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Regenerative Farming

Project leader: Frederiek van Lienen
Time frame: 2018 – 2022
Project code: 18SFS01
Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


A science-based outline of a potential regenerative-farming system in the Netherlands, combined with actionable transition scenarios, are the key deliverables of the Regenerative Farming project. The four-year project, involving a broad range of partners from the private sector and knowledge institutes, will receive €2.5m funding from Topsector Agri&Food and the private sector.

From complying with the Paris Climate Agreement’s net zero (human induced) greenhouse gas emissions commitment, to the circular and regenerative use of nutrients and soil, as described in the (Netherlands) National Raw Materials Agreement, the Dutch agricultural sector faces significant challenges on the road to meeting its long-term goals for sustainable food production. Over time the sector needs to shift towards a production system with a neutral or positive impact on climate, soils, water and biodiversity. Current studies focus on specific areas or disciplines and aim to reduce negative impacts, but we are lacking research that takes an integrated systems perspective, with the aim of achieving positive impacts.”

 Seeing this need for a systems approach, TiFN defined Regenerative Farming as a key direction in its research strategy for the coming years. We have brought together eight research and industry partners who are committed to investing in this challenging project. Partners include FrieslandCampina, Royal Cosun, BO Akkerbouw, Commonland®, Wageningen University & Research, the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (Utrecht University), the University of Amsterdam and Het Groene Brein.

The project has five work packages: they include creating an integrated, contextual outline for a revised Dutch agricultural production system (by 2050); co-creating – together with arable farmers and dairy farmers – best practices in regenerative production, and shaping robust, quantified scenarios for transitioning to a regenerative production system at national scale. Based on a thorough analysis of the technological, social, economic and policy barriers between the existing system and a regenerative system, we will develop actionable transition scenarios that can bridge the think-do gap.

Sustainable ingredients

 marcel meinders 90

Project leader: Dr Marcel Meinders
Time frame: 2017 – 2021
Project code: 16SS02
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


With a growing global population, food consumption will exceed from that of today. Since raw materials, energy and water are becoming scarcer, we need to adapt to more sustainable sources and production methods for our food. These methods may lie in using other food sources such as plant proteins instead of animal proteins and in using milder processing routes. The latter may include fewer purification steps, in turn implying the use of more complex mixtures as an ingredient, as opposed to first purifying these complex mixtures and then mixing them in the right proportions. In these adaptations we have to safeguard product quality, i.e. the sum of structure, mechanical (including rheological) properties, texture, taste, smell, safety, and nutritional value. All this requires a detailed knowledge on how the nature of a sustainable source and sustainable processing methods affect ingredient composition, and how the consequent compositional complexity affects final product quality.

In the current project we will investigate to what extent more sustainable ingredient sources and processes can be used to manufacture products with desirable structural and mechanical properties.
The strategy is twofold. One is to start with mildly purified plant extracts, investigate bulk and interfacial properties for specific product types and explore the effects of further purification of the ingredients towards less complex composition. The other is to start with mixtures of well purified ingredients form the same plant source, investigate the same bulk and interfacial properties and explore the effects of mixing of the ingredients towards more complex composition. For both strategies, plant based protein mixtures are also mixed with dairy proteins to get insights in the effect of replacement of animal by plant protein on food product structural and mechanical properties.

In particular we aim a) to understand the conditions to produce products with desirable structural and mechanical properties from more sustainable ingredient sources, b) to quantify sustainability effects of source and processing methods for a set of sources and processes and c) to formulate main lever rules that relate the properties of sustainable produced complex ingredient mixtures for a given source to desired product properties like structure and mechanical properties on all relevant length scales.

Key objectives

  • To investigate to what extent more sustainable ingredient sources and processes can be used to manufacture products with desirable structural and mechanical properties.
  • Understand the conditions to produce products with desirable structural and mechanical properties from more sustainable ingredient sources.
  • To quantify sustainability effects of source and processing methods for a set of sources and processes.
  • To formulate main lever rules that relate the properties of sustainable produced complex ingredient mixtures for a given source, to desired product properties like structure and rheological and mechanical properties on all length scales relevant to the product.

Main deliverables

  • Insights in to what extent mild refinement of chosen plant sources can be used to produce food products with desired structural and mechanical properties.
  • Insights in possible sustainability gain when using mild refinement and/or replacement of animal by plant proteins in production of food with desired structural and mechanical properties.
  • Insights in the relations between ingredient composition of complex mixtures of plant proteins, plant and dairy proteins, and plant ingredients, interfacial, film, and food product structure and mechanical properties.
  • Insights in to what extent local pressures can be measured in foods.
  • Local dynamics measured and related to rheology for liquids that contain non-refined plant material and dairy protein mixtures.
  • Generic knowledge and a set of rules relating the key structural and mechanical properties of a specific set of products to those of the complex ingredient mixture and processing routes, including a quantification of sustainability.

 

The biology behind perceivable benefits

 
Ellen Blaak

Project leader: Prof Ellen Blaak
Time frame: 2017 – 2021
Project code: 16NH04
Research theme: Nutrition and Health
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 Summary


A healthy lifestyle is an essential element to release the physical and mental potential of every individual and is able to prevent the epidemic development of overweight, and cardiometabolic diseases. Unfortunately, most people do not manage to incorporate or to maintain the recommended changes in their daily lifestyle. This may be due to the fact that people do not perceive the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in the short term, nor the adverse effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.

It is increasingly recognised that maintaining well-controlled blood glucose concentrations is essential for remaining healthy and preventing chronic metabolic diseases. Additionally, there is evidence that well-controlled blood glucose concentrations (by boosting physical and mental energy) may be an important determinant of well-being, mental and physical performance. The link between blood glucose and the latter factors has hardly been studied. Moreover, it is not known to what extent these relationships differ in healthy subjects and subjects with an impaired glucose metabolism and what the impact is of a disturbed circadian rhythm. When people feel better, fitter and/or otherwise motivated to follow a dietary advice, for instance by personalized feedback on physiological measures of glucose control or other indicators of health status, the implementation of a healthy lifestyle is expected to be more successful.

Furthermore, despite being compliant to lifestyle advices, the metabolic flexibility to respond to lifestyle intervention may vary between individuals. Recent evidence indicates that insulin resistance and metabolic inflexibility may develop separately in different organs, representing different etiologies towards cardio-metabolic diseases. Interestingly, these tissue-specific sub-phenotypes may have a differential response to diet. In a recent ground-breaking study, it was shown that, despite high inter-individual variability in glycemic response, responses to individual meals in daily life could be more accurately predicted by means of an algorithm that included lifestyle factors (diet, physical activity) and microbial composition as compared to a prediction by common practice. The above data suggest that successful lifestyle interventions may require a more personalised approach.

Key objectives

  1. Obtain insight into the metabolic and lifestyle determinants of blood glucose responses and glycemic variability and relate the latter responses to mental and physical performance and well-being
  2. Study how acute and chronic dietary and/or physical activity interventions affect blood glucose homeostasis in metabolically different subgroups and how this consequently alters the related mental and physical performance, well-being and food preferences.
  3. Develop multi-scale tissue dynamic and mathematical models on diet and lifestyle (physical activity) in relation to blood glucose homeostasis (including microbiota and host metabolism) and mental and physical performance and well-being.
  4. Test whether tailored dietary interventions/physical activity programs based on these models may improve blood glucose homeostasis and physical and mental performance and well-being
  5. Evaluate the application of wearables and other tools to quantify the biological and mental biomarkers

Main deliverables:

  • Establishment of (cause-effect) relationships between blood glucose homeostasis,the underlying tissue related physiology and the perceivable benefits connected to mental and physical performance and well-being
  • Demonstration that subgroup-based dietary/lifestyle intervention may optimize the beneficial effect on blood glucose homeostasis and metabolic health and related perceivable benefits
  • Generation of multi-tissue dynamic and mathematical models that can determine the ranges at which diet/lifestyle intervention can modulate the blood glucose homeostasis and underlying physiology and in turn the related perceivable benefits
  • Proof of the concept and more detailed knowledge on more personalised and effective lifestyle-related strategies to improve blood glucose management and related perceivable benefits
 

Anabolic properties of plant based proteins

 
luc van loon 90

Project leader: Prof Luc van Loon
Time frame: 2016 – 2020
Project code: 16 NH02
Research theme: Nutrition and Health
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 Summary


More than half of the total amount of dietary protein that is consumed by humans worldwide is of plant origin, with plant based proteins providing up to 80% of dietary protein consumed in less developed regions. Overall it is assumed that plant based proteins are less potent in stimulating post–‐prandial muscle protein synthesis. However, the anabolic properties of the main plant based protein sources have hardly been assessed. This project will investigate the anabolic properties of a selection of plant based protein sources and a key reference protein. After the evaluation of the nitrogen content and amino acid profiles of the main plant based proteins, a selection will be tested for their capacity to stimulate post–‐prandial muscle protein synthesis in vivo in humans.

Furthermore, protein blends will be defined and tested for their combined anabolic properties.

This project will bring together key players in the nutrition industry to evaluate the anabolic properties of plant based proteins and develop novel concepts for more sustainable protein consumption in both health and disease.

Key objectives

  • To assess the anabolic properties of key plant based protein sources and specific protein blends.

Main deliverables

  • Definition of nitrogen content and amino acid profile of a wide variety of plant based proteins.
  • Assessment of the anabolic response to the ingestion of a selection of key plant based proteins, a key reference protein, and their protein blends in vivo in humans.
  • Deeper understanding of the anabolic properties of plant based proteins in vivo in humans.
 

Red discoloration of fresh-cut leafy vegetables

 
joost snels 90

Project leader: Joost Snels, MSc
Time frame: 2014 – 2016
Project code: RE003

Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


The shelf life of fresh-cut leafy vegetables is limited to about 6 days. This short shelf life causes spoilage and loss of earnings. Quality determining factors are fast red and brown discoloration of the cut surfaces, followed by loss of freshness and degradation of the vegetables. Both of these phenomena are caused by independent processes. Red and brown discoloration of cut surfaces are caused by aging processes. In order to prevent these early discoloration reactions, the processed product is packaged under low oxygen levels to avoid oxidation reactions.

