Research of the Food Sciences Unit

The research of the Food Sciences Unit focuses on understanding the composition, nutritional properties, sensory qualities, and health benefits of food resources as well as application of the knowledge in food development research. We apply versatile state-of-the-art methods of biochemical and chemical analysis, metabolomics, sensory science, in vitro models, and clinical intervention studies to investigate the impact of cultivars, environmental factors, and technologies on composition, quality, and bioactivities of food. Our research has a special emphasis on the unique properties and sustainable utilization of the bio-resources in Finland and the Northern regions.

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Research Areas of Food Sciences

Chemistry and Biochemistry of Lipids

We apply the powerful approach of lipidomics to obtain qualitative and quantitative data of lipids and their oxidization products. Using modern chromatographic methods coupled with tandem mass spectrometry, we aim to resolve the stereospecific molecular structures of natural lipids and to understand the significance of stereospecific structures for oxidative stability, bioavailability, and metabolic impact of lipids. Nutritionally significant lipids in plants, fish, human milk, and cow milk are of special interest.

Secondary Metabolites of Foods

Our research on secondary metabolites covers the content and composition profile of a range of metabolites that are important for the sensory qualities, technological properties and health effects of foods of plant origin. We have long experience in investigating the impact of genetic and environmental factors on the natural colors, flavor compounds, and bioactive components in berries and other fruits, cereals, potatoes, and other crops. Our research has a strong relevance to the crop quality and food production in the Northern/Subarctic region.

Food Development Research

Our food development research focuses on value addition and sustainable utilization of existing food resources as well as exploration of new alternative sources for food and feed. It is crucial to understand the association between composition and quality of food and the impact of food processing on the color, flavor, structure, and bioactivities of food. We develop and apply green technologies for isolating bioactive molecules and flavor compounds as well as for improving the flavor and health benefits of food. Our aim is to create new knowledge and technological breakthrough, which regenerates science and supports the research and development of food companies.

Food Metabolomics

Our food metabolomics research combines the state-of-the-art methods of targeted and nontargeted metabolomics as powerful tools for producing new breakthrough in the understanding of chemistry, biochemistry and functions of metabolites in food. Chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry as well as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) are the major tools for metabolomics research.  Examples of our metabolomics research are differentiation of food of different origins and growth environment, impact of food processing technologies on metabolites in food, and association between metabolite profile and composition of food and diet.

Health Effects of Foods

Our research focuses on the potential of food products and ingredients as part of a healthy diet in supporting health and well-being via regulating the metabolism pathways of sugar and lipids as well as the function of the gut and the immune systems. Our special interest is in the health promoting properties of the Nordic food resources with special reference to polyphenols, lipids, and fibers. Our major approach is human intervention studies supplemented with in vivo and in vitro experimental models.

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