Researchers discover super pea that can help prevent type 2 diabetes

Picture of the peas which researchers have identified can help reduce type 2 diabetes

A study by researchers at Norwich Research Park has revealed that a simple pea can help reduce type 2 diabetes - Credit: Andrew Davis - John Innes Centre

Finding ways to improve world health is one of the core areas of research for the institutions based at Norwich Research Park. One of its latest discoveries is a ‘super pea’ that could help to tackle the global type 2 diabetes epidemic. 

Researchers at Norwich Research Park have discovered that a simple pea could play a big part in reducing type 2 diabetes. 

Large sugar spikes – where blood sugar levels rise sharply after a meal - are thought to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Starch contained in the food we eat helps to break it down and release sugar into our bodies.  

Researchers have found that the wrinkled pea, similar to frozen peas you can buy in a supermarket, contains relatively high amounts of resistant starch.  

The study has been conducted collaboratively between the John Innes Centre and Quadram Institute, at Norwich Research Park, Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow. It found that when the peas were made into a flour and incorporated into a mixed meal, they have the same effect. This could lead to the pea flour being used to improve the composition of commonly consumed foods. 

Prof Pete Wilde, Quadram Institute, said: “Our research has shown that, by preparing these peas in certain ways, we can further reduce blood sugar spikes, opening up new possibilities for making healthier foods using controlled processing techniques.” 

Prof Claire Domoney, John Innes Centre, said: “The research has emphasised the value of developing pea lines like the ones used in our study. Longer term it could become policy to include resistant starch in food. There are precedents for this type of intervention such as iron being added to bread to tackle anaemia.” 

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The researchers also point out that resistant starch can be found in other foods and that work is already looking at how to breed staple crops such as rice and wheat with higher levels of the resistant starch to provide further options to help reduce type 2 diabetes. 

Shining a spotlight on women and girls in science

Thursday, February 11 is this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s a day when science shines a spotlight on its female researchers and scientists to demonstrate this interesting and valuable career. 

Luckily at Norwich Research Park, there are many women who are leading the way in conducting world-leading research that is addressing some of the key challenges facing humankind in the areas of feeding the world, keeping healthy as we age and protecting the planet from climate change. 

Here are a few great examples of female researchers at Norwich Research Park spearheading this research: 

Dr Lindsay Hall inside the Guardians of the Gut interactive display

Dr Lindsay Hall from Quadram Institute - Credit: Antony Kelly

Dr Lindsay Hall, Quadram Institute 

Dr Hall said: “As a microbiologist, I am fascinated by the microbes that live in our gut – the gut microbiota. To bring this microscopic world to life we developed the Guardians of the Gut project, which includes a giant walk-through gut, an online schools lesson pack and our new activity pack for British Science Week 2021.  

“We hope these activities can have real national impact, helping to communicate our science to primary school children and inspiring the next generation of budding scientists.” 

A picture of Dr Samantha Fox from John Innes Centre 

Dr Samantha Fox from John Innes Centre - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Dr Samantha Fox, John Innes Centre  

The Founder of the Youth STEMM Award, said: “Now more than ever is a great opportunity for more girls to get interested in science. There are so many openings for careers in areas where they can have a real impact in solving some of the huge issues facing the world.” 

A picture of Prof Anne-Marie Minihane from UEA in a lab wearing a white coat

Prof Anne-Marie Minihane from UEA - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, UEA  

Prof Minihane’s focus is on helping to maintain and improve health in our later years by investigating the dietary components and patterns that help preserve brain function as we age.  

She has also been central to the recent launch of the Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing, which is examining the impact of behaviours, such as eating, physical activity and smoking, on our health and wellbeing. 

A picture of Dr Sally Warring from Earlham Institute

Dr Sally Warring from Earlham Institute - Credit: Sabrina Imbler


Dr Sally Warring, Earlham Institute  

Dr Warring is researching protists, a group of microscopic, unicellular organisms that make most of the oxygen we breathe, but can also cause diseases like malaria.  

Not enough is known about them but they could hold the key to important developments in evolution, healthcare and ecology. 

A picture of Dr Eleanor Mishra from Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital

Dr Eleanor Mishra from Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Dr Eleanor Mishra, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital  

A respiratory consultant who switched her expertise in the summer to become the principal investigator at the hospital for Oxford University’s Covid-19 therapy drug trial.  

Her work helped to identify dexamethasone as a successful drug that reduced mortality amongst Covid-19 sufferers. 

Picture of Prof Wenbo Ma, The Sainsbury Laboratory

Prof Wenbo Ma from The Sainsbury Laboratory - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Prof Wenbo Ma, The Sainsbury Laboratory  

Prof Ma moved to Norwich in September from California to further her work into developing disease-resistant crops such as potatoes, citrus fruits and even Christmas trees.  

She brought her team with her from the US because Norwich is regarded as the world’s best place to carry out her studies. 

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