Our foods are being increasingly processed and manipulated today to obtain longer shelf life for increased export, to reduce food waste, and to feed a world with growing population. Thermal processing of foods (pasteurization, dehydration) is widely used to postpone microbiological decay and prolong shelf life, but creates a range of chemical and physical modifications on proteins and potential concomitant effects on nutritional value and human health. Proteins are key nutrients and it is critically important that the proteins in our diet are of high nutritional quality and are not damaged during processing and storage.
Our research vision is to enhance food quality by understanding complex chemical interactions between food components in sustainable food production, and to implement this knowledge in rational and healthy food design.
The Food Proteins Group focuses on cross-disciplinary research in food science and utilizes advanced analytical chemistry and biochemistry techniques to understand and improve shelf-life stability, sensory quality (taste) and health effects of foods. We address the fundamental challenge of understanding chemical interactions between food components during production and storage, and implement this knowledge in rational and healthy food design. Of special interest is the inhibition and control of protein modifications, which cause deterioration of food quality and induce risk of inflammatory and immunogenic responses. This includes protein modifications induced by processing conditions such as thermal treatments and light exposure and the presence of oxidants (i.e protein oxidation), reducing sugars (Maillard reactions/protein glycation), polyphenols, and enzymes (endogenous and exogenous). We investigate how these modifications influence taste, color, molecular functionality, accumulation of damaged materials, decrease in nutritional value, and adverse effects on health and disease progression.
We aim to enhance food quality by developing strategies to control these chemical reactions during production and storage without inducing negative effects on human health. Two research approaches are explored:
- Development of new gentle biotechnologies to reduce or avoid those modifications of proteins that are responsible for food quality deterioration and improve protein functionality.
- Understanding chemical mechanisms for protein modifications that allows for specific and tailored solutions to prevent or control protein modifications.