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Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition

The Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition investigates the health effects of food and nutrition. Research on mechanisms of foods and food constituents is based on physiological, biochemical and molecular biology methods. The objective is to detect health benefits of foods for the consumer and identify possible risks.

The Department’s technical resources allow for broadly based experimental studies in cell culture systems and animal models. As an integral part of the Department, the Study Centre for Human Nutrition conducts nutritional studies in humans to investigate the effect of foods and its constituents on bodily functions. The absorption, bioavailability and excretion of food constituents are analysed in short and long-term studies. Human nutritional studies can be conducted either on an inpatient or outpatient basis. State of the art facilities allow a thorough anthropometric, physiological and clinical characterisation of study participants. Recommendations for a healthy diet are based on the results of this research.

Characterisation of the bioactivity of food constituents is at the focus of the Department’s experimental research. Studying the health effects of phytochemicals has been a central aspect of the Department’s work for many years with a current focus on polyphenols (apples, berries, soy).

As part of consumer health protection the Department assesses functional foods. Their functional effects are investigated in animal and human intervention studies using biomarkers from various fields, such as immunomodulation, inflammation, colorectal cancer as well as metabolic syndrome. Current examples include foods enriched with phospholipids as well as flavonoids. New research approaches, such as metabolomics, enable the Department to arrive at detailed conclusions regarding the influence of diet on the human metabolism. The goal of this approach is to analyse the complexity in the composition of foods (food metabolomics) and to better understand the metabolism and effects of foods on humans by applying metabolomics.

The work of the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition helps to recognise health-related developments in the nutrition and food area and make science-based recommendations for policy advice and consumer health protection.