Specialist researcher (Food Science) at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij
"Honeybush's phenolic composition is related to its potential health benefits (bioactivities), sensory properties and product quality."
The phenomenal case of honeybush phenolics
My research involves the analysis of honeybush phenolics. This group of natural organic chemicals are known for their health benefits to humans. My research aims to determine what effect genotype selections from the honeybush plant breeding programme, species and processing of tea products have on the content of phenolics in plant material, tea or extracts. I study the phenolic composition of honeybush using chromatography, a laboratory technique that separates molecules in order to quantify them.
Why this matters
The phenolic composition of honeybush is related to its bioactivities and quality. Some phenolic compounds are also known to have bioactivities such as anti-diabetic or anti-obesity activities. Phenolic compounds could also be bitter or astringent, negatively affecting the taste and mouthfeel of honeybush tea. Understanding the phenolic composition of the tea is essential to guide improvement of product quality and development of value-added products.
About the researcher
De Beer holds a PhD degree in food science. She works as a specialist researcher for the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). She is also an extraordinary associate professor at Stellenbosch University (SU). De Beer acts as a supervisor for MSc and PhD students at SU's Department of Food Science. The focus of her research is the development of analytical techniques to quantify phenolic compounds in South African herbal teas and fruits. These techniques are used to determine plant material variation, differences between tea varieties and cultivars, and the effects of food processing on honeybush-related products. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific papers and four book chapters.
De Beer has also been involved in collaborative projects, including with scientists in Poland, Switzerland and Germany. She has received several awards to date, namely the Young Researcher Award from the South African Society for Enology and Viticulture (2005), the South African Society for Enology and Viticulture Award for best scientific contribution to the South African Journal of Enology and Viticulture (2005 and 2008) and the ARC Excellence Award for an outstanding contribution by an individual (2015). De Beer is currently serving as an associated editor of the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. She is also an editorial board member for LWT - Food Science and Technology.
Professor Dalene De Beer, a specialist researcher at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, is investigating the phenolic content of honeybush tea. She is investigating how it is affected by genotype selections, species, and processing.