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Channel 4 launches first television-led online food science trials

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The Food Hospital, Tuesdays, 8pm, Channel 4

As part of a pioneering new eight-part specialist factual series which started Tuesday this week, Channel 4 are carrying out the first online food science trials, conducted as part of a cross-platform commission. The Food Hospital examines the science behind using food as medicine, and online the series is putting this emerging area of medical science to the test nationwide by asking viewers to take part in scientific studies conducted in consultation with a British university and a research institution.

On air, in experiments following the latest scientific evidence, patients suffering from a range of medical conditions and symptoms are invited to attend The Food Hospital where they are prescribed specific food treatment programmes to find out if their health problems can be alleviated or cured by the food they eat. Using social media and the online site to encourage participation, The Food Hospital online is engaging viewers in new, innovative ways to make science accessible and relevant to people's lives. And instead of calling people into clinics or hospitals, The Food Hospital is now helping the experts reach out to these people remotely via channel4.com/thefoodhospital, the iPhone app and facebook.com/thefoodhospital, constituting valuable research into how simple foodstuffs could improve illnesses, on a national scale.

The public are being invited to follow Big Food Trials, which will feature in the series as group studies, and eat specific foods to see if they can reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, cure insomnia and even improve memory. The data collected will be sent to the universities and later the results of the trials so far will be revealed to viewers during the series. The Big Food Trials are carried out in conjunction with The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at University of Aberdeen and sleep specialists Sleepio, who are interested in experimenting with new ways of collecting data for their research.

Dr Baukje de Roos from The Rowett Institute, who will assess whether dark chocolate can modify blood pressure and whether almonds can modify plasma cholesterol levels, says ‘These trials through the online site and Facebook give us a very effective way of gathering information, but also of controlling the compliance of the participating subjects. This provides a great opportunity to create a very large dataset which will allow us to study people in their own environment and hopefully enable us to reveal subtle beneficial effects, if any, which are sometimes more difficult to find in smaller studies.'

As well as undertaking these new nationwide trials, The Food Hospital also aims to become a definitive online resource for consumers wanting to understand how they can eat to help prevent and potentially treat illnesses. The site compiles a comprehensive database which cross-references conditions with foods and gives a comprehensive review of research. This means working with leaders in evidence-based research to give users access to a review of scientific evidence, rather than speculation that is often found on the internet. Ultimately, The Food Hospital site aims to give consumers the science to make informed choices about eating foods to improve health.

Channel 4 Specialist Factual Multiplatform Commissioner Kate Quilton, says: ‘Users will be able to participate in nationwide trials we've developed with academics to deepen understanding on how certain foods directly affect the body. And we're aiming to offer the public a massive online resource that will help them take more control over their own bodies and wellbeing.'

The Food Hospital is launching the Big Food Trials via the website, the iPhone app and Facebook and on air they will be introduced to viewers throughout the series, Tuesdays, 8pm, Channel 4.

#FoodHospital
@FoodHospital

Notes to editors

The Big Food Trials will continue online after the results are revealed on air during the series.

It will not be possible to start a Big Food Trial after 9th January 2012 and all the Big Food Trials will end by 19th February 2012.

Maverick TV's multiplatform team have developed and built the Food Hospital site working with a range of scientific, research, dietetic and healthcare partners. The team have extensive expertise in is this area having developed and built the multi award winning Embarrassing Bodies site for Channel 4, and the hugely successful My Healthchecker tests.

Multiplatform production company, Mudlark, built the suite of The Food Hospital trial applications for iPhone, Facebook and the web, enabling participants on any of these platforms to engage with this pioneering online experiment and to receive daily reminders, encouragement and progress reports. Mudlark will format the carefully anonymised data for the partnering scientific institutions to analyse.

Each trial will last between two and six weeks: Insomnia - two weeks, Cholesterol - four weeks; Blood Pressure and Memory - six weeks. Participants will be asked to consume a pre-determined food and to answer five or more questions daily. They are also asked to take three cholesterol and blood pressure readings throughout the duration of the trials. It is possible to get free blood pressure tests from most high-street chemists. You can also buy cholesterol self-test kits from Novadetox online using this link: Cholesterol Test-kit

Home Cholesterol Test Kits - add 3 packs to your shopping cart, use the discount code FOODHOSPITAL at the checkout and update your basket. Limited availability.

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