Scots may not be known for a healthy diet but scientists are now turning to foods grown in this country for thousands of years in their search for an obesity cure.
Sea buckthorn, wild garlic and berries are being tested by a team at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at Aberdeen University for their effectiveness in speeding up metabolism and burning fat.
It is believed that the harsh weather of Scotland could concentrate levels of phytochemicals in the native plants as they work hard to survive.
Phytochemicals are known to boost the energy created to digest food - with hopes that these hardy Scottish plants could be a natural weapon in weight loss and weight management.
The study is being led by Dr Viren Ranawana who said the research could potentially show the Scottish diet in a new light.
No one has actually tested these foods that are native to Scotland and the objective is to see if having these foods on a regular basis can increase fat burning and be used to control weight gain.Dr Viren Ranawana, Rowett Institute
He said that while foods such as chilli, mustard and horseradish were known to increase metabolism, the usefulness of Scotland’s native plants had so far been ignored - up until now.
He said: “No one has actually tested these foods that are native to Scotland and the objective is to see if having these foods on a regular basis can increase fat burning and be used to control weight gain.
said: “The traditional approach to weight management is to reduce food intake and increase energy expenditure and although this method works, it does not seem to be sustainable given the rise in obesity in Scotland and indeed around the world.
“What we are trying to do is look at different ways of tackling the issue.”
Sea buckthorn is a thorny, deciduous shrub which bears bright orange berries and grows particularly in the North East coast around sand dunes.
Wild garlic, long regarded for medicinal properties, is commonly found in the north of Scotland.
Dr Ranawana will use a mixture of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for the study.
He added: “I think the geographical location can have a profound effect on the concentration of phytochemicals. It is believed that the Scottish weather, being that bit harsher, can lead to this concentration. That is due to the plant mechanism having to work that little bit harder to survive.
“Sea buckthorn and wild garlic have largely been under utilised to date. Sea buckthorn in particular is quite a speciality product which hasn’t been incorporated into our diet. Berries, are of course, a little different.”
Dr Ranawana will use seven volunteers to start teh study and all will be invited to have breakfast at the Rowett Insitute on four occasions.
Smoothies will be made from either the berries or sea buckthorn and the wild garlic turned into a dip.
Each participant will try each test food, which will be served as part of a breakfast meal that will include ceral and milk
After the breakfast, each study member will be asked to lie down for around five hours as metalbolic measurements are taken,
Dr Ranawana said this is done by placed a canopy over the head of each participant while measuring carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the breath.
He said: “Based on how much carbon dioxide is produced by the body you can determine how much energy you are using per hour and if the body is using fat for energy or carbohydrate.
“What we are doing is a little bit different for the Scottish diet and we are looking forward to seeing if these Scottish foods can make a difference in the grander scheme of things.”