NNEK16003U Bioactive Food Components and Health

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Food Innovation and Health
MSc Programme in Biology-Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Human Nutrition


This course contains a series of lectures and exercises followed by a group work assignment before the exam. Lectures start with an introduction to the area, its basic vocabulary and scientific methodologies. Then additional lectures will exemplify plant food, dairy and meat bioactive components, shortly touching upon their functionality in the food organism but with a main focus on their bioavailability, biotransformation, and bioactivities after consumption in humans at the physiological, nutritional and biochemical level. Also the scientific methodologies used to investigate such actions are detailed with respect to study designs and biomarkers. The following lectures and themes for theoretical exercises will be typically covered:

1. Overview of basic concepts in evaluation of bioactivity and functionality, including demands on scientific documentation for health claims and basics of chemical safety evaluation.

2. Overview of plant foods and health. How strong is the evidence for disease prevention and what is known or speculated about mechanisms.

3. Relationship between special plant components and taste, interactions in taste.

4. Vegetables 1: Crucifers including cabbage, mustards and watercress (glucosinolates; indoles; isothiocyanates; nuclear receptors; cell cycle control).

5. Vegetables 2: Onion, garlic, carrots, asparagus, parsnip tomato, non-crucifer green vegetables (polysulphides, alkyns, carotenoids etc.; phase 1 and 2 enzyme induction, effects on vision, provitamin A).

6. Fruit: Stone fruit, grapes and citrus (flavonols, ascorbate, triterpenes, carotenoids; antioxidation, effects on cholesterol).

7. Berries, grapes (strawberry, blueberry, craneberry, grapes; polyphenols (catechins and anthocyanins), stilbenes; anti-inflammation, effects on vessel walls).

8. Cereals, fruit and vegetables (soluble and insoluble fibre, glucans, fructans, pectins, arabinoxylans, cell wall structures; gut health and immunity, cholesterol and fat biokinetics).

9. Legumes and wholegrain (isoflavonoids, lignans; hormone mimetic effects).

10. Spices and bioactive compounds in relation to energy balance/expenditure (ginger, parsley, dill, chives, thyme, rosemary; terpenes, gingerol, furocoumarins).

11. Beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa, cola; caffeine, theobromine, cocaine, kahweol, cafestrol).

12. Dairy products (SCFA, peptides, gangliosides, Ca-species).

13. Meat and fish products (n-3 fats, carnosine, CLA, apecific amino acids)

14. Organic and conventional products (differences and similarities in contents; background for evaluation of differences in health effects).

15. Probiotics (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and other strains with specific health actions).

16. Bioactives in innovation.

Learning Outcome

The course will give examples of specific nonnutritive components in foods and their possible mechanisms of action. The course is the only one in these programmes giving a systematic overview of non-nutritive bioactive components. The course will give a critical insight into the meaning of bioactivity and functional components, an important aspect of formulating health claims. It also aims to give a more in-depth insight into the health effects of many common foods, beverages and spices. After completing the course the student compentences should include:


- Describing the most common types of bioactive compounds and components in foods, beverages and spices, and their modes of action in the human body.

- Knowing the most important laboratory and clinical methods to evaluate typical health effects of plant foods in human studies in comparison to cell culture and animal studies.

- Knowing the use of the most common experimental designs in the study of effects of non-nutritive food components on health or on health-related biomarkers.

- Referring to the formal scientific demands for placing a health claim on a food product, - an important criterium for applying innovative activities in the biotechnology field.


- Critically assessing methods, results, and conclusions in scientific papers within bioactive compounds, human health and innovation.

- Evaluating the contribution of several studies on a food product to conclusions on their effects on human health, enabling claims to be formulated for bioactive compounds.


- Working independently and analytically with scientific literature.

- Critical oral and written presentation at a high scientific level.

- Insights into what it takes to bring a health-promoting product to the market.

Course literature will be announced at study start on the course’s Absalon page.

In each session there will first be lectures in a general subject or on a specific group of foods with examples of potentially active ingredient groups related to one or more commonly reported actions in humans. Lectures will be followed by theoretical exercises, typically including critical reading of original articles on the day’s theme followed by plenary discussions or short individual or group presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 2
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 132
  • Theory exercises
  • 48
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 2 hours under invigilation
All aids allowed

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide you a computer. Private computer, tablet or mobile phone CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal grading. One assessor.

If 10 or fewer students have registered for re-examination, the examination will be changed to an oral examination 30 minutes without preparation.

Criteria for exam assesment

Please see "Learning Outcome"