The goal of this project is to develop new technologies to suppress the fast red and brown discoloration. Once these have been suppressed, the product can be packaged under less extreme conditions to prevent the formation of by-products which are toxic for the plant cells. The first tests will be carried out on laboratory scale. The most promising treatments will then be tested for pilot and industrial scale.

iStock_000008112119_Large
 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2014 An MILP approximation for ordering perishable products with non-stationary demand and service level constraints View summary
Invited lectures
2015 Measures for reducing chilled-food waste at the retail outlet  
Invited lectures 2015 Organic acids produced by lactic acid bacteria (Leuconostoc sp.) are related to sensorial quality decrease inmodified atmosphere packed fresh-cut iceberg lettuce  
Scientific publications 2015 KeCo: Kernel-Based Online Co-agreement Algorithm  

 

Heterogeneity in spores of food spoilage fungi

 
han wosten 120

Project leader: Prof dr Han Wösten
Time frame: 2017 – 2021
Project code: 16MF02
Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


Food production should be increased by 70% to feed the human world population in 2050. Reducing post-harvest food spoilage could significantly contribute to this challenge. At the moment, 25% of the food is spoiled, a significant part due to fungal contamination. Fungal food spoilage can be found in all food categories. For instance, Aspergillus niger and Paecilomyces variotii are important spoilage fungi of fruits and processed foods, respectively. Penicillium roqueforti is a spoilage fungus of airtight stored grain and dairy products, while Saccharomyces cerevisiae subsp. diastaticus is the main cause of spoilage of alcohol-free beer and beer-mix beverages. Fungal spoilage not only affects visual and organoleptic properties of food but can also result in the production of toxins. Food preservation methods like sterilization and salt addition reduce spoilage enormously. However, consumers prefer minimal processing of food to maintain taste and composition and to reduce health risks. This, however, leads to increased risk of fungal spoilage. Therefore, new food processing protocols are needed.

Fungal food spoilage often starts with a contamination with spores. These reproductive structures are abundant in the environment. Experimental data strongly indicate the existence of subpopulations of spores with different levels of resistance to preservation methods. The aim of this project is to study the extent of this heterogeneity and to study the underlying mechanisms using spores of Aspergillus niger, Paecilomyces variotii, Penicillium roqueforti, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae subsp. diastaticus as model systems. The role of the genetic background, environmental conditions, and the developmental state of the mycelium and spores will be studied. Quantitative imaging, genome and RNA sequencing, functional gene analysis, and modelling will be used, which should reveal leads for novel mild intervention protocols to prevent food spoilage.

Key objectives

  • Study the impact of the genetic background by using a collection of strains of different geographic origin and originating from contaminated food and beverages.
  • Study the impact of environmental growth conditions by isolating spores from colonies grown at different substrates either or not in the presence of sub-lethal stress conditions.
  • Study the impact of the developmental stage of the colony and the conidia by isolating spores of different age from different zones of colonies.
  • Show a proof of concept of a novel processing treatment that prevents fungal spoilage by making use of a combination of mild interventions.

Main deliverables

  • Description of the impact of the genetic background on variability in stress resistance between strains of the model fungi used in this project.
  • Description of the impact of environmental growth conditions on variability in stress resistance between strains of the model fungi used in this project.
  • Description of the impact of the developmental state of the mycelium and the spores on variability in stress resistance between strains of the model fungi used in this project.
  • Molecules triggering germination of a (sub)population of spores of the model fungi used in this project.
  • Mechanism(s) underlying spore heterogeneity with respect to stress resistance.
  • Generic models describing growth/no growth boundaries and/or germination and outgrowth kinetics.
  • Proof of concept of a novel processing treatment that prevents.

iStock_000015777309Medium

Protein and physical activity to improve muscle health in men diagnosed with metastasized prostate cancer

 
luc van loon 90

Project leader: Prof Luc van Loon
Time frame: 2016 – 2020
Project code: 16 NH03
Research theme: Nutrition and Health
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 Summary


Because of the increasing prevalence of prostate cancer (PC) together with the increasing use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), preventing or limiting the negative consequences of ADT on body composition, becomes very important. ADT leads to an increase in fat mass (especially abdominal fat) and a decrease in muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass may contribute to fatigue, weakness, decreased physical performance, a lower level of independent living and a lower health related quality of life (HRQoL). Moreover, the increase in abdominal fat may enhance the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some other comorbidities. A substantial number of studies in patients with PC undergoing ADT show positive effects of exercise training on muscle mass, muscle strength, fatigue, physical performance, and HRQoL. Studies investigating the additional effect of dietary interventions, only explored the effect of a healthy or energy-restricted diet on body weight and fat mass. Although studies in healthy subjects and in frail elderly people show favorable additional effects of protein supplementation in combination with training on lean body mass, muscle strength and physical performance compared to training alone, no studies have assessed the impact of protein supplementation with exercise training in cancer patients. Therefore, the aim of the current study is to investigate if a combined intervention of resistance type exercise training (two 60 min exercise sessions per week for 4 months) with or without protein supplementation (20 g protein immediately after each exercise session, 30 g protein prior to sleep daily) is more effective to prevent or decrease the adverse effects of ADT on body composition in men with PC compared to resistance type exercise training with placebo supplementation or usual care. Primary study endpoints will be muscle mass, fat mass and body fat distribution. Secondary study endpoints will be muscle strength, physical performance, physical activity, level of independent living, nutritional intake, body weight, body height, HRQoL, fatigue, comorbidity and clinical laboratory tests. Measurements will be executed at baseline and after 4 months of intervention, and 8 months thereafter. This project will bring together key players in the nutrition industry and research institutes to evaluate the impact of protein supplementation to augment the benefits of exercise training and, as such, to develop novel concepts for protein enriched products and protein supplements both for the
clinical and the consumer market.
 
Key objectives
 
  • To define the benefits of resistance type exercise training with or without protein supplementation on body composition, functional capacity, and health in patients diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated with androgen deprivation therapy.
 
Main deliverables
  • Assessment of the impact of androgen deprivation therapy on muscle mass, muscle strength and metabolic health in patients diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • Definition of the benefits of resistance type exercise training as a means to attenuate the decline in muscle mass, muscle strength and metabolic health in patients diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • Definition of the benefits of protein supplementation to further augment the benefits of resistance type exercise training to attenuate or even prevent the decline in muscle mass, muscle strength and metabolic health in patients diagnosed with prostate cancer.

 

Mitochondrial health

 
patrick schrauwen 90

Project leader: Prof Patrick Schrauwen
Time frame: 2016 – 2020
Project code: 16 NH01
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


Mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, are essential organelles in all cells relying on aerobic metabolism to maintain cellular energy levels necessary for all vital processes in the cell and human body. It has been known for decades that aging is associated with a decline in skeletal muscle mitochondrial function. Despite this fact, it is only recently that the therapeutic importance of mitochondria has become fully appreciated. Improving mitochondrial activity cannot only potentially delay the general aging process, but more importantly also retard the onset of diseases linked with aging, such as loss of muscle mass and physical function. This not only has led to an intense interest to identify molecular pathways that govern mitochondrial number and function, but also spurred an intense search to identify new nutrients and drugs that can be used to improve mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are very sensitive to nutritional signals, which is not surprising given the role of these organelles in nutrient handling. This opens the way to explore the potential of food components and specific nutrients to boost muscle mitochondrial function, thereby improving muscle health and help in the prevention and improvement of age-related disturbances.

The project will focus on evaluating novel food components on mitochondrial metabolism and its relation to muscle health. It is expected that basic science in in vitro muscle cell models can reveal novel food components that affect mitochondrial metabolism, and can unravel the underlying mechanisms. Using short-term human intervention studies, the translational aspect of the potential of such food components to boost mitochondrial function will be tested in the elderly population, with a focus on those with compromised physical function. Cross-sectional studies will be used to investigate the relationship between muscle mitochondrial function and muscle health in elderly, whereas we will use large cohort studies to investigate the relationship between habitual food consumption and markers of muscle health and physical function. Finally, we aim to identify novel biomarkers of mitochondrial function that can be applied in observational and intervention studies. It is anticipated that the project Mitochondrial Health will provide the industrial partners with novel insights in the potential of food components and specific nutrients to prevent, delay or improve aging associated decline and disturbances in muscle health and physical function, by targeting mitochondrial function.

Key objectives

  • Examine the relationship between mitochondrial function and muscle health in elderly
  • Explore the role of nutrition and food components in stimulating mitochondrial function in elderly with compromised physical function
  • Investigate from cohort studies the relationship between nutrient intake/status and (markers of) muscle health
  • To identify biomarkers of mitochondrial function
 

Sustainable packages

 Hans-van-Trijp 90

Project leader: Prof Hans van Trijp
Time frame: 2014 – 2018
Project code: SD002
Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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Summary


The project aims to deliver scientific based insights, regarding the environmental burden caused by product packaging chains in the Netherlands. In order to succeed, the most relevant mechanisms that contribute to this environmental burden will be clarified. Via a strong interconnection between the work packages, the integration of the insights will strengthen the science base in the field of packaging, to feed into an implementation and valorization process of “holistic” packaging design. It does so by taking the design requirements of different actors in the chain into account beforehand, as well as the environmental impact that such design choices may have across the total packaging life cycle. The project aims to facilitate the circular economy approach, by reducing the environmental impact of packaging in relation to the functioning of the product packaging combinations. The project addresses a number of fundamental knowledge gaps regarding packaging throughout its life cycle.

The research will be executed in four work packages:

  • The development of a consensus model for the assessment of the total environmental impact of product packaging chains
  • Development of innovative packaging design tools and solutions based on scientific insight into end consumer and marketing requirements, and the state of the art in the packaging design discipline
  • Collection and recycling efficiency and effectiveness, studying the relations between the psychological factors of individuals inside collection areas and the attained collection results, and the relation between packaging design and the EOL-fates of these packages.
  • In-depth exploration of the strategic redesign of the plastic waste chain via research, to explore the application possibilities of recovered packaging materials and scenario studies to forecast improvements of the overall packaging system.

