Charles Sturt University graduate Dr Shiwangni Rao (pictured) has been awarded her PhD for research that’s found where grain is grown can impact on the bioactive compounds in the bran, with potential implications for the health benefits of what we eat.
Dr Rao’s research through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains examined rice, barley, and oats.
She said the research involved extracting the phenolic compounds from wholegrain flour and analysing the antioxidant activity.
“Phenolic compounds can act as antioxidants, that is, they have the ability to scavenge for free radicals which can be harmful to the human body,” Dr Rao said.
“In all the three cereals the total phenolic composition was affected by cultivation location to some degree.
“The variation caused by growing location was compounded by the impact of genetic variation.
“These results highlight the importance of understanding the impact of both environment and genetics in determining phenolic composition and ultimately functionality.”
Dr Rao’s study has provided new information that may pave the way for Australian grown cereals to be marketed as a functional food with health benefits based on their antioxidant potential and functionality.
“Phenolic compounds extracted from rice, barley, oats and sorghum were also tested on colorectal cancer cells.
“I found that cereal varieties like coloured rice, and black and brown sorghum exhibited high phenolic content, had high antioxidant activity and were able to inhibit colorectal cancer cell growth without causing harm to normal colon cells.”
Dr Rao’s research was supervised by Dr Abishek Santhakumar, Dr Kenneth Chinkwo, Dr Prakash Oli and Professor Chris Blanchard.
Her research was supported by a scholarship by the FGC. Funded by the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, the FGC is administered by Charles Sturt and is an initiative of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.