Mussels will be eaten up to three times a week by volunteers in a new study to establish if the shellfish could boost Vitamin D levels in Scots.
Researchers at Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute will use around 145kg of the mollusc to test how far the seafood can raise levels of the vitamin known to help prevent cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as promote healthy bones.
Volunteers will cook and eat mussels over a three-month period as part of their normal diet.
While some taking part will eat no shellfish, others will eat them once, twice or three times a week.
Dr Alan Sneddon of the Metabolic Health Group, said the study was part of a wider piece of work to test the health giving properties of Scotland’s produce.
“In the northern climates, we don’t get enough sunlight to produce our own levels of Vitamin D and we are quite confident that this is a way we can increase levels through our diet,” he said.
“We want to promote Scottish produce form a nutritional aspect.
“If we can promote and identify the health promoting produce then we can improve the health of Scotland’s population as well as bring an economic benefit to the county. All in all, this could be good news for Scotland.”
The study will run over the winter months to negate the effects of natural sunlight with a new test developed in Aberdeen to measure Vitamin D levels in the body more accurately than before.
The mussels will be taken home to cook by the volunteers with the Rowett drawing up a cookbook of suitable recipes.
Those taking part will give blood and urine samples after six weeks and 12 weeks in order to determine how their Vitamin D levels compare to rates recorded at the beginning on the study.
Researchers will specifically look at whether Vitamin D levels plateau or if levels continue to rise in line with consumption.
Dr Sneddon added: “This study could be of significant benefit to the aquaculture industry which is the next big area to look at in terms of food security and sustainable diet.
“We don’t actually consume a lot of shellfish in Scotland, Most of it is shipped to the continent. Mussels are actually very inexpensive and are a very sustainable , carbon negative, food. Production also supports communities in rural Scotland.”
Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin upon exposure to sunlight containing sufficient ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and this is the main source for most people.
However, a recent report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition found between 30 and 50 per cent of the population had below recommended levels of the vitamin.
It is thought mussels may use vitamin D to build health shells.
In March, the Rowett Institute received £7.6m from the Scottish Government to research the health benefits of Scottish produce and advances in food production.
Researchers in Aberdeen are also examining how an ancient Scottish diet of sea buckthorn, garlic and berries impacts on obesity and how potatoes grown with added zinc could improve health of men.