Food chemistry, nutraceuticals and functional foods (2020/2021)

Course code
Gianni Zoccatelli
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Teaching is organised as follows:
Activity Credits Period Academic staff Timetable
teoria 5 II semestre Gianni Zoccatelli

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laboratorio 1 II semestre Gianni Zoccatelli

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Learning outcomes

Assuming a basic knowledge of food chemistry, the course aims to study the biological activity of a series of substances present in the diet that can positively or negatively influence human health. These substances can be naturally present in the raw materials (e.g. polyphenols, carotenoids, glucosinolates etc.) or be of exogenous origin (e.g. mycotoxins, heavy metals etc.). It will be analyzed in depth how the molecules are modified following the processes of transformation and preservation of food and how the latter are able to generate additional bioactive substances (e.g. acrylamide). The mechanisms of interaction between these molecules and the human organism will be investigated by evaluating case by case the bioaccessibility and the bioavailability of the same and the methodological approaches used to characterize their biological activity and their physico-chemical properties. Modern approaches and technologies for the stabilization (i.e. encapsulation) of nutraceutical molecules will then be studied in depth to produce enriched functional ingredients and foods. Space will also be given to the analysis of current legislation on labeling and nutritional and health claims. At the end of the course the student will be able to understand the complexity of the relationships between the chemical nature and the biological activity towards the human body of many of the substances present in our diet according to the processes of transformation and preservation of food. The student will have the knowledge to intervene with chemical and (bio) technological approaches in order to prevent or facilitate the chemical reactions that underlie the formation or modification of these substances in order to improve food safety and the technological, nutritional and healthy quality of foods, functional foods and food supplements.


the five credits will cover the following aruments:
Introduction to the course.
Plant raw material bioactives: carotenoids, glucosinolates, alkaloids, alfa amylase inhibitors, saponins, polyphenols (enzymatic browning).
Contaminations: Mycotoxins and pesticides.
Focus on the antioxidant potency of food molecules and techniques dedicated to its quantification.

Modifications induced by thermal processing.
General introductions.
Effects on starch, carotenoids, polyphenols.
Maillard reaction and production of advance glycated end-point products (AGEs). Effects of AGEs on human health.

Oxidation of lipids
During heating (frying)
During storage

Contamination of food by heavy metals

Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food. Safety concerns and approaches to quantification

Fiber: definition and positive impact on human health

Micro and nano-encapsulation approaches for active molecules stabilization

The proposed laboratories (1 credit) are designed to give the student an example of study of the biological activity of some enzyme inhibitors acknowledged as anti-nutritionals, and one of the possibility of using fiber polysaccharides as materials for the development of microencapsulated nutraceutical molecules (i.e. carotenoids and anthocyanins)

Assessment methods and criteria

To pass the exam students must demonstrate:
- To know the chemical characteristics and the mechanisms that underlie the biological activity of the various substances present in the diet presented during the course and the modifications that they undergo during the transformation and conservation
- to be able to apply this knowledge in order to improve food safety and the nutritional and technological quality of food by solving application problems

The student must also send to the professor one week before the appeal, a report on one of the experiences seen in the laboratory that will be evaluated.
The test will be oral. The result of the report, if positive, will compensate the final vote in the maximum amount of 10%

Reference books
Activity Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
teoria Jan Pokorny, Nedyalka Yanishlieva, Michael Gordon Antioxidants in food CRC Press 2001
teoria Srinivasan Damodaran, Kirk L. Parkin, Owen R. Fennema Fennema's Food Chemistry (Food Science And Technology) (Edizione 4) CRC Press 2007
teoria Belitz HD, Grosch W, Schieberle P Food Chemistry Springer   978-3-540-69933-0
teoria Mannina, Daglia, Ritieni La chimica e gli alimenti: nutrienti e aspetti nutraceutici CEA 2019 8808184943
laboratorio AA.VV. Current Protocols in Food Analytical Chemistry John Wiley and Sons Inc. 2001