Current research focuses on cereal beta-glucan, cereal proteins (gluten analysis, side stream proteins, oxidation of proteins), faba beans and bioprocessing of different grains.
Cereal and pulse proteins

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

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

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
  • Nodification 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

Flavor is the main determinant of consumer liking and acceptance of foods. In order to promote the consumption of plant-based foods, the flavor of certain ingredients needs to be studied and improved. For example, faba bean is a pulse having great nutritional and agroecological advantages. However, its beany flavor and bitter taste are crucial downsides.

Our research focuses on the characterization of the flavor of several cereal and pulse ingredients, such as flour, bran, protein concentrate, and protein isolate. We combine the expertise from food chemistry and sensory science and assess flavor-related changes occurring during technological processing. 

Our work is based on:

  • Characterizing the flavor precursors and flavor-active compounds
  • Defining the sensory characteristics with trained panels
  • Assessing consumer acceptance and liking
  • Using multivariate methods to find links between chemical composition and sensory properties
  • Investigate flavor changes caused by shelf-life and technological processing (e.g., production of bread and plant-based dairy and meat alternatives)
  • Improving the flavor through bioprocessing and fermentation
Food Safety

Food safety is essential to sustain a healthy life and food security. Naturally occurring toxins, representatively mycotoxins, and environmental contaminations such as persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals are the most concerning hazardous chemicals in foods. Mycotoxins are secondary fungal metabolites that contaminate crops such as cereals and are toxic to both humans and animals. Due to the current climate change, it is predicted that increased atmospheric temperature and humid conditions will accelerate the growth of mycotoxin-producing fungi. Recently, the food safety concerns by mycotoxins, therefore, have been in the limelight.  Our research group investigates the efficacy of bioprocessed cereal fibre in minimizing the bioaccessibility of mycotoxins.    

The current research covers the following topics:

  • Screening the conditions of binding and biotransformation
  • Stability of bound complexes
  • Mechanism of mycotoxin decontamination
  • Fate of mycotoxins during the biotransformation