Venket Rao, Ph.D.
Dr. Rao completed his M. Sc. and Ph. D. degrees in Food Science from Oregon State University, USA. After being a Full Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, he currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Rao served as the Co-director, Program in Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, till his appointment as Professor Emeritus. He worked closely with representatives of the food industry and government regulatory agencies and coordinated issues relating to national and international food safety and establishing regulatory guidelines and standards of identity for food safety. Another major issue was to develop regulatory frame work for making health claims for foods.
His entire academic career was devoted to the areas of food safety, nutrition and health with a major focus on the role of dietary phytochemicals and intestinal microflora. His research has focused on the role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in the causation and prevention of chronic diseases, with particular emphasis on the role of carotenoids and polyphenols. He is one of the pioneering researchers to study the bioavailability, metabolism, mechanisms of action and biological role of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant present in tomatoes, other fruits and vegetables and nutritional supplements. The main focus of his research is to study the role of lycopene in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. He is credited for bringing international awareness to the role of lycopene in human health. In addition to the carotenoids, Dr. Rao has also conducted research on the role of polyphenols in human health. He has published several peer reviewed articles in scientific journals and presented papers at domestic and international conferences on this topic.
Another important area of his research activity includes the role of probiotics and prebiotics in human health with the aim of investigating the relationship between intestinal microflora, immune function and endocrinology, as they relate to human health disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and psychological disorders. Microencapsulation and surface coating of nutraceuticals such as lycopene, their particle sizes, stability, bioavailability and biological activity is another area of research interest.
He is also interested in the applications of biotechnology in the agri-food-health industries. He has published extensively in scientific journals and participated in many national and international scientific conferences. He has authored and co-authored several books and book chapters directed towards human health. In addition to editing two books on ‘Lycopene and Human Health’ in the past, he has edited and published four other books recently: Phytochemicals: A global perspective of their role in nutrition and health, Phytochemicals as nutraceuticals: Global Approaches to Their Role in Nutrition and Human Health, Phytochemicals: Isolation, Characterisation and Role in Human Health, and Probiotics and Prebiotics in Human Nutrition and Health. He is currently editing another book: Lycopene: Global Perspective of its role in Human nutrition and health, that is to be published in 2017.
Dr. Rao served as a member of the Provincial and National Expert Committees in Canada in the areas of nutrition, health, food safety and agriculture. He has a distinguished academic career spanning over 50 years as an educator and researcher. He served as a Senior Scientific Consultant to provincial and federal government agencies and food and pharmaceutical industries globally. He is popularly sought by the international media to express his opinions on the subjects of food safety and phytochemicals, including lycopene, nutrition and health.