The main scientific benefits are the better understanding of critical processes along the packaging chain; the packaging design process, the packaging material collection process, the utilization of recycled materials and the environmental assessment of product packaging systems. The industrial benefits are dealt with in a separate valorization program, connected to the research network coordinator.

Ultimately, the project will develop new tools and methodologies for the product packaging design process, in which packaging requirements of key actors and environmental impacts across the packaging lifecycle are taken into consideration beforehand.

 

Evolutionary trade-offs in dairy fermentations

 GA--20160601-751_1716.NEF

Project leader: Dr Herwig Bachmann
Time Frame: 2016 – 2020
Project code: 16MF01
Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


In engineering and economics trade-offs are well known. Similarly, evolutionary trade-offs in microbial cells are defined as the optimization of one trait at the cost of another. For instance if a cells puts lots of energy into the production of costly molecules like exo-polysaccharides little energy is available for cell growth.

This project focuses on the influence of trade-offs on industrial fermentations. We will investigate the role for key enzymes in dairy fermentations including enzymes involved in growth, (post-) acidification, flavor- and texture formation. Industrially relevant parameters will be investigated including temperature, salt, starvation and pH stress. These conditions change rapidly throughout cheese manufacturing and we will investigate how these changes influence functionality of the starter culture in the fermented dairy product. The results of this project are designed to allow us to develop new starter cultures, shorten lag-phases,  increase flavor formation and shorten cheese ripening times and improve the robustness of the fermentation process.

Main deliverables

  • Proteome turnover in L. lactis under industrial relevant conditions.
  • Enzymatic activity decay data on at least 10 flavor and growth related enzymes at industrially relevant conditions.
  • Impact of environmental transitions on heterogeneity, outgrowth and fermentation times in milk.
  • Modulation of the catalytic capacity of a starter culture.
  • Extended metabolic model to identify trade-offs based on data generated in the deliverables above.
  • Alteration of starter functionalities (in whey, milk and cheese) by exploiting trade-offs.

Round creamy cheese, with a wedge cut out, isolated on white background.

 

 

SHARP-BASIC

  pietervantveer

Project leader: Prof Pieter van ‘t Veer
Time frame: 2016 – 2019
Project code: SD004
Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


Supplying a growing population with sufficient food is one of the world’s major challenges. It is estimated that the world food production needs to increase at a rate of 1.2% per year to realise adequate diets for all people. Adequate in this sense means that the diet fulfils nutrient and energy requirements for healthy growing and ageing. At the same time the supply of the basic foods composing a healthy diet should be sustainable, safe and accessible for all people.

The overall aim of the SHARP-BASIC project is to provide a scientifically underpinned knowledge and data platform that can be used to build models for deriving SHARP diets for European citizens, i.e., a diet that is SHARP: Sustainable, Healthy, Affordable, Reliable and Preferable.

Key objectives

  • Identification of SHARP indicators and an evaluation of their scientific quality.
  • Development of a theoretical mathematical model for defining SHARP diets.

Main deliverables

  • Insight on the availability and quality of existing databases.
  • A database with SHARP indicators.
  • A mathematical basis of the SHARP diet model, illustrated with food survey data.
 bread

Smooth bite for all

 markus stieger 90

Project leader: Dr Markus Stieger
Time frame: 2016 – 2019
Project code: 16SS01
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


Properties of foods such as the micro- and macroscopic structure have been demonstrated to determine the behaviour of the food during consumption. The structural, rheological and tribological transitions which foods undergo during mastication influence oral processing behaviour. Oral processing behaviour depends on oral physiology. Recently, eating capability has been proposed as a concept describing an individual’s capability to orally manipulate and swallow foods. Consequently, oral physiology contributes to eating capability. Eating capability varies largely between consumer groups depending on age, gender and ethnicity. Oral processing behaviour can be influenced by the structural and textural properties of foods and influences dynamic sensory perception and hedonic appreciation. Sensory perception is influenced by product expectations which depend on previous tasting experiences. Product expectations and product familiarity differ between consumer groups. Sensory perception is accompanied by dynamic perception of food evoked emotions which depend on consumption context. Eating behaviour is highly relevant for sensory and emotion perception and consequently for liking of foods. The complex interrelationships between these properties needs to be taken into account when designing food products for target consumer groups such as young adults, healthy elderly or specific ethnic groups (Caucasian, Asians). With the trending topics of the healthy, ageing population, growing markets in Asia and personalized nutrition, effective food texture design for target consumer groups is required.
 
The increasing demand for personalized nutrition and foods represents an opportunity, yet a challenge for food industry. In the case of food texture, different segments of consumers with different preferred textures have been identified recently by marketing researchers. Consumers were separated in categories corresponding to their preference for food textures. In order to develop products that will be successful on the market, it is essential to understand the reasons for product acceptance and rejection. However, this is not enough. Most products are playing in very competitive markets. To be successful products must not only be acceptable, but must ‘delight’ the consumer. Developing products with the knowledge of how texture acts to aid in this is a critically important tool.
 
Many foods that are highly liked are composed of multiple components with considerably different mechanical properties on macroscopic length scales. The mechanical contrast between the components might lead to contrasting texture sensations, which have been suggested to enhance palatability of foods. Texture contrast and texture heterogeneity can make generally well-liked foods even more liked. Mechanical contrasts can be caused by inhomogeneity in food structure at different length scales. The combination of macroscopic components with contrasting mechanical properties in composite foods results in complex oral food breakdown behaviour in mouth and dynamic texture perception.
 
Key objective
  • To determine the influence of structural and textural food properties and expectations of foods on bolus properties, oral processing behaviour, dynamic sensory perception and liking in consumer groups varying in age, ethnicity and eating capability.

Main deliverables

  • Knowledge on the interrelationships between food properties, especially texture heterogeneity, expectations, bolus properties, food oral processing behavior, dynamic sensory and emotion perception and liking in consumers varying in age, ethnicity and eating capability.

 

 

Reduction of spoilage in fresh and chilled products

 
joost snels 90

Project leader: Joost Snels, MSc
Time frame: 2011 – 2016
Project code: RE002

Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


Food wastage still is one of the most important topics within the food chain. Following the Dutch and European governments’ commitment to substantially reducing food waste, the Dutch food industry and food retailer sector have taken up the challenge and are leading the way, as this project, now almost half-completed, shows.

The significant efforts applied to developing new predictive models for microbial spoilage and sensorial decay for fresh-cut iceberg lettuce, minced meat and tenderloin have paid off. Researchers from TNO and Wageningen UR Food & Biobased research have developed new models for the lettuce and NIZO food research for the meats. Research showed that, for both the lettuce and the meat, sensorial decay declines much faster than microbial growth-related quality decay. For fresh-cut iceberg lettuce this means limpness, colour changes (becoming brown and red) and developing off-flavour, and for meat it means discolouration/greying. New algorithms and ‘smart’ order policies are being developed, alongside new models that not only take the more-usual elements into account, but also factor-in the shelf life of the specific consumer package by including the different best-before or use-by dates of the products.

An important milestone is that the first operational version of the Decision Support Model (DSS) is ready for use. Due to the involvement of producers and retailers – in both the lettuce and meat chains – real life data and daily practice and insight are being fed into the DSS. These producers and retailers also formulated several innovative scenarios that could considerably reduce food waste at the retailer level. Running and analysing these scenarios will be the main goal for the coming year. We expect to be able to identify the most-relevant scenarios and measure their potential for reducing food wastage.

food-waste
 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2014 An MILP approximation for ordering perishable products with non-stationary demand and service level constraints View summary
Invited lectures
2015 Measures for reducing chilled-food waste at the retail outlet  
Invited lectures 2015 Organic acids produced by lactic acid bacteria (Leuconostoc sp.) are related to sensorial quality decrease inmodified atmosphere packed fresh-cut iceberg lettuce  
Scientific publications 2015 KeCo: Kernel-Based Online Co-agreement Algorithm  

 

Detection

masja nierop 90

Project leader: Dr Masja Nierop Groot
Time frame 2011 – 2013
Project code: SP003

Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


The detection and characterisation of microbial contaminants in raw materials, intermediate and end products is important for improving product quality and process efficiency. The Detection project has addressed research needs that include concentration methods for the detection of extremely low numbers of microorganisms (Concentration), insight into the composition and outgrowth of the microbial spoilage population (Composition) and insight into the physiological state of spoilage microorganisms in order to reduce their survival in food processing and preservation conditions (Physiological state).

 

In the Concentration sub-project we developed milk pre-treatment methods based on proteolytic digestion. These methods have allowed the entrapment and enumeration of microorganisms on a microsieve. Experiments for the detection of spores in clear media by the microsieve method showed a detection limit of approximately 103 spores per ml. In the Composition sub-project we applied mass sequencing to monitor the spoilage population in a ready-to-eat rice meal, during spontaneous spoilage in the absence or presence of weak organic acids, in order to assess the effects of these acids on outgrowth and compare the results to those obtained by conventional plate counting. In addition, we monitored the presence and outgrowth of a mixture of bacterial spores in a soup matrix using a very similar approach. In the Physiological state sub-project, analysis of heterogeneity in the heat-stress-resistance of Bacillus subtilis was carried out using live/dead stains followed by single-cell analysis. The differences observed in stress sensitivity appeared subtle.

The project was successfully completed in 2013 and has resulted in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Applied Environmental Microbiology (Yu et al), and a cross-project collaboration with Biofilm and Detection – another project within the theme Food Safety and Preservation. The project also delivered a manuscript with active input from the two industry partners involved in the project. Moreover, the outcomes were received with interest at the SPOILERS 2013 congress in Quimper (France). A review on cultivation-independent detection of extremely low amounts of micro-organisms is under preparation, initiated by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research – one of the research partners in the project.

 

 

 

Food-induced modulation of the intestinal immune barrier

paul de vos 90

 

Project leader: Dr Paul de Vos
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: GH002
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


Many food products contain bioactive ingredients that might contribute to gastrointestinal health, such as probiotics and fibres. To date, scientific substantiation of such beneficial effects has been difficult to obtain due to the absence of validated tests. This project aims to develop a technology platform for testing the effects of novel food components on the intestinal immune barrier. The platform will assist food manufacturers in substantiating their health claims.

