contained in various plant, animal (dairy) and cultured food systems. Understanding the biological action of these compounds is a vital part of the research and as such, the group investigates the bioactivity of these compounds in vitro using cell culture techniques. Collaboration with industry also explores opportunities to commercialise our research findings with a view to gaining intellectual property and developing novel functional foods.

Research Areas

Milk-derived bioactive peptides and lipids

Milk is a multicomponent mixture containing a variety of lipids and functional proteins including casein and whey proteins. Using specific proteolytic enzymes as processing aids allows controlled hydrolysis to be achieved through optimisation of the reaction condition. Optimisation with regard to protein substrate presentation, time and the enzymes used all lead to peptide fragments, many of which have bioactivity. These peptide fragments can subsequently be

milk peptides lipids

fractionated using lab and/or pilot scale technologies and hence enriched to improve their efficacy. To understand the nature of these compounds, we apply various chromatographic and analytical techniques in order to characterise them. In addition, a number of in vitro systems are employed to investigate the biological action of the peptides including: the effects on inflammatory responses; prevention of dental erosion, antioxidant capacity measurements and effects on metabolic steps important in cardiovascular diseases, such as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition for controlling blood pressure and cholesterol reduction properties.

The team has also investigated the bioactivity of milk-derived fatty acids from bovine (cow) and dromedarian (camel) sources, both of which contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); a fatty acid with purported health benefits.

Plant-derived polyphenols

One of the groups interests is in glycosidic flavonoids which have been extracted using various solvents from sources such as fenugreek seeds, olives and dates. These extracts are tested by adding to cell culture systems and their bioactivity subsequently assessed.

Fenugreek LCMS

The bioactivities of these plant-derived polyphenols from these sources have been investigated for their role in angiogenesis and for their potential anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. The extracted polyphenols are isolated and identified using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and used to enrich traditional date syrup. In terms of anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory control, date syrup compared favourably with clinically used honey. Fenugreek seed-derived C-glycosidic flavonoids are highly immunoregulatory in regulating macrophage and endothelial cell responses.

Fenugreek macrophages THP-1 

Enzyme Service and Consultancy (Tredomen, Caerphilly) 

Working with the technical expertise of Gareth Walters, we are investigating the efficacy of recombinant agricultural enzymes (phytases) to monitor their capacity and efficacy for cleavage an release of natural food components (inositols) from agricultural livestock food supplements fortified with phytate. This work is supported and funded by AB Vista, a large multinational agricultural company who supply nutritional food supplements worldwide to pig and poultry farmers.

The effects of bioactive plant extracts on fibroblasts 

As part of a collaboration with Professor Les Baillie and Dr James Blaxland from Cardiff University, we investigate the effect of plant extracts on markers of inflammation in primary human fibroblasts. This work aims to identify the impact that plants and their specific isolated components may have on skin cells integral to the wound healing process. This may help to establish the potential role and mechanism of natural compounds in instances where wound healing is problematic (such as in chronic disease) and provide alternative approaches to wound treatment that are more natural and cost-effective compared to established, expensive dressing treatment options currently available.

The group is also interested in the mechanism of action of Manuka Honey (from New Zealand) and equivalent honey forms (for example, Welsh Honey) on primary human fibroblasts. Manuka Honey has and continues to be routinely used as a topical treatment for a variety of wound environments. However, whereas the majority of work has investigated the anti-bacterial properties of honey, much less is known about the effects of honey on cells within the wound environment. This work aims to identify the therapeutic components of honey with the aim of designing an 'artificial honey alternative' that could be used in the clinical setting for wound treatment.

Group Members

Professor Keith Morris,
Professor of Biomedical Science and Biostatistics
Dr Andrew Thomas,
Principal Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Food Science and Technology
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

Dr Anita Setarehnejad,
Lecturer in Food Science
and Technology
Dr Maninder Aluwhalia,
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science
Dr Cathryn Withycombe,
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science



The group frequently collaborates with members of the Biomedical Sciences department in the Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences and externally with the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in Cardiff University. We also collaborate with the Technological Educational Institute (T.E.I.) of Thessaly, Greece.


Key Publications 

Taleb H., Morris RK., Withycombe CE., Maddocks SE., Kanekanian AD. Date syrup-derived polyphenols attenuate angiogenic responses and exhibits anti-inflammatory activity mediated by vascular endothelial growth factor and cyclooxygenase-2 expression in endothelial cells. Nutrition Research. 2016 Jul; 36 (7): 636-47. 

Taleb H., Maddocks SE., Morris RK., Kanekanian AD. The antibacterial activity of date syrup polyphenols against S. aureus and E. coli. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016 Feb; 7: 198.

Hassan N., Withycombe CE., Ahluwalia M., Thomas A., Morris K. A Methanolic extract of Trigonella foenum graecum seeds regulates markers of macrophage polarization. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2015 Dec; 5 (12): 417-26.

Alhaj OA., Kanekanian AD., Peters AC. Investigation on whey proteins profile of commercially available milk based probiotics health drinks using fast protein liquid chromatography- FPLC. British Food Journal. 2007; 109 (6): 469-80.