Food proteins

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.

Picture of a variety of food

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 chemicaland 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. 








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:

  1. Development of new gentle biotechnologies to reduce or avoid those modifications of proteins that are responsible for food quality deterioration and improve protein functionality.
  2. Understanding chemical mechanisms for protein modifications that allows for specific and tailored solutions to prevent or control protein modifications.

Open positions

We are constantly searching for dedicated MSc students, so in case you would like to hear more about the possibilities for doing a project in the group, please contact research group leader Marianne Nissen Lund via











Our aim is to develop an in-depth mechanistic understanding of complex interactions of food components and we use a hypothetico-deductive approach to guide experimental design and methodology. By obtaining a mechanistic understanding of reaction mechanisms it will be possible to predict, control, and modulate the chemical reactions taking place in food and beverages during production and storage. We have special emphasis on protein modifications induced by Maillard reactions (i.e. protein glycation), oxidation, and reactions with polyphenols, and how these processes affect flavour, protein structure and functionality, nutritional value and health.

Our research goals are achieved by using a multidisciplinary approach based on:

  1. Identification and quantification of reactants, intermediates and products and establishment of reaction kinetics for the determination of major reaction routes and most significant modifications of food components,
  2. Exploitation of the established chemical mechanisms to predict, control and modulate changes in food quality and functionality during production and storage,
  3. Determination of absorption and uptake of the major modifications of food components occurring during production and storage in both cellular systems and animal models
  4. Establishment of immunogenic and inflammatory responses in both cellular systems and animal models based on metabolic degradation of food components.

Scientific impact and outreach

We bridge basic and applied science within food chemistry and seek to ensure societal impact by close collaborations with the Danish food and ingredient industry. Project deliverables within deadlines are important to us, which we achieve by a high focus on project management.

The group’s shared affiliation between KU-SCIENCE and KU-SUND secures close interactions with cross-disciplinary expert scientists in the fields of food and biomedical sciences and facilitates activities related to understanding of how food quality impacts general health and disease progression in humans. Prime examples of significant contributions from our group within food functionality and quality includes elucidation of how oxidative protein cross-linking reduce meat tenderness during retail storage and the mechanistic understanding of how protein thiol groups and plant polyphenols, used as antioxidant ingredients, interact in meat products and influence oxidative stability and functionality.







Protein oxidation

  • Establishment of protein oxidation pathways in foods and influence on food quality
  • Influence of oxidation on protein structure and function
  • Control of oxidation by boosting antioxidative defence systems
  • Exploitation of protein oxidation for improvement of protein functionality

Keywords: Thiols, disulfides, amino acid oxidation, protein carbonyls, cross-linking, beer haze, meat texture, flavor, unfolding, digestibility

Maillard reactions/protein glycation

  • Characterisation of protein glycation/Maillard reactions in food and beverages to understand reaction mechanisms
  • Influence of Maillard reactions on protein structure and function
  • Inhibition of Maillard reactions by use of alternative technologies/processing such as enzymes and plant polyphenols

Keywords: AGE formation, Strecker aldehydes, flavor, colour, enzymes, polyphenols, reducing sugars, dicarbonyls

Phenol-induced modifications

  • Establishment of polyphenols as natural antioxidative and antiglycative ingredients in foods
  • Characterisation of phenol-induced modifications of proteins and carbohydrates
  • Influence of phenol-induced modifications on protein structure and function
  • Absorption and uptake in animals and inflammatory effects

Keywords: Protein-quinone adducts, dicarbonyl trapping, oxidation and polymerisation, absorption and uptake, antioxidants

Protein structure and functionality

  • Tailor-making of protein aggregates with improved flavour, functionality and nutritional value
  • Determination of the significance of protein structure on modification mechanisms

Keywords: protein unfolding, denaturation, cross-linking, aggregation, thermal treatment, enzymes, photooxidation

















INFANT-I: Tailored processing of bioactive ingredients for high-end infant formula