 

Both in vitro and in vivo model studies are being performed to investigate how food components can modulate the intestinal immune barrier. The research focus is on the mutual effects and interplay between the intestinal microbial ecology, the mucus, the epithelial barrier and the immune system. Some immune biomarkers, that measure effects in different ages and genders, have been identified. The essential role of mucus, in the maintenance of the intestinal immune barrier, has been confirmed. A patent for an immune biomarker and three scientific papers on immune sampling have recently been accepted.

In 2013 the project received a funding extension and three ‘incentive’ projects were added to the project: 1) FibeBiotics, 2) The case of Akkermansia and Mucositis and 3) Bioactive food ingredients.

The addition of the FibeBiotics project has allowed us to develop more technologies to predict the bioactivity of food components in humans. The Mucositis project started in 2015 and serves as a novel model to study the efficacy of food components. In The case of Akkermansia project, a mucus degrader – microbiota – will be studied in more detail via immune sampling. The project will be completed with human volunteer clinical trials to study the effects of immunomodulating food products on the intestinal immune barrier.

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Weight gain in freshman college students and perceived health View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 The impact of dietary fibers on dendritic cell responses in vitro is dependent on the differential effects of the fibers on intestinal epithelial cells View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Resistant starches differentially stimulate Toll-like receptors and attenuate proinflammatory cytokines in dendritic cells by modulation of intestinal epithelial cells  View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Interaction of mouse splenocytes and macrophages with bacterial strains in vitro: the effect of age in the immune response View summary

Validation of biomarkers

Top Institute Food & Nutrition - Annual Conference 2014, met uitreiking Joop Roels Impact Award

 

Project leader: Prof Cisca Wijmenga
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: GH001
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


There is an urgent need for established markers that reflect and predict gastrointestinal (GI) health. GI health is best defined as the absence of both disease and GI discomfort and the organism’s ability to return to homeostasis after a challenge, such as heavy exercise or a mild microbial infection.

 

This project aims to define signatures of a healthy gut. We test the validity of a set of existing single biomarkers and try to establish if new techniques such as metabolomics in exhaled breath, genomics and microbiomics can be used to identify signatures of biomarkers for a healthy gut. The focus is on easily-accessible biomarkers that can be monitored using a limited number of biological sample types such as stool, blood and exhaled breath, obtained from (prospective) cohorts of healthy subjects and from patients with functional GI disorders.

We collected extensive datasets covering more than 18,000 individuals from leading Dutch cohorts. We built our own sub-cohort, LifeLines-deep (LLDeep), which has 1,500 participants and supplied extra data for use in the project, and we also used data from 500 participants in the Maastricht-IBS (M-IBS) cohort.

At the end of the project the focus shifted to analysing the collected material and to correlating the relations between the existing single biomarkers, genetic backgrounds, exhaled breath and microbiome. A relation between all of these markers and GI health and intestinal integrity has been established.

 

Nurse With Patient During Health Check

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals Nieuwland, M., Bouwman, W.G., Bennink, M.L., Silletti, E., De Jongh, H.H.J. (2015) Characterizing length scales that determine the mechanical behavior of gels from crosslinked casein micelles. Food Biophysics 10, 416 – 427 View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals Nieuwland, M., Bouwman, W.G., Bennink, M.L., Silletti, E., De Jongh, H.H.J. (2015) Characterizing length scales that determine the mechanical behavior of gels from crosslinked casein micelles. Food Biophysics 10, 416 – 427 View summary
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Cardiovascular health; relevance of vascular-function markers

ronald mensink 90

 

Project leader: Prof. Ronald Mensink
Time frame: 2011 – 2014
Project code: CH001
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


From industrial, academic and public health perspectives there is an urgent need to substantiate the validity and relevance of diet-sensitive vascular-function (VF) markers of cardiovascular health (CVH). The aim of this project is to study how, and to what extent, diet-induced changes in VF markers predict CVH outcomes in humans. These questions will be addressed via a multidisciplinary approach aimed at demonstrating and unravelling the mechanistic cause-effect relationships between selected dietary components, VF markers, endothelial (dys)function, blood pressure, organ (dys)function, disease risk and other established cardiovascular risk factors.

 

With financial support from DSM and FrieslandCampina, a TKI project was funded to examine, in humans, the relationship between (and underlying mechanisms of) urinary-sulphate excretions and vascular risk. Subjects were provided with a relatively low-sodium, low-potassium diet, for 1 week. The diet contained 2.4g of sodium and 2.3g of potassium per day in a 2,500 kcal intake. Subsequently, while remaining on the study diet, subjects received, randomly over a 4-week period, capsules with either supplemental sodium (3g per day), supplemental potassium (2.8g per day) or a placebo.
In a randomised, placebo-controlled, crossover study with 37 untreated (pre)hypertensive subjects, it was clearly demonstrated that doubling the intake of sodium strongly raised blood pressure, while potassium had a beneficial effect. Arterial stiffness did not change during the 4-week intervention period.

A prospective cohort study of normotensive subjects demonstrated that low urinary potassium excretion was associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension. Such a relationship was not found between the urinary sodium to potassium ratio.
A longer-term human intervention study (6 months) investigating the effects of magnesium supplementation on arterial stiffness has begun in 2014. Furthermore, the International Working Group (experts in the field of VF measurements) combined data from various studies to identify quality standards for measuring flow-mediated dilation.

 

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Effects of sodium and potassium supplementation on blood pressure and arterial stiffness: a fully controlled dietary intervention study View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Vitamin K status and mortality after kidney transplantation: A cohort study View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Plasma vitamin D level and change in albuminuria and eGFR according to sodium intake View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Reference values for local arterial stiffness. Part A: carotid artery View summary

Microbiota, energy balance and metabolism

Prof. Dr Ellen Blaak: Project Leader at TI Food and Nutrition and Professor of the Physiology of Fat Metabolism at Maastricht University. in measurement room for respiratory gases

 

Project leader: Prof Ellen Blaak
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: GH003
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


Recent research suggests that the gastrointestinal microbiota and its products might play a role in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus through effects on gut physiology, energy metabolism, body weight and insulin sensitivity.

 

The aim of this project is to fill the knowledge gap in the relation between gut microbiota, gut physiology and human energy metabolism by combining state-of-the-art, detailed human phenotyping and detailed characterisation of gut-microbiota composition and its functionality. Particular focus will be on interactions between gut-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), and liver, adipose tissue and skeletal-muscle metabolism.

The project uses human intervention studies to elucidate the significance of the gut microbiota and its products, in particular SCFA, in body-weight control and insulin sensitivity. Approaches include:

  • knockdown of gut microbiota via antibiotics
  • SCFA administration at different sites of the colon
  • SCFA dynamics after ingestion of 13C-inulin
  • measurement of SCFA fluxes across gut and liver
  • faecal transplants from lean donors in subjects with metabolic syndrome

Ex vivo and in vitro testing and gene-expression analysis are being conducted, using adipose tissue and muscle biopsies from the human-intervention studies, to study in more detail the link between gut microbiota-derived products, adipose tissue and skeletal muscle metabolism. Data from the different human studies will be used for computational modelling of human SCFA metabolism.

The relationship between microbiota composition at 6 years of age and weight gain is being investigated via the KOALA children cohort study. Microbiota composition in the human-intervention and epidemiological studies will be determined using HITChip methodology.

In 2014, most of the human studies were completed, giving unique results with respect to the metabolic impact of antibiotics, colonic SCFA administration, the dynamics of SCFA metabolism and faeces transplantation in humans, including detailed characterisation of microbiota composition and parameters of body weight control and insulin sensitivity. A proof-of-concept dietary-intervention study has been initiated after defining an ‘optimal’ gut SCFA composition for body-weight control and insulin sensitivity.

Insights generated in this project are expected to provide leads for the development of dietary strategies to prevent and treat obesity and obesity-related disorders.

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals  2015 -Hepatic uptake of rectally administered butyrate prevents an increase in systemic butyrate concentrations in humans View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals  2015 – Gut colonization with methanobrevibacter smithii is associated with childhood weight development View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals  2015 – Short-chain fatty acids protect against high-fat-induced obesity via a PPARgamma-dependent switch from lipogenesis to fatty-acid oxidation View summary

Molecular interactions

koen venema 90

Project leader: Dr Koen Venema
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: GH004
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


To date, there is little understanding of the mechanisms underlying interactions between intestinal bacteria, dietary components and intestinal-mucosa function. This hampers the development of targeted dietary interventions to improve gastrointestinal health. The Molecular interactions project aims to provide mechanistic insights into the communication between generic bacterial components of gram-positive, cell-wall constituents and epithelial, immune and endocrine cells in the intestinal mucosa. In addition, a number of dietary oligosaccharides and polysaccharides (fibres) have been selected to evaluate their potential in direct signalling with mucosal tissues. Moreover, the impact of these fibres on the in situ metabolism of the microbiota is being investigated using advanced metagenomics-based molecular tools.

 

The insights generated in this project will enable the definition of targeted dietary interventions for improved gastrointestinal health. In addition, the project will provide a technology platform that allows monitoring of the effects of bacteria and/or fibres, and will provide tools for determining compositional and functional changes within the intestinal microbiota.

Assays of immune-system cells and also reporter cells, that study signalling through different pattern-recognition receptors, were used to screen a number of mutants of the probiotic L. plantarum WCFS1. These mutants were devoid of several major cell-wall components, such as lipoteichoic- and wall-teichoic acid, lipoproteins, and/or glycosylated proteins. In addition, the effect of a collection of >50 fibres on immune cells was analysed. This led to ongoing characterisation of a number of relevant mutants and fibres. For example, active fibre preparations are fractionated and modified using (microbial) enzymes or chemical modification, in order to study their bioactivity in more detail. This should lead to an understanding of their structure-function relationship. Also, the degradation of products, during fermentation by the microbiota, is being studied to evaluate the production of bioactive fibre-intermediates by human gut microbes and the sequential process of fibre degradation by the gut microbiota.

