ResearchResearch at Tokai

Research ExcellenceThe Functionality of Food Materials

The reason he went down this path was the influence of his father, a biotechnology researcher

Associate Professor Shin Yasuda's specialty is functional food science. It is a field of studying that involves the correct evaluation of the functions of foods naturally possess, the development and production of functional food products and health promotion and disease prevention through the consumption of foods. Yasuda probably became a researcher in this field because of the influence of a certain person. Yasuda said the following about the way it came to pass:

"A big part of the reason I chose to become a researcher was the enormous influence of my father, who was a biotechnology researcher.

My father was researching fermented soybean foods and microbes at the University of the Ryukyus and I remember him talking about various things at home. While learning about organisms and chemistry in high school during that kind of upbringing, I became interested in the biotechnology field as applied to industrial development, and at college I chose a school related to agriculture. When I was a freshman in college, my father was researching in the Netherlands and during summer vacation, my family visited him there. My feelings of respect and aspiration at seeing my father working as a researcher in Japan and overseas led me to continue down the path of a researcher."

Clarifying the functions of foods and scientifically demonstrating their effects

The world is full of health foods said to have various health effects. Some are recognized by the government as being effective for specific health uses, while for many others, there is little scientific basis to the claims. In his research, Yasuda properly investigates the components and functions of foods through experiments and the like and scientifically shows their efficacy through numbers. In the School of Agriculture at Tokai University, multiple teaching staff members are currently advancing the development of various processed foods made using agricultural products as the Tokai University branded products Tokai region, and Yasuda's laboratory is in charge of evaluating their functions. For example, in the development of the "yacon syrup" commercialized by the School of Agriculture, Yasuda worked behind the scenes to support the reliability of the Tokai brand by taking responsibility for analyzing its components and evaluating its functionality.

Another characteristic of Yasuda's research is the abundance of examples of collaboration within and outside of the university.

Yasuda cited one case: "In joint research with a pharmaceutical company, we evaluated the functionality of a folk medicinal plant long said to be good for burns and dermatitis and scientifically demonstrated its efficacy. Also there's soft rush, an ingredient in the facing of tatami mats for which Kumamoto prefecture represents 90 percent of Japanese production. Members of the School of Agriculture participated in a project by the prefecture to work on uses for soft rush and I was in charge of evaluating its functionality when used in foods."

Spreading information from Kyushu to the world - developing 'experts in health foods'

When you enter Yasuda's lab, it seems there isn't much distance between students and the professor. We are told that he also energetically participates in conferences and lectures with students. Against this background, Yasuda had the following thoughts:

"Research cannot feasibly be accomplished by a single person. It is possible because of the accumulated experiments and research conducted with my students on a daily basis. I would like to continue developing my research along with the students and spreading information to the rest of the world from Kyushu."

Yasuda also is proactively accepting researchers from overseas, forming an international research network centered on Asia and deepening friendly relations within it.

The School of Agriculture, Tokai University, trains and promotes students becoming "Functional Food Consultants," which is certified by the Japanese Association of Food Science and Risk Analysis. Functional food consultants bridge the gap between pharmacists who specialize in drugs and nutritionists who specialize in nutrition. In other words, they are experts in health foods, food and health, and food and safety. Previously, only people engaged in certain professions such as doctors, pharmacists or nutritionists could take the test, but now at the university, anyone can take it if they learn certain subjects. Yasuda talked about his dreams for the future:

"Functional food consultants are active in a wide range of settings, including research and development on health foods or checking for interactions between medicines and foods at food companies and pharmaceutical companies. Through their acquisition of qualifications, I want to develop food professionals who can scientifically understand and communicate about not only the efficacy of health foods, but also their risks and safety for proper use."

Associate Professor Shin Yasuda

Associate Professor Shin Yasuda

  • School of Agriculture
  • Department of Bioscience

Born in 1976 in Okinawa Prefecture. He finished graduate school in 2004 at the Kyushu University Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental Sciences in the field of food science. After four years of practical work experience as a doctoral research fellow at a university in the United States, in 2008 he took an appointment at the Department of Bioscience, School of Agriculture, Tokai University, where he manages the Functional Food Science Laboratory. In 2011, he was given the Young Researcher Encouragement Award at the International Conference on Food Factors. Doctorate (agriculture). Certified functional food consultant.