Food chemistry research at UCPH FOOD
The research in food chemistry at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD) aims to obtain detailed mechanistic knowledge of the chemical reactions that occur in food during processing and storage.
Processing of foods are often required in order to obtain long shelf life for increased export to feed the world with a growing population and to reduce food waste by better utilisation of valuable components in food raw materials. Thermal processing of foods (e.g. pasteurization, dehydration) is widely used to postpone microbiological decay and prolong shelf life, but can create a range of chemical and physical modifications of food components, which influence texture, flavour and functionality, and induce potential concomitant effects on nutritional value and human health. Non-thermal processing technologies can be used as minimal preservation methods, and will affect the food components differently than heat processing. Moreover, these technologies can be utilized to positively modulate the structure and functionality of biomolecules. The research in food chemistry conducted at Department of Food Science contributes to achieve detailed mechanistic knowledge about the chemical reactions occurring in foods during processing and storage.
Strategic research fields
Proteins are highly susceptible to chemical modifications during processing and storage, e.g. by oxidation, Maillard reactions (i.e. protein glycation), and by reactions with phenolic compounds. 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, sustainable 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, and decrease in nutritional value. 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.
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.
For more information: https://bmi.ku.dk/english/research/food_proteins/
Contact: Professor Marianne Nissen Lund
The research is centered around oxidative changes that affect food quality and stability. The general approach is based on using combinations of model systems and real food systems for obtaining both specific information about and more generic understanding of kinetics and mechanisms of chemical and physical reactions that affect the stability of foods and beverages. A special focus area has been the development and use of Electron Spin Resonance spectroscopy (ESR) for studies of food systems and the role of radicals as reactive intermediates during processing and storage of foods and beverages. Another focus area is investigations of that role of radical processes during production and storage of beer, wine and other beverages. This includes beer chemistry supported by the recent acquirement of a 1 hL pilot brewery at KU FOOD.
Contact: Professor Mogens L. Andersen
Understanding the reaction kinetics and the thermodynamics of the enzyme-catalyzed processes in food and model systems using enzyme assays, spectroscopic or chromatographic techniques. Has experience with the use of high-pressure technology for modifying macromolecules spatial structure and characterization of protein denaturation using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Main interest is the cross-disciplinary exploitation of food science and culinary techniques in development of new foods in collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises achieved in a small-scale education laboratory called Gastrolab. Specific knowledge of food reactions and stability at various conditions combined with a scientific platform of analytical tools is provided as innovative resources to the companies in a joint agreement in order to optimize the output of projects.
Reaction kinetics and thermodynamics of food enzymes.
Spectroscopic techniques for the study of structural properties and reactions of proteins, including absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy under high hydrostatic pressure.
Separation techniques in protein chemistry including various chromatographic methods.
Characterisation of protein denaturation by differential scanning calorimetry.
Enzymatic extraction of food hydrocolloids by pressure tuning of reaction conditions
Contact: Associate professor Karsten Olsen
Enzymes catalyze many chemical reactions, which can have a positive or negative effect on the food materials. Understanding the reaction kinetics and the thermodynamics of the enzyme-catalyzed processes in food systems is mandatory in order to control the reaction and obtain the desired outcome. Knowing the underlying mechanism and relationship between the concentration of enzyme and substrate are the key factors in tuning enzymatic reactions like hydrolysis responsible for color, texture and flavor improvement or degradation. We can assess the enzyme activity both qualitatively and quantitatively by using various enzyme assays in combination with spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques. We address the processing effectiveness on enzymes. By kinetic modelling of enzyme activities we are able to understand the activation or inactivation mechanism in relation to processing conditions and matrix variations before implementing in the food industry.
Contact: Associate professor Karsten Olsen
Food processing involves various physical and chemical changes that need to be controlled in order to obtain the desired food product. Knowing the underlying mechanisms and relationships between the process, functional properties like gelation, emulsification, foaming ability and water binding, and structure is highly important for a successful outcome. Since the structure of a food product is based on the physical or chemical properties of the individual components as well as interrelations, the processing needs to modify these properties to create the right functionality. When the relationship between processing, functional properties and structure are known, the processing and food material can be designed to target a specific food product. For Functional Food Design we focus on process-property-structure interactions in food materials, especially proteins, by coupling food processing technology and food chemistry. Therefore, tailoring functional properties due to well-characterized processes can be utilized in product development. Through our research, we are able to design unique foods with improved structure, flavour, or nutritional quality based on physicochemical understanding of interaction between food components and matrix effects.
The team works to anchor knowledge and application about functionality and properties together with product formulation and processing technologies in order to solve the world’s challenges concerning food quality and safety, public health and environmental sustainability.
