World interest in research work on the benefits of the Okra plant

July 10, 2014
World interest in research work on the benefits of the Okra plant
Estonian-born Katerina Alba's research at the University of Huddersfield could help to improve the quality of some of the most popular emulsion-based food products -- such as butter, mayonnaise, yogurt and fruit drinks -- and she is starting to gain an international profile for her work. Credit: University of Huddersfield

Estonian-born Katerina Alba's research at the University of Huddersfield could help to improve the quality of some of the most popular emulsion-based food products – such as butter, mayonnaise, yoghurt and fruit drinks – and she is starting to gain an international profile for her work.

Katerina gained her MSc degree in nutrition and at the University and now she has embarked on research for a PhD. Working with her supervisor, Dr Vassilis Kontogiorgos, she is investigating the potential of carbohydrates extracted from the pods of the plant. They can be introduced into foodstuffs that are categorised as food emulsions.

"The purpose is to improve the quality of the product – its consistency, texture, how it breaks in the mouth, and its shelf-life," says Katerina, aged 25.

She gained a first science degree in her native Estonia before relocating to the University of Huddersfield for Master's and now doctoral study. Already she has published articles in Food Research International and Food Hydrocolloids, with one forthcoming in the journal of Carbohydrate Polymers. And she recently presented two papers at the 12th International Hydrocolloids Conference, a global gather of more than 300 scientists in Taiwan.

A new source of natural hydrocolloids

Katerina received an A.J. Banks Travel Bursary, awarded by the international science forum SCI, which enabled her to attend the conference, where her presentations created heightened interest in the potential of okra, which grows in Africa and India.

"Both presentations raised scientific interest in the development of the okra plant as a new source of natural hydrocolloids, and there were some valuable comments from well-known researchers following the talks," says Katerina.

World interest in research work on the benefits of the Okra plant

"Attending the conference gave me the opportunity to promote my research to an international audience of scientists and industry representatives and raise my profile in the scientific community."

At the University of Huddersfield there is an important inter-disciplinary dimension to her work, because there is a research collaboration with the pharmacy department, probing the effects of okra polysaccharides in drug delivery systems and encapsulation of nutrients.

Katerina set her sights on PhD work while she was still studying for her first degree in Estonia and she aims to develop a research career. At the University of Huddersfield she uses techniques and technology such as gas chromatography, spectroscopy, particle-size measurements and rheology and she has now been furnished with new devices known as a high-pressure homogeniser and sonicator for the preparation of emulsions stabilized with okra polysaccharides.

Explore further: Researcher aims to understand magnetosomes and one of nature's strangest secrets

More information: Food Hydrocolloids: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268005X14001647

Food Research International: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996913005383

Carbohydrate Polymers: www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01448617

Related Stories

Bright future beckons for metrology researcher

July 10, 2013

A BRIGHT future beckons for a University of Huddersfield metrology instrumentation designer who has recently completed his doctorate, won a national award and will now embark on a project to bring a patented product to the ...

Ice cream sensations on the computer

June 4, 2014

Changes in coldness, creaminess or texture that we experience in the mouth while we are eating an ice cream can be visualised on a screen using coloured curves. Graphs help manufacturers improve product quality, as proven ...

Integrated approach vital to reduction food waste and loss

July 10, 2014

Governments, international organisations, businesses and community agencies worldwide must create joint programmes to reduce food loss and waste (FLW), if they want to show that they are really committed to developing sustainable ...

Recommended for you

New chemistry makes strong bonds weak

July 28, 2015

Researchers at Princeton have developed a new chemical reaction that breaks the strongest bond in a molecule instead of the weakest, completely reversing the norm for reactions in which bonds are evenly split to form reactive ...

Making polymers from a greenhouse gas

July 28, 2015

A future where power plants feed their carbon dioxide directly into an adjacent production facility instead of spewing it up a chimney and into the atmosphere is definitely possible, because CO2 isn't just an undesirable ...

New material opens possibilities for super-long-acting pills

July 28, 2015

Medical devices designed to reside in the stomach have a variety of applications, including prolonged drug delivery, electronic monitoring, and weight-loss intervention. However, these devices, often created with nondegradable ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.