Collaboration partners:

Arla Foods Ingredients, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences (UCPH)

Funded by:

Green Development and Demonstration programme (Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark) and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation

Read more about the project

Sapere Aude research leader project: INSITUQUANT: In situ quantification of protein modifications in foods

Funded by:

Independent Research Fund Denmark

Read more about the project

ICOM: Inhibition and control of Maillard reactions in dairy foods by plant polyphenols

Collaboration partners:

Arla Foods & Arla Foods Ingredients

Funded by:

Independent Research Fund Denmark

Read more about the project 

SPRING: Second generation functional protein ingredients developed with gentle manufacturing tools

Collaboration partners:
Arla Foods Ingredients, Novozymes, University of Southern Denmark

Funded by:
Innovation Fund Denmark

New defence systems against beer oxidation

Collaboration partners:
Indslev Bryggeri, Novozymes

Funded by:
Independent Research Fund Denmark

DOABLE: Effect of Maillard reaction and lipid peroxidation on AGE formation in dairy-plant oil blends

Collaboration partners:
Arla Foods amba

Funded by:
Arla Foods amba


















MarianneProfessor Marianne Nissen Lund obtained her MSc degree in food science and technology (cand. techn. al.) from KVL (The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University) with special focus on food chemistry, and was awarded her PhD degree in Dec 2007. She had been affiliated with Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen since 2004 with a break as industrial postdoc at Novozymes in 2011-2013, where she has focused on understanding the chemical mechanisms that are important to food quality and stability.

She was appointed associate professor in January 2012 at Department of Food Science. In 2015 she was jointly appointed as associate professor at Department of Biomedical Sciences and Department of Food Science to increase the strategic collaboration between the departments and build a research field in the gap between food and health sciences. 

See Marianne's full CV. 

See Marianne's profile

KasperPostdoc Kasper Engholm-Keller obtained his MSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Protein Research Group at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in 2008. Continuing this research at SDU in a project focused on setting up new analytical methods for global investigation of post-translational protein modifications such as phosphorylation (phosphoproteomics) using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), Kasper was awarded his PhD in 2011.

From 2012 to 2017 Kasper was working as a postdoctoral fellow in Sydney, Australia at the Children’s Medical Research Institute doing quantitative analysis of phospho-proteins in the nerve terminal to identify new cellular signalling mechanisms modulating synaptic transmission in the brain. His postdoc project is focused on investigating how photo-oxidation can be used to generate functional protein aggregates for food products and identify the specific protein modifications/crosslinks generated by UV irradiation of dairy products using mass spectrometry. Key analytical techniques: Proteomics (large-scale quantification/identification of proteins) using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), affinity chromatography for enrichment of modified peptides, gel-electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), western blotting, enzymatic fluorescence-based assays for quantification of small molecules

MahesaAssistant professor Mahesha M. Poojary obtained his MSc degree in Chemistry from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, India (2011). Later he worked as a Lecturer in Chemistry at Canara Engineering College, Mangalore, India (2011-2013). He received his PhD degree in Chemical Sciences from the University of Camerino, Italy (Eureka Fellowship) in April 2017. He has previously worked as a Guest Researcher at the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen during May 2015-May 2016. He was awarded the Australia Awards-Endeavour Research Fellowship by the Australian Government and worked as a Research Fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, Australia (May 2016-December 2016).

His research interest lies primarily in the area of food analytical chemistry-development of GC and HPLC analytical methodologies. He is also interested in conventional and non-conventional food processing and, GC-MS and LC-based metabolomics. His postdoc work is focussed on the improvement of the quality and stability of UHT treated dairy products.

