Ali Rashidinejad

Palmerston North, Massey University, New Zealand
Title : Functional foods with medicinal properties; how does the roadmap look like so far?


Recently, the delivery of bioactive compounds/ingredients through functional foods, as the most convenient way of consumption, has received increasing interest from both academia and industry. However, the oral delivery and clinical efficacy of most of these materials are very limited because of the challenges such as poor solubility in both water and oil (resulting in low bioavailability), and interactions with the food matrix (affecting both efficacy of the bioactive(s) as well as various properties of the food). Moreover, these bioactive compounds can undergo chemical and enzymatic degradation in the environment as well as the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, there is an increasing demand for delivering bioactive in a protected (encapsulated) form for which a wide range of promising delivery systems have already been tested; i.e., emulsions, liposomes, coacervates, and gels, composed of different natural polymers such as polysaccharides, proteins, and phospholipids. These encapsulation/delivery methods mitigate bioactive degradation, but they often give low encapsulation efficiency and/or loading capacity. Several are not suitable for use in food formulations due to the use of toxic solvents, and others use processing methods that are expensive or difficult to scale up in the food industry. 

Some of the delivery systems developed for bioactive are superior to others, due to their advantageous properties such as using ingredients that are abundant, inexpensive, biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic, and sustainable. In this presentation, the advantages and opportunities associated with these systems, their manufacture procedure, mechanisms, properties, limitations, and future directions, with a focus on their incorporation into medicinal/functional foods, will be discussed. Examples of simple, cost-effective, and organic solvent-free nanoencapsulation systems developed in our laboratories for the delivery of concentrated flavonoid compounds and incorporated into functional foods and beverages will be explained. Finally, limitations in terms of regulations and safety of both bioactive ingredients and functional foods containing these materials will be discussed. 


Rashidinejad is a research scientist at the Riddet Institute, a National Centre of Research Excellence in Food Science and Nutrition. His current main research focuses on the oral delivery of bioactive compounds (in particular, polyphenols) via functional foods. 

While this generally lies in the development of methods/technologies that protect/encapsulate bioactives, Ali is specifically interested in the behavior of bioactive compounds in the food matrix and gastrointestinal tract, with a focus on polyphenol-enriched functional food products. 

His research is both consumer and industry-oriented since the end products (functional foods containing protected bioactive compounds) can have substantial environmental and social impacts through the accessibility of the developed novel foods for the people in the community. Ali says “I believe my focus on food innovation and development of functional foods is an answer to the real-life questions as I strongly believe in tasty food for health and nutrition backed by credible science”. 

Ali spends his spare time swimming, cycling, running, traveling/sightseeing, reading, and drinking copious amounts of GREEN TEA. In fact, green tea is his real cup of tea, and his Ph.D. thesis also titled “Cheese as a delivery vehicle for green tea catechins”!