Food Bioactives Research Program

Supporting the Canadian agri-food industry

It is now well known that certain food bioactives carry properties that are beneficial to human health. For example, polyphenols, especially flavonoids, are the primary food bioactives of a plant-based diet that provide antioxidative and other physiological properties, bringing health benefits beyond the basic nutritional benefits. Recently, health-care concerns have accelerated consumer interest in food bioactive-enriched functional foods and nutraceuticals with disease risk-reduction properties.

In our research, we strongly believe what Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), the father of medicine, stated thousands of years before: "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”.  Rapid advancements in food production after the green revolution and changing lifestyles have made our regular diet nutritionally imbalanced, energy-dense, and deficient in food bioactives. Food bioactive refers to the non-nutrient, naturally occurring constituents of food that have protective effects against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of deaths globally. Therefore, understanding the dietary interventions of certain food bioactives such as flavonoids, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, prebiotic polysaccharides that prevent or delay the development of NCDs and promote healthy aging is of paramount importance. NCDs are directly or indirectly linked to diet, lifestyle, and the environment. We trust prevention is the most cost-effective, long-term approach for managing NCDs. The last two decades of scientific and epidemiological evidence demonstrate the relationship between food bioactives and reduced incidence of oxidative stress- and chronic inflammation-regulated NCDs. 

The Food Bioactive Research Program at the Faculty of Agriculture, in collaboration with other Faculties of Dalhousie University, regional and national research institutions, has been supporting the Canadian agri-food industry to meet their needs on research and development. The research program delivers comprehensive research covering the entire value-chain of agri-food innovation with a targeted aim of introducing supplemented foods, functional ingredients, and natural health products.

Current research and development initiatives

  • Proanthocyanidins and their metabolites: mechanisms in biological systems;
  • Development of encapsulated food ingredients from probiotic-fermented wild blueberry;
  • An antioxidant formulation to prevent DNA damage;
  • A dietary approach for cancer prevention: Understanding the genoprotective mechanisms of flavonoids using cell models of carcinogen-induced DNA damage;
  • Development and market assessment of a reliable and efficacious haskap berry anthocyanin-based healthy food ingredient;
  • Development and assessment of carvacrol-incorporated natural health products to manage Streptococcal pharyngitis;
  • The ant-cancer activity of novel acylated flavonoids;
  • Natural health products to manage cancers of dogs;
  • Microbiome characterization of fermented food products;
  • Natural antioxidants to enhance the stability of cosmetic products;
  • Development of high-value functional ingredients from fresh produce waste.

Current research projects

  • isolation and characterization of bioactive phytochemicals from cool climate fruits and their processing by-products
  • natural food antioxidants: antioxidant and PUFA stabilization properties of structurally modified flavonoids
  • characterization of neuroprotective properties of selected apple polyphenols
  • characterization of anti-hypertensive properties of fruit flavonoids and their derivatives
  • inhibition of LDL oxidation in vitro and regulation of cholesterol metabolism in hamsters by apple skin bioactives
  • anti-inflammatory and anti-hyperlipidemic properties of selected flavonols
  • characterization of antioxidant properties of native wild berry extracts
  • development of novel and improved processes for manufacturing functional foods and beverages from Atlantic fruits
  • impact of suppression of ethylene action on sugar and malic acid metabolism of apples


  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Agri-Futures
  • Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation
  • Domaine de Grand Pré
  • J.W. Mason & Sons, Ltd.
  • Noggins Corner Farm
  • Nova Scotia Agriculture
  • NSERC-CRSNG (Atlantic)
  • Nova Scotia Research and Innovation
  • Scotian Gold
  • Nova Scotia Tree Fruit Research Foundation


H.P. Vasantha Rupasinghe, Ph.D., P.Ag., FCIFST
Professor of Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals,
Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture,
Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine (Cross-appointment),
Dalhousie University,
Room 326C, Cox Building,
50 Pictou Road,
Bible Hill, NS B2N 2R8, Canada
Phone: +1 902 893 6623;

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