RenjiePostdoc Renjie Li obtained his PhD degree in food science from College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering, China Agricultural University, in June 2015. His PhD thesis is “purification and characterization of soluble acid invertase from mango, and effect of high pressure on its activity and structure”. From 2016 to 2017, he worked as a postdoc in the Carlsberg Laboratory on the application of Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs in beer and beverages as an alternative to hops. His research interest is application of advanced food technologies, and the effects of these technologies on the quality and safety of food products. His current research in Lund’s group is to investigate the application of innovative enzymes to increase the stability of dairy protein aggregates.

His research interest is to design tailor-made protein hydrocolloids by using bio- and physico-chemical aspects to better control food- (e.g. foam, emulsion and gelation) and bio- (e.g. antioxidant, ACE-inhibitory, anti-cancerous activity) functionality of novel protein ingredients for food and pharmaceutical applications. His current research at Lund’s group focuses on understanding a triangle relationship between enzymatic protein modification at molecular level, the mesoscale physical properties and food functionality of enzymatically-fabricated (milk) protein structures. 

ChristianAssistant Professor Cristian De Gobba obtained his MsC in Functional Genomics from University of Trieste (UniTs, Italy) in 2007. Until 2010 he worked as research assistant on characterization of antimicrobial peptides both in UniTs and Novozymes (DK) using different chromatographic techniques. Right after Cristian was enrolled as PhD student in the department of Food Science at Copenhagen University (KU) where he obtained the PhD degree in 2014. He worked mainly on production, separation and characterization of bioactive peptides from milk proteins using novel enzymes. Cristian continued working at KU as post doc within different projects, mainly in production and characterization of porcine hemoglobin hydrolysates using commercial proteases. Currently he is studying the interactions between milk proteins and sugars using surface plasmon resonance.

Key analytical techniques: liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), HPLC, FPLC, various enzymatic assays, SPR.

 Marta BevilacquaAssistant Professor Marta Bevilacqua obtained her MSc degree in Analytical Chemistry with focus on Chemometrics, in 2011 at University of Rome “Sapienza”. She obtained her PhD degree in December 2014 at the same institution, working on chemometric methods to ensure food quality and safety.

She has been working at University of Copenhagen (Dept. Food Science, Chemometric and Analytical Technology group), from 2015 to 2018, first as Postdoc and then as Assistant professor, working with chemometrics and vibrational spectroscopy in the area of process analytical technology and related control methods.

Her current research in the Food Proteins group is focused on the use of lifetime and steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy and advanced multivariate data analysis (e.g., PARAFAC) on milk, beer and individual food proteins, with the ultimate aim of developing quantitative in situ methods for protein modifications in foods.

Gül AkıllıoğluPostdoc H. Gül Akıllıoğlu obtained her PhD in Food Engineering at Hacettepe University, Turkey in 2016 with her thesis titled “Investigation of Controlled Modifications on Glycation Tendency of Proteins. She worked as a research assistant in Department of Food Engineering at Hacettepe University from 2010 to 2016. She then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow for one year at University of Leeds in UK in a project where she purified and characterized peanut proteins.

Her research interest centers on the effects of food processing on quality and safety of food products. This covers a range of topics including modifications of proteins due to Maillard Reaction (protein glycation) during heating of food proteins, formation of process contaminants, changes in bioactive compounds and antioxidant activities of foods and mitigation strategies for the detrimental effects of food processing. Currently her research focuses on detailed characterization and quantification of modifications in milk protein ingredients for infant formula, in particular Maillard Reactions and formation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs), but also with protein oxidation.

She is experienced in using analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, fast protein liquid chromatography, UV-VIS spectroscopy and gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). 

Eva GarnePhD student Eva Garne is a PhD student at Department of Biomedical Sciences (UCPH) and Department of Food Science (UCPH). Her project aims to understand the fate of protein-phenol adducts in the gastrointestinal system. The project explores the uptake of the phenol adduct and the effect on gut microbiota.

Eva obtained her master's degree in Food Science and Technology from University of Copenhagen in 2018.