 

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 The art of targeting gut microbiota for tackling human obesity View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Evaluation of an optimal preparation of human faecal inocula for in vitro fermentation studies View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 The use of fecal samples for studying human obesity View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Diet drives quick changes in the metabolic activity and composition of human gut microbiota in a validated in vitro gut model View summary

Muscle health and function

lisette de groot 90

Project leader: Prof Lisette de Groot
Time frame: 2012 – 2015
Project code: MH001
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


Muscle mass, strength, and physical performance are not only critical for athletic performance but also for healthy ageing and survival. Strategies which are considered effective in improving muscle growth and physical performance in athletes might be equally effective in countering loss of muscle mass and function in diseased and/or elderly people. Nutrition and exercise are considered the most effective measures to stimulate muscle growth and improve physical performance.

 

In this project, several acute and long-term human intervention trials were initiated to study 1) the impact of protein intake prior to sleep on subsequent overnight muscle-protein accretion, 2) the impact of vitamin D supplementation on physical performance in frail elderly people and 3) the anabolic properties of creatin to attenuate loss of muscle mass and strength during a period of muscle disuse. Gene-expression profiles and metabolic profiles in skeletal muscle tissue are being studied to reveal the mechanistic processes behind the (presumed) effects of novel nutritional strategies,

The project defined dietary strategies and novel nutritional concepts to enhance muscle mass and improve strength and physical performance. Populations likely to benefit most from these strategies include those aiming to improve sports performance and those most prone to loss of muscle mass and function due to immobilisation, disease and/or malnutrition.

 

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 The effect of exercise trianing on the course of cardiac troponin T and I levels: three independent training studies View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 The muscle metabolome differs between healthy and frail older adults View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Handgrip strength does not represent an appropriate measure to evaluate changes in muscle strength during an exercise intervention program in frail older people View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Dietary protein intake in elderly people: A focus on protein sources View summary

Nutrient sensing

henk hendriks 90

Project leader: Dr Henk Hendriks
Time frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: WM001
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


The food industry needs new, appropriate targets to aid development of functional foods for weight management in order to prevent obesity and to sustain a healthy body weight; this project aims to identify new targets. Primary focus is on the intestinal brake, the negative-feedback loop to more-proximal parts of the gastro-intestinal tract, with intestinal taste receptors as additional candidates.

 

The potency of various nutrients to induce an intestinal-brake mechanism was investigated. A first study showed that all macronutrients are equally able to reduce energy intake after ileal delivery. The second study investigated duodenal delivery of various tastants alone or in combination. Combining tastants reduced energy intake without stimulating satiety hormones. Two studies were performed. The first study focussed on the relevance of the nutrient delivery site for intestinal-brake activation and the second study evaluates the efficacy of repetitive ileal-brake activation. A proof-of-concept study, aiming at body-weight reduction by longer-term intestinal-brake activation in a real-life situation, has been developed.

Changes in molecular pathways, in the stomach and duodenum of obese patients subjected to a stomach-volume-reduction technique for body-weight reduction, were investigated. Transcriptome analysis revealed that expression of somatostatin was reduced in both the fundus and duodenum, suggesting reduced inhibition of satiety hormone secretion (ghrelin, GLP-1 and PYY). Gene sets related to inflammation were downregulated in the fundus; gene sets related to lipid metabolism were upregulated in the duodenum.

It was demonstrated, using tissue segments collected from various regions of the pig small intestine, that satiety hormones (GLP-1 and PYY) stimulate efficacy of the novel sweetener Rebaudioside A (Reb A). Research in cell lines and in ileal epithelial organoids (murine mini-guts) revealed that Reb A did not increase intracellular calcium levels. Furthermore, the sweet-taste receptor-specific g-protein was not expressed. This suggests that signalling pathways other than the classical sweet-taste receptor-signalling pathway could be involved in Reb A-induced GLP-1 release.

An artificial neural network was trained to predict feelings of hunger and satiety based on plasma profiles of the main satiety hormones CCK, GLP-1 and PYY. Predictions were quite accurate even when incomplete plasma profiles were available.

 

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Recent publications


Dissertations 2016 Intestinal Nutrient Sensing: a gut feeling for food View summary
Dissertations 2016 Small intestinal targets involved in food intake regulation View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Cholecystokinin regulates satiation independently of the abdominal vagal nerve in a pig model of total subdiaphragmatic vagotomy View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Capsaicin-induced satiety is associated with gastrointestinal distress but not with release of satiety hormones View summary

Muscle-mass preservation

luc van loon 90

Project leader: Prof Luc van Loon
Time frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: WM002
Research theme: Nutrition and health
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 Summary


The progressive ageing of our population imposes an increasing demand on our healthcare systems. Ageing is associated with a decline in skeletal-muscle mass and function, accompanied by reduced physical performance, loss of functional capacity and an increased risk of developing chronic metabolic diseases and obesity. To date, the mechanisms behind the progressive loss of muscle mass, and the potential dietary interventions to counteract this process, are incompletely understood. The aim of this project is to elucidate the mechanisms regulating muscle-mass gain and loss in response to food ingestion and energy-intake restriction. In addition, this project will define dietary strategies and novel nutritional concepts to preserve muscle mass and support healthy ageing.

 

The regulatory mechanisms behind muscle-mass gains and losses were investigated in a large clinical trial. State-of-the-art research techniques (arterio-venous balances, stable-isotopes infusion, intrinsically-labelled protein, hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp, blood-flow measurements) were applied in young and elderly individuals to gain insight into the role of insulin in postprandial muscle-protein metabolism.

Although it is well known that dietary protein is essential for building and preserving muscle mass, the impact of the other macronutrients on muscle-mass gains and losses remains to be established. A series of mechanistic studies was completed to assess the impact of the macronutrient composition of a meal on the post-prandial muscle-protein synthetic response. These studies provide an answer to the question of whether the addition of carbohydrate (1st study) and fat (2nd study), to a protein-rich meal, modulates post-prandial muscle-protein metabolism. The third study investigates the effect of a habitual high-protein diet compared with normal-protein diet on digestion and absorption kinetics and the subsequent muscle-protein synthetic response to dietary-protein ingestion. A longer-term randomised controlled trial was performed in parallel, to determine whether a high-protein diet can effectively preserve muscle mass during energy-intake restriction.

Another work package investigated the impact of the macronutrient composition of a nutritional supplement on postprandial skeletal-muscle-protein synthesis in the elderly. Analyses have been performed and papers are currently being written. In addition, a follow-up study evaluated the course of pre-existing muscle-fibre atrophy, in elderly females with fall-related hip fracture, during hospital admission and the impact of a nutritional supplement (Pro-Hip).

It has been speculated that factors other than ageing might contribute to the loss of muscle mass in older individuals. Therefore, a work package, with acute human intervention trials, was initiated to investigate the role of gender, physical inactivity and obesity in relation to muscle-mass preservation.

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Post-prandial muscle protein synthesis: “You are what you just ate” View summary
Posters 2015 There are no nonresponders to resistance-type exercise training in older men and women View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals  2015 Impact of the Macronutrient Composition of a Nutritional Supplement on Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in Older Men: A Randomized, Double Blind, Controlled Trial View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Short-term muscle disuse lowers myofibrillar protein synthesis rates and induces anabolic resistance to protein ingestion View summary

Ectopic fat

patrick schrauwen 90

Project leader: Prof. Dr Patrick Schrauwen
Time frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: WM003
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 Summary


Obesity is a world-wide problem affecting the health of many people. It is not only characterised by excessive fat storage in white adipose tissue, but also as ectopic fat, present in, for example, heart, liver and muscles. Fat storage in these tissues leads to metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To date, very little is known about the causes of ectopic-fat accumulation, including the role of diet.The main goal of this project is to develop Carbon Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (13C-MRS) methodology to allow the tracking of 13C-labelled lipids into liver and muscle. An innovative (indirect) detection method, based on Heteronuclear Single Quantum Coherence (HSQC), has been developed and the feasibility of this method has already been demonstrated in phantom experiments.

 

The HSQC methodology was optimised for use in in vivo experiments and the first reproducibility experiments were performed, with positive outcomes. Proof-of-principle experiments, using the incorporation of 13C labelled lipids into a meal, are carried out. After this validation of the methodology in vivo, and optimisation of the 13C-fatty acid dose that needs to be ingested, the dynamics of ectopic fat storage can be investigated in relation to pathophysiology and food composition.

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Effects of high-fat feeding on ectopic fat storage and postprandial lipid metabolism in mouse offspring View summary
Posters 2015 Quantum coherence spectroscopy to measure 1H-[13C] -lipid signals View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals  2015 Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy reveals increased hepatic lipid content after a single high-fat meal with no additional modulation by added protein View summary
Posters 2014 Postprandial ectopic lipid storage observed after a single meal: no influence of additional protein content View summary

Strain and starter-culture engineering for steering product functionality

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Project leader: Dr Herwig Bachmann
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: FF001
Research theme: Microbes and Function
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Summary


Milk fermentation is a key process in adding functional properties, such as flavour, texture and shelf life, to dairy products. Cheese starter-cultures consist of simple or complex mixtures of Lactococcus lactis strains, sometimes together with other species of the genera Leuconostoc and/or Lactobacillus. These bacteria actively cooperate in microbial consortia.

 

We have learned, during the last decade, that not all cells within a pure bacterial culture exhibit the same behaviour. It is reasonable to assume that such culture heterogeneity also applies to industrial fermentations. We use Lactococcus lactis as a model organism for dairy fermentation and, by using fluorescent proteins, we demonstrated culture heterogeneity under industrially-relevant conditions. In a complementary approach, using RNAseq, we identified more than 200 small RNA molecules and improved the annotation of the model L. lactis, strain MG1363.

Another level of heterogeneity in cheese starter-cultures is their strain diversity. Complex, undefined starter cultures are very robust in production processes and their final product-properties are mostly superior to those derived from less-complex starter cultures. We study population dynamics and use genome-scale metabolic models and experimental evolution of mixed-cheese starter cultures to understand the underlying microbial interactions necessary for their functionality. Recent results showed that bacteriophages are vital to sustaining biodiversity in mixed dairy-starter cultures.

