Research

Cereal beta-glucan, or rather (1→3)(1→4)-β-D-glucan, is a dietary fibre component and is present in the cell walls of oat and barley grains, in particular. Beta-glucans from oat and barley are one of the few carbohydrates that have health claims approved by the EU and US authorities. Their cholesterol lowering and blood glucose stabilising effect have generally been linked to their viscosity, which is related to the molecular weight of beta-glucan. In our group we are studying the physicochemical and technological properties of beta-glucan in foods and its stability during processing and storage of foods.

The main areas of our beta-glucan research are:

  • Oxidative degradation of beta-glucan in aqueous and multi-phased systems, and the consequent changes in its physiological and technological functionality. 
  • Structure formation and gelation of beta-glucan and the factors affecting these phenomena.
  • Co-passengers of beta-glucan (e.g. phytate) and their influence on the stability and functionality of beta-glucan.

Cereal storage protein gluten is important in bread-making for its technological function. However, people with celiac disease or wheat sensitivity have to keep a gluten-free diet. We investigate analytical, biochemical and immunological aspects of proteins involved in adverse reactions to cereal-containing foods. Main interests are:

  • Eliminating /degrading harmful peptides and proteins related to celiac disease by chemical oxidation and enzymatic methods.
  • Developing and improving analytical and quantification methods of gluten in gluten-free foods.
  • Evaluating the impact of food processing on gluten proteins and alpha-amylase/trypsin inhibitors.

We also explore other grain protein functionality for food applications. Main interests are:

  • Improving the availability of wheat bran proteins by bioprocessing and exploring their technological functionalities.
  • Developing food processes for legume proteins, and utilizing their bioactivities and their applications in food products.

Bioprocessing commonly refers to the use of biological activity of cells, or their parts, to obtain desirable changes in the matrix. Bioprocessing affects the structure of the raw matrix and allows specific modifications of its component. The use of innovative and feasible biotransformation processes is nowadays necessary to increase the value of several food matrices and food by-products e.g. by improving the bioaccessibility of health promoting compounds and decreasing the negative technological effects.

The core of our research is the development of bioprocessing methods trough microbial fermentation and enzymatic modifications with the aim of enhancing the matrix and final food properties. In support of our activities, screening and selection of the most appropriate microbial starters, and characterization of food microbiota are also performed.

The current research encompasses the following main themes:

  • biotransformation of food and agricultural side streams
  • modification of protein rich matrices trough bioprocessing
  • production of functional molecules in situ during fermentation
  • analysis and characterization of new metabolites and of fermentation induced changes