Hongkai ZhuPhD student Hongkai Zhu obtained his MSc degree in tea science from Huazhong Agricultural University and in his MSc thesis he investigated the effect of qingzhuan tea on α-glucosidase and 3T3-L1 preadipocyte. He was affiliated with the Tea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences from June 2012 to Sep 2015, where he worked on how to process high quality teas and what the effective compounds is for flavor and health.

His PhD project is to study the effect of inhibition of Maillard reactions (i.e. protein glycation) in foods by plant polyphenols.

Siti Suriani Arsad PhD student Siti Suriani Arsad received her MSc degree in Nutritional Sciences from University Putra Malaysia in 2013. Her current research is to establish how specific protein-phenol compounds, which are formed during food processing, are absorbed in the body and their effect on metabolic processes and immune response.

Her research includes quantification of protein-phenol compounds in different processed food products and identification of the extent of phenol-mediated cross-linking of proteins in processed foods. This research will also include in vivo study and in vitro study to examine metabolic and immunological functions as well as gut microbiota.

Zichen ZhaoPhD student Zichen Zhao, received her Msc degree in Food Science and Technology from KU in 2016. Her PhD project is focused on investigating photo-oxidation of proteins in food products such as milk and milk products. The purpose for her research is to find out how light exposure influences protein oxidation and how protein oxidation changes the functional and biological activity of proteins. Plant polyphenols will also be investigated for their effect on controlling photo-oxidation of proteins.

Khadija WaqarPhD student Khadija Waqar got her BSc (Biochemistry) and MPhil (Biological Sciences, 2014-2015) degrees from University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. She also worked as a Research Officer in School of Biological Sciences, University of the Punjab, Lahore. Her PhD work is focused upon inhibition of Maillard reactions in processed foods. Plan polyphenols inhibit Maillard reactions in foods and are considered as natural food ingredients, but they also modify food proteins. The current studies will investigate bioavailability of these protein-polyphenol adducts through various chemical and biomedical approaches.

Pernille LundPhD student Pernille Lund received her degree as MSc in Food Science and Technology with specialization in Dairy Science and Technology from University of Copenhagen in 2018. Her PhD project is focused on development of gentle and tailored processing of protein ingredients used for infant formulas. The aim of her research is to understand how various processing steps impacts chemical modifications and structural changes of the milk proteins and how these should be altered in order to manufacture protein ingredients for infant formula with improved nutritional quality. Furthermore, the project is a collaboration with Arla Foods Ingredients and Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
Her research includes analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography, SDS-PAGE, size exclusion chromatography (SEC), western blotting and fluorescence spectroscopy.

 Chengkang LiPhD student Chengkang Li studied Food Technology (specifically, dairy technology) in Wageningen University and Research Centre for his Master degree (2015-2017). During the Master study, he spent six months on investigating the bactericidal ability of bovine milk under certain heating conditions, while lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and immunoglobulin were selected as main target proteins. In this research, the results from both proteomic and microbiological areas were compared and discussed. Afterwards, he participated in the development of a new personalized and instant food generator of smart, structured soft materials in CSIRO, Australia. The structure, digestibility and rheological behaviors of skim milk and plant protein combinations after high pressure process have been studied for this future food generator.

In his PhD project, the reaction mechanisms for protein oxidation induced by different processing conditions (mainly light and heat) are going to be studied, in order to understand how the food protein structures are modified.

Jingyuan LiuPhD student Jingyuan Liu obtained her MSc degree in food science from College of Food Science and Engineering, Beijing University of Agriculture, in June 2018. She is focusing on the modification of wheat protein by oxidation to reduce allergenicity. Her research includes establishing how allergenic proteins from wheat are modified chemically and structurally on a molecular level by oxidation, how these characterized modifications affect wheat protein immunogenicity and how food processing conditions known to induce oxidation can be used to modulate wheat protein allergenicity in foods.

Findings from her research shall benefit the expansion of plant protein applications to meet the growing demand for replacing protein of animal origin with the protein derived from plants.