We can assist the food industry in rational food design that covers an intelligent and targeted food formulation and processing regime focusing on how recipes and processing technologies can be optimized or developed in order to construct a structure and texture, which is palatable and ensure the nutritional content.
Contact: Associate professor Vibeke Orlien
The technology is evolving rapidly within all sciences. The increasing demand of sustainable, clean label and natural food products is booming the industrial awareness of alternative processing technologies. We can provide the scientific foundation for the use of novel, non-thermal technologies and, thereby, support commercial activities for the development of sustainable, healthy, safe, tasty, and high-quality innovative foods and ingredients. We focus on how these technologies affect molecules in relation to structural changes and chemical reactions from molecular size to macroscopic levels based on molecular and mechanistic understanding. Knowing the effects of process and storage parameters offers options for modification of functional properties of example proteins (in relation to food texture) and protection of sensitive compounds like lipids (improve chemical shelf-life). The functional properties of macromolecules can be changed more selectively by non-thermal processing technologies without the negative side effects of heat-induced changes of flavour and colour.
High pressure (HP) is an important thermodynamic parameter (1000 - 8000 bar) that affect molecular systems. HP is a promising alternative to conventional processing, since the effect of HP on biomolecules are markedly different from the thermal effect since the energy input by pressure is much lower. HP affects molecular volumes, which destabilize the non-covalent interactions in the macromolecule resulting in disruption of the three-dimensional structure and ultimately leading to change of functionality. HP, also known as cold pasteurization, has great potential to produce foods with high quality and unique sensory properties (retain the characteristics of the fresh produce), maintain original nutritional value (do not destroy vitamins and antioxidants), extended shelf life (destroys pathogens and spoilage microorganisms) and environmentally friendly (needs only recycled water and electricity). Examples are reduction of salt content in pork sausages by HP and new types of neutral milk gels formed under HP.
Ultrasound (US) is a non-thermal technology applying sonic waves with high intensity (10 - 1000 W/cm2), also known as power ultrasound. US is based on the acoustic cavitation in which bubbles are formed, grown and collapsed generating physical effects such as shock wave, microjet, turbulence and shear force. Hence, US can cause physical disruption and is used for many purposes that require disruption such as emulsification, enzyme activation or inactivation, microbial inactivation, extraction, foaming, bio-component separation, mass transfer enhancement, and cutting. Example is the use of ultrasound-enzyme combination to increase the peelability of shrimps without compromising the color and texture.
Contact: Associate professor Karsten Olsen and associate professor Vibeke Orlien
UCPH FOOD has a strong analytical platform with various chromatographic techniques (HPLC, UHPLC, LC-MS/MS, GC-FID, GC-MS) and spectroscopic techniques (UV-Vis, fluorescence, lifetime fluorescence, Electron Spin Resonance).
Non-thermal equipment; high pressure processing (HPP) equipment, ultra sound equipment, vacuum dryer, high pressure homogenization (HPH).
Differential Scanning Calorimetry.
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. Collaborative projects are most often funded through Innovation Fund Denmark, GUDP – Green development and demonstration programme, Independent Research Fund Denmark, and the EU.
Smaller collaboration projects are funded by CPH-Food with the project partners at DTU where SMEs pursue their ideas to develop new solutions for the food industry. These projects ensure that expertise at UCPH FOOD is combined in an integral way with innovative companies creating growth and new jobs in the industry.
INFANT-I: Tailored processing of bioactive ingredients for high-end infant formula
INSITUQUANT: In situ quantification of protein modifications in foods
ICOM: Inhibition and control of Maillard reactions in dairy foods by plant polyphenols
CerealSpot: Instant-analysis of enzymatic baking quality
TECHSHELL: Sustainable technologies for optimization of shrimp production
ExiPRo: New Physicochemical and Technological Approach for High Quality and Sustainable Fish Feed Production
WasteTaste: Sustainable, flavourful and healthy vacuum-dried products from food waste
Q-Dry: New Gourmet pork products obtained through molecular understanding of alternative pig breeds and high pressure technology
Marianne N. Lund
Ingredient and Dairy Technology
Mogens Larsen Andersen
Design and Consumer Behavior
Design and Consumer Behavior
Mahesha Manjunatha Poojary
Ingredient and Dairy Technology
The research project: SEEDFOOD
Most of the rapeseed grown in Europe is used for industrial oil production and animal feed. The SEEDFOOD project aims to change this by creating new fundamental knowledge, so the proteins instead can be applied in new food types for human consumption. Read more about SEEDFOOD.