Another topic within this project is the physical interaction of microbial cells with matrix components, in cheese and fermented milk. The detailed characterisation and alteration of lactococcal surface properties, in an isogenic bacterial background, facilitated our study of the influence of surface properties on starter-culture functionalities.

This work will support the dairy industry in the development of healthier and tastier fermented products.

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Metabolism at evolutionary optimal States View summary
Posters 2015 ArgR and its 3’UTR ArgX both regulate arc by influencing transcription and RNA stability/translation respectivel
Posters  2014 Metabolic modeling of a single Leuconostoc mesenteroides and seven Lactococcus lactis strains identifies the possible metabolic dependencies within a complex bacterial starter culture.
Lectures 2015 Functionality of multi-level diversity in complex fermentation starters

 

 

Predictive modelling

marjon wells 90

Project leader: Dr Marjon Wells-Bennik
Time frame 2011 – 2015
Project code: SP001

Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


This project developed generic models to predict the survival and subsequent growth of microorganisms that negatively impact food safety and quality. The models facilitate the development of strategies to ensure the safety and stability of products and the reputations of producers.

 

The growth characteristics of 20 different Listeria monocytogenes and 20 Lactobacillus plantarum strains were assessed under conditions of different temperature, pH, water activity and lactic-acid concentrations. This allowed for establishing the phenotypic variability using growth models. Experimental, biological and strain variation was quantified. The impact of strain and biological variability on the growth kinetics were comparable and both were higher than experimental variability. The cardinal parameters and their variability will be used as inputs for the gamma model to predict growth in food matrices. In addition, heat inactivation of the strains was assessed and D-values were determined and compared with data available in the literature. For thermal inactivation kinetics, the impact of strain variability was much higher than biological variability. Genomes of all twenty L. monocytogenes strains were sequenced and gene-trait-matching analyses are ongoing. Furthermore, the model was validated in milk and ham to quantify the impact of food-product composition. The comparison is expected to provide knowledge of the factors influencing variability.

Stable acid-resistant variants of Listeria monocytogenes were isolated and their resistance to a range of other types of stresses was tested. To identify a potential genetic basis for certain resistance phenotypes, a cluster was made based on these phenotypes, showing a large group (11 variants) that clustered together. A common gene trait in this cluster of variants was an SNP mutation (located in rpsU). A ΔrpsU deletion mutant is under construction to confirm the role of rpsU in stress resistance. To determine whether stable resistant variants can also be found in other organisms, other L. monocytogenes strains and mutants of B. subtilis and L. plantarum were investigated. All data will be used for simulation of population dynamics (sensitive and resistant population fraction) along a model food chain. An extra deliverable, in cooperation with the Biofilms project, has been set up in which the performance of L. monocytogenes acid-resistant variants in mixed biofilms with Lactobacillus plantarum has been evaluated.

For spore-forming bacteria, the variability in growth and heat inactivation of spores is also being assessed for 20 strains of Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus cereus and Geobacillus stearothermophilus. Experimental work on heat inactivation and growth of B. subtilis and B. cereus has been completed. For Geobacillus stearothermophilus strains, optimal media have been established to ensure recovery after heat treatments and spores have been harvested for 20 strains in 2 independent experiments. The data structure for fitting of the inactivation and growth model has been designed and prediction of variability of B. subtilis spore inactivation has been completed, showing significant strain variability. The experimental data was used to predict variability in out-growth of spore-formers and heat inactivation of their spores.

Other activities involving spore-forming bacteria include the generation of an overview of all genes involved in sporulation and germination of B. subtilis. This overview has been generated and captured in a database made accessible through SporeWeb. This was extended by adding gene-expression data acquired through the sporulation of wild type B. subtilis strains. In addition, the contribution of specific factors to spore-germination efficiency, in response to various heat treatments, was studied. The resulting data were used as input for a generic model describing the contribution of specific nutrient-receptor complexes in germination responses as a function of heat.

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Diversity of acid stress resistant variants of Listeria monocytogenes and the potential role of ribosomal protein View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Performance and resistance of Listeria monocytogenes wild type and multiple stress resistant variants in mixed culture biofilms with Lactobacillus plantarum View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Diversity of acid stress resistan tvariants of Listeria monocytogenes and the potential role of ribosomal protein S21 encoded by rpsU View summary

Spores

marjon wells 90

Project leader: Dr Marjon Wells-Bennik
Time frame 2011 – 2014
Project code: SP002
Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


Many gram-positive bacteria can form spores that ensure survival under extreme conditions. Spores can survive adverse conditions and remain dormant for a long time, but germination and outgrowth can occur under favourable conditions. Current food-preservation techniques can fail to kill sufficient numbers of bacterial spores present in raw ingredients. When viable spores remain and eventually germinate, the vegetative cells can grow out in the final product, resulting in food spoilage, reduced shelf-life and possible food poisoning.

 

This project aims to broaden our knowledge of spore resistance and spore germination and outgrowth, using not only model Bacillus strains but also a wide variety of industrially-relevant spore formers. These strains are being studied at phenotypic and genomic levels; the genome sequences of 51 spore-forming Bacilli have been determined and are being analysed in relation to key spore properties.

Spore properties and germination behaviour of spores are determined during the sporulation process. Once resistant phase-bright spores are formed, they can remain dormant for prolonged periods of time. Upon sensing germinants in their environment, spores can germinate and vegetative cells can emerge, followed by outgrowth if conditions are favourable. Heterogeneous expression of genes that play important roles in germination were studied at the single cell level using time-lapse microscopy. This work led to interesting observations, such as premature spore lysis and heterogeneous promoter activity, which were studied in more detail. Importantly, this work also showed that the origin of germination heterogeneity could not be traced back to heterogeneity in gene expression, but that this is the result of heterogeneity in downstream processes, such as translation, modification and/or localisation of germination proteins.

In addition, spore superdormancy is being studied in this project. Superdormant spores are defined as dormant spores that fail to respond to germinants/nutrients that normally activate germinant receptors (these receptors play a key role in initiation of germination). Such spores can be present amongst spores that germinate well in heterogeneous spore populations. To quantify spore superdormancy, a pipeline was set up using a novel flow-cytometry approach, in which the responsiveness of superdormant spores to nutrient and non-nutrient germination triggers can be assessed. The phenotypes related to superdormancy were assessed for 20 B. cereus industrial isolates and significant phenotypical diversity was observed amongst these strains. Linking the genome sequences of these strains with phenotypic trait-relevant spore characteristics provides an excellent opportunity to extend our knowledge of these processes – from a limited number of reference strains to industrial isolates.

When dormant spores sustain damage, repair of such damage upon germination can be required, prior to outgrowth. The contribution of different recovery conditions (which include various food matrices) to the ability of sub-lethally injured spores to grow out, have been identified. In addition, transcriptome analyses, during germination, emergence of the vegetative cell and subsequent outgrowth, have been performed, yielding new target genes that could be involved in these processes. To extrapolate the observations related to the effects of sub-lethal treatments of model strains to industrial isolates, the characterisation of a range of spores of B. cereus industrial isolates is on-going.

Another important property of spores is their heat resistance, which is also being studied. Within the species B. subtilis, spore heat-resistance was assessed for a large number of strains. Two distinct groups could be identified, with spores from the highly heat-resistant group requiring more-intense heating for inactivation than the low-heat-resistant group. The genome sequences of these strains were analysed and, by performing gene-trait matching, a mobile genetic element was identified which was specifically present in the genomes of strains with high spore heat-resistance. It was demonstrated that this element was responsible for the increased heat-resistance of spores. This element is not restricted to B. subtilis and is found in many other spore- forming Bacilli, indicating a role in evolution and adaptation of these strains. This study provides insight into prediction of spore heat-inactivation processes and the mechanism by which increased spore heat-resistance is mediated and will, ultimately, allow for better detection and control of highly heat-resistant bacterial spores in foods.

The last component of the Spores project translates knowledge gained in model spore-forming organisms to wild-type food strains. The genomic content of 47 Bacillus spp. food isolates (which cause problems to industry) was determined via whole-genome sequencing, contig assembly and gene annotation. For selected strains (13 B. subtilis and 5 B. thermoamylovorans) a phenotypic characterisation of germination properties, under selected conditions, was performed and significant differences between the strains of each species were observed. Subsequent work will include studying identified genetic factors to validate their suggested roles in the phenotype with which they are associated.

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Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Draft genome sequences of four Bacillus thermoamylovorans strains, isolated from milk and acacia gum, a food ingredient View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Next generation whole genome sequencing of eight strains of Bacillus cereus, isolated from food View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Bacterial spores in food: survival, emergence and outgrowth View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 T-Rex: Transcriptome analysis webserver for RNA-seq Expression data View summary

Biofilms lifecycle

masja nierop 90

Project leader: Dr Masja Nierop Groot
Time frame 2011 – 2014
Project code: SP004

Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


Most microorganisms have the capacity to grow in a surface-attached state, in which they live as multicellular communities embedded in an extracellular polymeric matrix. These biofilms provide the environment for microorganisms to display altered behaviour compared to their planktonic lifestyle. Biofilms might increase the cell-resistance to antimicrobials as they can function as protective barriers against the environment. Moreover, microenvironments provided within the biofilm might increase heterogeneity within the population. This variety in behaviour complicates control of microbial contaminants. This project will provide mechanistic insights into the factors contributing to biofilm formation and persistence in processing environments, aiming to enhance control of both biofilm formation and (re)contamination of food products.

 

The project is organised into four sub-projects targeting biofilms encountered in different food-related industrial environments: Lactobacillus biofilms, biofilms of thermophilic and mesophilic spore formers, and mixed-species biofilms.