Key analytical techniques: UHPLC, LC-MS/MS, DS-page, intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism, size exclusion chromatography and dynamic light scattering and RBL-2H3 mast cell culturing.

Anne Bech RisumPhD student Anne Bech Risum obtained her MSc. In food science and technology from University of Copenhagen in 2017, with a focus on Spectroscopy and Chemometrics. She then stayed as a Scientific Assistant for a year in the Chemometrics and Analytical technology section (Dept. Food Science, UCPH), where she worked with Professor Rasmus Bro on automating data analysis of GC-MS data, based on PARAFAC2.

Her academic focus areas are fluorescence spectroscopy and multiway-data analysis (PARAFAC), which was also the subject of her MSc. thesis. In her PhD in the Food Proteins group, she will work on the application of highdimensional fluorescence (eg. time-resolved emission spectroscopy, anisotropy) and multiway analysis for the study of proteins. The aim of the project is to develop a non-intrusive fluorescence-based methodology to monitor protein modifications directly in complex food samples.




















Senior Scientist John Sørensen and Research Scientist Valentin Rauh
Arla Foods amba
Senior Managers Christina Lunde, Mikael Blom Sørensen, Hans Peter Heldt-Hansen & Science Manager Alexander Mauch, Research Scientist Jens Eklöf
Novozymes A/S
Professor Stephan de Smet & Geert Van Royen
ILVO, Belgium
Professor Michael J. Davies
Heart Research Institute, Sydney, Australia
Professor Daniel Cardoso
University of São Paulo, Brazil
Professor Alessandro Priolo & Postdoc Giuseppe Luciano
University of Catania, Italy
Postdoc Mario Estevez
University of Extremadura, Spain
Project leader Marchen Hviid
Danish Meat Research Institute
Consultant Mari Ann Tørngren
Danish Meat Research Institute

Associate professor Ole Hartvig Mortensen
Nutrient Transport and Metabolism group, Department of Biomedical Sciences, UCPH

Senior Innovation Manager Jacob Holm Nielsen & Research scientist Søren Bang Nielsen
Arla Foods Ingredients























Arla logo

For the project “DOABLE: Effect of Maillard reaction and lipid peroxidation on AGE formation in dairy-plant oil blends”, 2018

Funded by Arla Foods amba


Arla ingrediens


For the project "INFANT-I: Tailored processing of bioactive ingredients for high-end infant formular", 2017.

Funded by Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, Green Development and Demonstration programme, Arla Foods Ingredients and the Danish Dairy Research Foundation.

Independent Research Fund Denmark

For the project Sapere Aude research leader project "INSITUQUANT: In situ quantification of protein modifications in foods"

Funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark

Independent Research Fund Denmark

For the project "ICOM: Inhibition and control of Maillard reactions in dairy foods by plant polyphenols", 2017

Funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark

Arla logo


For the project "IMAGE: Improvement of the quality and stability of UHT treated dairy products by enzymatic tailoring of the milk carbohydrate profile", 2016

Funded by The Danish Dairy Research Foundation

Arla ingrediens

Logo Novozymes

For the project "SPRING: Second generation functional protein ingredients developed with gentle manufacturing tools", 2015

Funded by The Innovation Fund, Arla Foods Ingredients & Novozymes A/S 

Arla logo

For the project "PELUM: Second generation lactose free ultra-high-temperature processed milk drinks with functional polypheols for export markets", 2014.

Funded by The innovation Fund, Arla Foods amba, Brabrand.

Independent Research Fund Denmark

For the project "New defence systems against beer oxidation", 2013.

Funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark

Logo NovozymesLogo Højteknologifonden

For the project "Enzymatic stabilisation of flavour in beer", 2011.

Funded by Novozymes A/S, Højteknologifonden.






















Group leader

Group Leader

Marianne Nissen Lund

Phone +45 3533 3547

Group members

Name Title Phone E-mail