Veggie doctor wins top communicator prize

Veggie doctor wins top communicator prize

Claudia Doman

18 March 2013: Curiosity and a rare talent to tell a story led University of Canberra visiting lecturer Anneline Padayachee to take out the 2012 National Fresh Science competition, awarded to the best science communicator.

The communication of her research on how the fibre of fruits and vegetables help maintain gut health and reduce the risk of developing cancer, earned her the top prize among the 12 early career researchers who made the final.

“It’s a great honour because all the other 11 finalists were amazing not only in their stories, but also their delivery,” Dr Padayachee said.

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Dr Anneline Padayachee, winner of 2012 National Fresh Science competition. Photo: Michelle McAulay. 

Using black carrots “because of their beautiful purplish colour and because they are full of antioxidant compounds”, the nutritionist looked at whether we obtain enough antioxidants from the fruit and vegetables we eat.

“I wanted to know how much of the good stuff was stuck to the pulp we throw out,” she said.

Dr Padayachee found that between 60-80 percent of antioxidants are in the fibre, which we don’t digest and thus, can’t absorb. “Unless we eat whole fruit and veggies –pulp and all—, we are not getting much benefit out of them,” she said.

She discovered that these antioxidant compounds attached themselves to the carrot’s fibre during chewing and remained attached to it all the way to the small intestine.

“The fibre transports the antioxidants through our stomach all the way to our colon. In a way, they are piggy-backing on the fibres,” Dr Padayachee said. “And what happens then is that the gut bacteria is able to release the antioxidants in the colon, protecting it from cancer.”

Fresh Science is a national event that gets together scientists, the media and the public to listen to some of the top stories of discovery from early career researchers around Australia.

To learn more about this program visit http://freshscience.org.au/