16 January 2018

Researcher profile of the month: Marianne Nissen Lund

Researcher profile

Associate professor Marianne Nissen Lund conducts research on food quality with a health scientific perspective. Marianne is employed in a shared position between The Department of Food Science and The Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Marianne Nissen Lund, who has always been particularly interested in natural science, originally wanted to be an engineer. However, as she did not find the more traditional engineering subjects interesting, she applied for an education in food science at the former Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University instead. Today, Marianne Nissen Lund is employed as an associate professor in a shared position between the Department of Food Science and the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

“What I find exciting in food science is the chemistry of the changes that occur in our food when we process, store or prepare the food. The fact that you can look at your steak while preparing it on the pan and at the same time explaining what is going on chemically in the steak while it is getting grilled, I find very interesting,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.

Marianne Nissen Lund

Photo: Lene Hundborg Koss

The interest in food chemistry already began at the second year of Marianne’s study where she had lectures with Professor Leif Skibsted, who started the food chemistry research area in Denmark. Professor Leif Skibsted was the supervisor of Marianne’s bachelor’s thesis, master’s thesis and PhD project.

During her master’s thesis, Marianne worked with proteins from dairy and some of the modifications that take place in among other things pasteurization.  Marianne found a particular interest in this research area and today it forms the basis for her research group “Food proteins”. In her work with protein modifications, Marianne has created a lot of collaborations with the industry with different aspects of protein modifications related to food quality. Food quality was thus the primary focus of Marianne’s research for many years.

“At one point, I did not think it was enough to focus entirely on food quality. We have a global population that grows drastically, and we constantly have to find new ways of preparing food and take advantage of the resources. Moreover, we process our food more and more to extend the life to avoid food waste for example. So I began to question what consequences all these modifications we keep making have for the health and that is how my connection to BMI came into place,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.

The employment at BMI has given Marianne’s research a health scientific perspective, and it has also given her the opportunity to become more aware of what types of experiments to set up in order to get the answers she is seeking. 

Three exciting projects on the way

In 2017, Associate professor Marianne Nissen Lund received the prestigious Sapere Aude grant of DKK 5.9 million for a research project that will ensure better quality of our food.

The aim of the project is to ensure that industrial food processing does not affect the health of the society by developing better methods for characterizing changes in food proteins. The new methods will in future make it easier to conduct research on what the processing of our foods means for our health.

“There is a lack of knowledge about how industrial food processing and storage affect human health and in order to figure this out, we need to determine how we can map the changes in the proteins on a molecular level. It is a ‘high-risk’  ‘high-gain’ project and if we succeed in developing new methods, it will change the entire research area going forward,” says Marianne about the project.

Last year, Marianne Nissen Lund also received a grant for her first project with a health scientific focus. The project investigates which protein modifications are formed in food by adding polyphenols from plants also known as antioxidants which are added to food to inhibit oxidation. In collaboration with Associate professor Ole Hartvig Mortensen, Marianne investigates how these polyphenol-derived protein modifications are absorbed in the body.

In the end of 2017, Associate professor Marianne Nissen Lund also received a large grant from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP) and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation on a total of DKK 13.5 million for a project aimed at creating healthier infant formula.

“It is a project I find really exciting and that really combines food science with health science. We know that infant formula does not have as good qualities as breast milk, but we do not know exactly why. I hope that the project will lead to an improved infant formula, thus providing new-born babies, who for one reason or another cannot be breastfed, with a better nutritional start to life.