Professor Ann-Sofie Sandberg
Professor Marie Alminger
Professor Ingrid Undeland
Associate professor Nathalie Scheers
Malin Barman, specialistKarin Jonsson, postdoc
Hanna Harrysson, PhD student
James Hinchcliffe (shared PhD student with the Gothenburg University)
Except for nutrients, food contains small amounts of so called bioactive compounds. These compounds add value beyond nutrition, directly affecting physiological functions in our body by acting on cellular pathways. Epidemiologic studies, where the effects of a diet in different populations are observed, indicate that those who eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish are likely to lead a long and healthy life. We know very little of which compounds that generate health effects and the mechanisms involved. We believe that the combination of compounds is important, and therefore a more positive health effect is expected from the ingestion of fish and whole grain products compared with isolated fish oil and separated bran fraction.
To prove that certain food products are beneficial for health and to study the reasons for this, there is a requirement of a methodological platform similar to what is used in the pharmaceutical industry. Well-designed diet-intervention studies, new technologies and analytical methods will increase the knowledge of molecular mechanisms affected by specific foods and bioactive compounds. We need to analyze the composition of the food, investigate the effects of gastro-intestinal digestion, identify compounds with bioactivity and study their bioavailability and the mechanisms of action at the molecular and cellular level.
The prevalence and concentration of a nutrient in food is dependent on the cultivation, breed or harvest conditions. Also the processing, distribution, storage and preparation of the raw food, affect the nutritional quality. One example is farmed fish, where the content of omega-3-fatty acids is dependent on the feed. Other examples are cereals and vegetables which mineral content is related to the soil and the fertilizers used. Also the variety may play a significant role. Fats may go rancid during storage and the vitamin content decreases. Food processing and preparation is important since this may preserve or destroy nutrients. Processing and preparation may also increase or decrease the bioavailability of nutrients, affecting the possibility of a nutrient to be absorbed in the intestine. For instance, lactic acid fermentation may release iron and vitamins from the food matrix, making them more accessible for absorption. Fermented food may also have a lower glycemic index (GI) since the lactic acid bacteria have used the easy fermentable, “fast carbohydrates” for their own metabolism.