In the subproject Lactobacillus biofilms (WP1), the biofilm-forming capacity has been assessed for Lactobacillus plantarum food isolates obtained from industrial partners and for the model strain L. plantarum WCFS1. Mechanisms involved in biofilm formation have been studied by using available L. plantarum mutant strains in genes affecting cell-surface characteristics. Genome sequences of 6 L. plantarum isolates have been exploited for analysis of genomic differences and similarities between L. plantarum strains relating to biofilm formation. The project further aims to quantify the competitive population dynamics of L. plantarum isolates in multi-strain communities in liquid culture and on surfaces in static and continuous-flow biofilms. With this activity we aim to construct an interaction network describing biofilm ecology and relevant features for performance and persistence in a genetic make-up of multi-strain communities.

Biofilm formation of Bacillus cereus reference strains ATCC 14579 and ATCC 10987 and 21 undomesticated food isolates was studied on polystyrene and stainless steel in WP2 (Bacillus cereus biofilms). Results show that stainless steel, as a contact material, provides more-favourable conditions for B. cereus biofilm formation and maturation compared to polystyrene. This effect could possibly be linked to iron availability, as we show that free-iron availability affects B. cereus biofilm formation.

Evidence was provided for a pleiotropic role of rpoN in B. cereus, supporting its adaptive response and survival in a range of conditions including biofilm formation.

The sporulation dynamics in dry and wet biofilms and heat resistance of produced spores was analysed and compared to planktonic growth conditions.

WP3 has focussed on characterisation of thermophilic spore formers. Three isolates – (Geobacillus thermoglucosidans, Geobacillus stearothermophilus and Anoxybacillus flavithermus) – previously isolated as the most abundant and most potent biofilm-forming strains isolated from dairy factory industrial samples – have been characterised in detail with respect to their growth conditions for biofilm formation and spore resistance. Genome sequences of 7 thermophilic industrial isolates have been determined and are subject to genome mining for traits related to growth in a dairy environment and for construction of a biofilm gene network. Gene expression profiles, under selected biofilm conditions and in different biofilm forming stages, have been determined

In WP4, the formation of single and mixed species biofilms of L. monocytogenes EGD-e and Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 as secondary species was characterised at different temperatures and medium compositions (nutrient-rich medium with and without supplementary manganese, glucose and salt). Also the role of sigB, which encodes a major transcriptional regulator of stress-response genes, in single and mixed species biofilm formation was explored.

WP5 focusses on assessing the physiological state of model spoilage microorganisms and their (out)growth potential, assessed at single cell or spore level in the absence and presence of selected (combined) preservation stresses. Flow cytometry and single-cell sorting was used to study the heterogeneity in outgrowth of B. cereus spores isolated from biofilms. For a second deliverable, sigB (general stress) and KatA (oxidative stress) fluorescent reporters have been investigated as potential (bio)markers to study different physiological states of B. subtilis and B. cereus under stress and linked to outgrowth potential.

biofilms

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Amplicon sequencing for the quantification of spoilage microbiota in complex foods including bacterial spores View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Impact of growth conditions and role of sigB on L. monocytogenes fitness in single and mixed biofilms cultured with L. plantarum WCFS1 View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Sporulation dynamics and spore heat resistance in wet and dry biofilms of Bacillus cereus View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Bacillus cereus ATCC 14579 RpoN (Sigma 54) is a pleiotropic regulator of growth, carbohydrate metabolism, motility, biofilm formation and toxin production View summary

Oral health

bart keijser 90

Project leader: Dr Bart Keijser
Time frame 2012 – 2016
Project code: OH001

Research theme: Microbes and Function
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 Summary


This project aims to identify the biological processes in the oral ecosystem responsible for maintaining oral health. The project is based on the hypothesis that ‘oral health’ is the ability of the oral ecosystem to adapt to and counteract stresses, where the oral ecosystem is defined as the tripartite of oral microbiota, saliva and host (mucosal) immunity. The project comprises five interconnected work packages: a sixth work package is focussed on knowledge dissemination.WP1 aims to provide a detailed description of the oral ecosystem, including microbial, biochemical, immunological and metabolic parameters. In WP2, short-term intervention challenges will be applied to gain understanding of the dynamic interplay in the oral ecosystem following a perturbance. In WP3 a systems-biology network model will be built using data derived from Work Packages 1 and 2. In WP4, in vitro biofilm models will be used to explore the interactions between bacteria within an oral biofilm and interactions between salivary components and the microbial biofilm. WP5 aims to identify the interplay between saliva, oral microbial components and the host cells that line the oral cavity: the gingiva, tongue and/or buccal side. This will be achieved via high-content high-throughput microscopy. The in vitro studies will provide mechanistic insight into microbiota-host-saliva interactions and could support the biomarkers identified in WPs 1-3. The importance of knowledge dissemination is emphasised by the inclusion of a separate work package (WP6) that specifically focuses on translating scientific insights for (future) healthcare professionals, the general public, legislators and policy makers.

 

During the previous two years, a clinical evaluation study was completed (WP1) which assessed and identified the boundaries of a healthy oral ecosystem. This study involved 268 healthy volunteers. Via the study we established an extensive set of clinical (oral) health parameters, including gingival bleeding and caries levels. Furthermore, samples were collected for an extensive assessment of the composition of the oral ecosystem, including:

  • microbiota analysis of saliva, interproximal plaque, supragingival and subgingival plaque and the posterior and anterior tongue biofilms
  • concentration range of 10 salivary proteins with known relevance to oral health
  • salivary peptide profiles, via MALDI-TOF analysis
  • the salivary metabolome. levels and function of oral polymorphonuclear neutrophilic granulocytes (oPMNs).

Through application of advanced, statistical, machine-learning techniques we identified subgroups of healthy individuals that differed in their microbial, biochemical or metabolic oral profiles. Work is ongoing to provide better understanding of the functional significance of these differences.

In parallel, in vitro models have been established for the dental microbial biofilm as well as mucosal epithelial interactions. We were able to show that exposure of the dental biofilm to a particular component – that interferes with microbial communication (quorum sensing) – eliminated lactate production of oral biofilms. The findings have been patented. Also, we have been able to establish a high-throughput in vitro wound-healing assay using automated microscopy, that allows for qualitative description of the kinetics of oral-wound repair. Using this technique we were able to confirm earlier findings that an oral pathogen inhibited wound closure. We also showed that a related, commensal species enhanced wound closure.

We are currently performing a clinical intervention study to explore the dynamic (biochemical, microbial and immunological) interactions of the oral ecosystem upon perturbance and their involvement in maintenance of oral health.

iStock_000016404453Large

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Personalized microbial network inference via co-regularized spectral clustering View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 In vitro phenotypic differentiation towards commensal and pathogenic oral biofilms View summary
Invited lectures
2014 The oral microbiome
Invited lectures 2014 Saliva and the oral mircobiome

Relevant time and length scales for mechanical behaviour in protein-based systems

laurence pouvreau 90

Project leader: Dr Laurice Pouvreau
Time frame: 2011 – 2014
Project code: FS001
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 Summary


Proteins are biopolymers with a unique functional behaviour. Exchangeability of protein sources is not immediately possible but, from the goal of sustainable production, it is highly desired. The aim of this project is to increase our knowledge of molecular-microstructure-texture relationships and understand the specificity that selected classes of plant and animal proteins might provide in food structuring.

 

The approach is based on identifying relationships between molecular properties, aggregation behaviour, microstructural characteristics and material characteristics at a macroscopic scale. The material properties referred to are gel-breakdown characteristics focussing on the balance between the non-dissipated energy (measured as stored energy) in the matrix, and the dissipated energies used for fracture events or dissipated (predominantly) via serum flow (inversely proportional to the amount of water trapped in a protein network undergoing deformation). These aspects of the energy balance are relevant for texture-related properties such as crumbliness or spreadability and sensory perception such as juiciness.

The research effort boils down to understanding time and length scales in protein-based gel systems. Following this approach we map the effects of proteins at different length and time scales by analysing the macroscopic and microscopic properties of different systems in the same manner. Our goal is to understand what is fundamentally different between animal and plant proteins and the type of gels they yield.

Vegetarian protein

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Electrophoretic behavior in relation to the structural integrity of codfish parvalbumin upon heat treatment  view summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Relation between gel stiffness and water holding for coarse and fine-stranded protein gels  view summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Permeability of gels is set by the impulse applied on the gel  view summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Characterizing length scales that determine the mechanical behavior of gels from crosslinked casein micelles  view summary

Dispersed fat and polysaccharides systems

elke scholten 90

Project leader: Dr Elke Scholten
Time frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: FS002
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


Many protein-based foods contain fats to give the product a creamy feeling and to improve taste. Increased flexibility in the use of appropriate fats and oils would be beneficial when designing foods with a specific fat content and fat composition. Knowledge about the relation between textural properties and fat composition is crucial to this goal. This project aims to identify strategies to control the textural properties of fat-containing foods by changing the distribution of dispersed-fat and to control the hardness of the dispersed phase.

 

In the case of liquid-oil, the hardness or solid-like behaviour can be controlled by inducing network formation of structural elements in oil. This creates gels known as oleogels; they are similar to hydrogels but contain water instead of oil. We examine the different building blocks of these networks and their underlying mechanisms. Potentially, such oleogels could replace solid fats. To test for potential we examined their stability under different conditions such as temperature and aqueous environments. The knowledge gained could help create guidelines on how to change the food’s texture and how to design reduced-fat or low-solid fat products.

Abstract background, green oil droplets on water surface. Beautiful macro abstraction

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2014 Naturally amphiphilic proteins as tri-block Janus particles: Self-sorting into thermo-responsive gels View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 High internal phase emulsion gels (HIPE-gels) created through assembly of natural oil bodies View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Influende of matrix inhomogeneity on the rheological properties of emulsion-filled gels View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Protein oleogels from protein hydrogels via a stepwise solvent exchange route View summary

Foam stability (formation and stability of interfaces in complex foods)

marcel meinders 90

Project leader: Dr Marcel Meinders
Time frame: 2011 – 2014
Project code: FS003
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


Aerated foods, such as foams, are important food products because people enjoy their taste and mouthfeel. Foams, however, are unstable and suffer from deterioration due to creaming, drainage, aggregation, coalescence and disproportionation. A challenge for the food industry is to control these mechanisms. Food foams, such as beer foam, whipped cream, cappuccino toppings, mousses, bread and foamed sweets consist of various components exhibiting different properties. The role of these components, in the formation and stability of foams, is not yet sufficiently understood.

