Food Innovation Center

Collaborating for a healthier, hunger-free world.

Food for Health: Improving Human Health Through Food

Foods such as fruits and vegetables contain a largely unexplored array of bioactive components not among the 40 essential nutrients. Thousands of natural compounds consumed in food may impact health. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all foods have some function, but functional foods "move beyond necessity to provide additional health benefits that may reduce disease risk and/or promote optimal health" (2009). While scores of studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against many chronic diseases, we need to understand how specific fruit and vegetable components act or interact to affect disease risk.

Ohio State is one of the nation's only institutions with significant, ongoing collaborations among its medical and agricultural experts. The Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE) was competitively funded in 2006 to develop functional foods that promote health and prevent and treat disease. Renowned scientists, medical professionals, and policy makers now link with industry partners through CAFFRE. The Food Innovation Center expands beyond CAFFRE's focus on fruits and vegetables and builds on CAFFRE's "From Crops to the Clinic to the Consumer" paradigm.

Efforts and Impact

With expertise that expands the menu from the farmer's gate to the consumer's plate, the Food Innovation Center focuses on the health-enhancing character of novel functional foods, ingredients, and crops to help high-risk individuals in a personalized medical model. We endeavor to develop culturally appropriate and economically viable novel foods to correct nutrient deficiencies on a global scale. Some current interdisciplinary investigations include:


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Tomato-soy juices for prostate cancer prevention: Drs. Steven Clinton, Steven Schwartz, and David Francis created a potent new food product for prostate cancer prevention. Their new tomato juice-based product contains an extract of soy phytochemicals that inhibits prostate carcinogenesis in animals. At the Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital, 60 men with prostate cancer have completed a clinical study of the soy-tomato juice. The investigative team is currently evaluating data from this National Institutes of Health-funded trial. In the future, the team may incorporate additional food components into the juice to enhance its potential to prevent and treat disease.

Berry Confections

Novel berry products to help fight tobacco-related cancer: Dr. Chris Weghorst and a team of Center collaborators will soon conduct critical clinical trials on appealing confectionary-type foods developed at Ohio State. These foods may provide high concentrations of raspberry or strawberry phytochemicals to the oral mucosa or esophagus, preventing tobacco-related cancer. In connected studies, Center members are examining how berries affect precancerous cells at the molecular and genetic levels.

Eggs in wire basket

Eggs for cancer prevention: Dr. Young Lin and Dr. Macdonald Wick developed a strategy where eggs may prevent cancer. When chickens consume feed rich in gossypol (a natural byproduct of cottonseed oil production), their eggs become a rich source of breast cancer-inhibiting compounds.

Bread on Racks

Cancer-fighting bread: Dr. Yael Vodovotz and her team developed a new soy-almond bread, enriched with cancer-preventive phytochemicals. With support from the National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ongoing human studies of the bread began in late 2009 at the James Cancer Hospital.