 

This project aims to identify the key relationships that control the physical and chemical properties of air bubbles and their interfaces in complex food matrices and foams, over time. We study the relationship between the properties of the ingredients (such as proteins, low-molecular-weight surfactants and organic and/or inorganic particles), the properties of the air/water interface and the properties of the foam (such as stability and bubble-size distribution). Unique to the project is its multi-scale approach: we map and combine the overall effects of ingredient combination on molecular, interfacial, thin-film and foam properties. New insight has been obtained into how to get particles into the air-water interface where they can form a jammed-colloidal shell, which results in air bubbles that remain stable for more than a year. Single-protein-stabilised bubbles are made using a relatively new technique known as coaxial electrohydrodynamic atomisation. Important insights into protein-surfactant interactions have been obtained that are relevant to foam stability and foam formation.

This project has successfully linked food properties, such as mechanical and sensory characteristics, to oral-processing behaviour. This has advanced our understanding of the eating process and bridged the knowledge gap between oral-processing behaviour and food structure. The fundamental knowledge provided by the project will assist the food industry to provide products that are low in fat, salt or sugar and retain excellent sensory performance. 

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Disintegration of protein microbubbles in presence of acid and surfactants: A multistep process View summary
Dissertations Microbubble stability and applications in food View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015  Effect of temperature and pressure on the stability of protein microbubbles View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Temperature is key to yield and stability of BSA stabilized microbubbles View summary

Dynamics of texture and taste perception

markus stieger 90

Project leader: Dr Markus Stieger
Time frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: TT001
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


This project aims to uncover and validate the oral mechanisms involved in the temporal perception of texture and taste and to provide design rules for fat, salt and sugar reduction in foods. Factors which contribute to the temporal perception of texture and taste have been determined by establishing relationships between food properties, oral behaviour, oral coatings, food breakdown, tastant-macronutrient interactions and sensory perception.

 

The project demonstrated that sensory attributes are perceived in a specific order during oral processing and depend on both food structure and oral-processing behaviour. The project demonstrated that consumers with contrasting eating behaviours perceive the same product very differently. The perceptual differences between consumer groups can be explained by the specific oral behaviour they apply and the transitions and breakdown of food structures during mastication. The project developed experimental methodologies to characterise oral coatings and establish correlations between the properties of food stimulus, oral coating and dynamic sensory perception. Eating is not a simple process of food breakdown, but a highly-sophisticated process involving physiological, psychological and neurological human responses to the changing properties of foods. The project developed various experimental techniques including measuring electrical activity in masticatory muscles (electromyography), observations of tongue movements using electromagnetic articulography and quantification of oral coatings based on in vivo fluorescence and ex vivo chemical analysis.

This project has successfully linked food properties, such as mechanical and sensory characteristics, to oral-processing behaviour. This has advanced our understanding of the eating process and bridged the knowledge gap between oral-processing behaviour and food structure. The fundamental knowledge provided by the project will assist the food industry to provide products that are low in fat, salt or sugar and retain excellent sensory performance.

texture-taste

 

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Formation dynamics of oral oil coatings and their effect on subsequent sweetness perception of liquid stimuli View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Tribological properties of rice starch in liquid and semi-solid food model systems View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Effect of microparticulated whey protein on sensory properties of liquid and semi-solid model foods View summary
Dissertation 2016 Lubrication and perception of foods; Tribological, rheological and sensory properties of particle-filled food systems View summary

Predictive models for long-term liking of foods

gert ter horst 90

Project leader: Prof Gert ter Horst
Time frame: 2011 – 2016
Project code: SL001
Research theme: Sensory and Structure
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 Summary


The psychological and biological mechanisms by which food properties affect (long-term) liking and desire for certain foods are still to be unravelled. As global populations of the elderly and medical patients continue to increase, there is a specific need for a better understanding of the effects of ageing and disease on these mechanisms. Both advancing age and medical treatments might change individual appreciation of specific tastes. For these groups, long-term acceptance of foods is essential as food aversion could result in malnutrition.

 

The project has demonstrated how product-related emotions contribute to food choice, which neuronal systems underlie liking and disliking and how product-consumer combinations determine long-term choice behaviour. We studied the neuronal pathways of basic taste perception, across adult age ranges, using functional MRI. These results, which combine psychological and neurobiological studies, are important to our goal of developing effective models for the prediction of long-term acceptance of food products by healthy consumers, the elderly and patients.

The results of the project will enable the food industry, scientists and decision makers to develop dietary strategies and product formulations tailor-made for specific consumer groups, with a higher chance of long-term success. Clear benefits will include improved quality of life for these groups and reduced (medical) care costs.

sensory_liking

 

 

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Neural processing of basic tastes in healthy young and older adults – an fMRI study View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Functional specialization of the human insula during taste perception View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Learning to (dis)like: The effect of evaluative conditioning with tastes and faces on odor valence assessed by implicit and explicit measurements View summary

Post-consumer packaging recycling

 
ulphard thoden van velzen 90

Project leader: Dr Ulphard Thoden van Velzen
Time frame: 2009 – 2014
Project code: SD001
Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


The recycling network for post-consumer plastic packaging waste (PPW) is relatively new in the Netherlands. This project’s goal is a scientific understanding of PPW processing chains and their evaluation in terms of environmental benefits and overall costs. Post-consumer packaging recycling delivered research results that help stakeholders in the recycling industry to develop more cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly processes.

The final year for this project was dedicated to finalising its PhD-student publications: Ms Bing (Wageningen University – ORL) and Mr Luijsterburg (TU Eindhoven) obtained their doctorate degrees, on 30 September 2014 and 12 January 2015 respectively. The logistical research has yielded six submitted papers of which, to date, four have been accepted. Plastic technology research has yielded five submitted papers of which, to date, two have been accepted.

 packaging_recycling

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Global reverse supply chain redesign for household plastic waste under the emission trading scheme View summary
Dissertations 2014 Sustainable reverse logistics for household plastic waste View summary
Dissertations 2015 Mechanical recycling of plastic packaging waste View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2014 Solid-state drawing of β-nucleated poly(propylene): Effect of additives on drawability and mechanical properties View summary

 

Valorisation of raw materials and process efficiency

 
friso van assema 90

Project leader: Friso van Assema, MSc
Time frame: 2011 – 2016
Project code: RE001

Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


Society is increasingly demanding sustainability; people are becoming steadily more aware of the environmental pressure caused by food production, a major human activity. Resources become scarcer, ecosystems are endangered and the impact of climate change is a major issue of debate in the scientific community. This situation is not only caused (in part) by food production but, conversely, affects it too. This project aims to supply the key players in the food sector with a scientific approach to quantify the sustainability of their current and future processes and food chains.

In the project, an exergy-based method is being used to quantify the resource efficiency of food processes and entire food chains including waste streams. Multi-criteria decision models (MCD models) are being developed in the project. These will enable actors in the food chain to handle conflicting issues, such as quality and cost, that often arise when optimising their activities in a resource-efficient way. In 2014, the exergy analysis and MCD models were applied in two different food chains; bread and mushroom.

We have confirmed that exergy analysis is an excellent approach to assessing resource efficiency in the bread and mushroom chains. The exergy evaluation of alternatives, for example the recycling of bread leftovers, showed that there is a trade-off between the exergetic gain of the actual recycling and the exergetic investment required to make the recycling possible. The MCD model indicates the possibility of optimising bread production and recycling so that the overall resource efficiency of the chain improves significantly.

food_chain

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Exergetic comparison of food waste valorization in industrial bread production View summary
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Compromise programming: Non-interactive calibration of utility-based metrics View summary
Posters  2014 Designing exergetically sustainable industrial food chains  
Posters 2013 Valorisation of raw materials and process efficiency  

 

Reduced methane emissions of dairy cows

 
henk bovenhuis

Project leader: Prof Henk Bovenhuis
Time frame: 2012 – 2016
Project code: ME001
Research theme: Sustainable Food Systems
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 Summary


Methane emissions from cows constitute more than half the global-warming impact of milk production. Methane is produced predominantly in the cow’s rumen as a result of microbial fermentation of feed components. In terms of global warming it is approximately 25 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Reduction of methane emissions from cows will contribute substantially to reducing the ecological footprint of dairy production.

The Dutch dairy sector is aiming for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2020 and this project will contribute to that goal via a four-pronged multidisciplinary approach. First, we are developing an indicator for methane emission from individual cows: this method will enable large-scale measurement of methane emissions. Currently we are measuring the methane of individual cows in climate respiration chambers and analysing milk samples from the same cows. Preliminary results indicate that about 70% of the variation in methane emissions between cows is related to differences in milk composition. Second, we are exploring the genetic variation in methane emissions between cows in order to quantify the potential of breeding measures to reduce methane emissions. At present, we are measuring methane in the exhaled air of cows in automatic-milking systems on commercial dairy farms. First results demonstrate that at least part of the variation in methane emissions between cows is of genetic origin. Third, we are characterising the composition and functioning of microorganisms in the rumen of the cow in order to quantify the effects of rumen dynamics on methane emissions. For this we analyse the microbial composition of rumen samples taken from the cows whose methane is measured in the climate respiration chambers. Initial results suggest differences in the activities of individual cow’s rumen microorganisms. Fourth, we are developing mechanistic models that will improve the understanding of how methane emission is influenced by the interactions between the genetics of the cow, the microorganisms in the rumen of the cow and cow feedstuffs. We are about to start an experiment in which we will explore these interactions in detail.

 cows

Recent publications


Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2015 Enteric methane production, rumen volatile fatty acid concentrations, and milk fatty acid composition in lactating Holstein-Friesian cows fed grass silage- or corn silage-based diets View summary
Invited lectures
2015 Indicator for methane emission in milk – fatty acids, volatile and non-volatile metabolites  
Scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals 2016 Relationships between milk fatty acids profiles and eteric methane production in dairy cattle fed grass-or grass silage-based diets View summary