Nutrition and Food Technology

Metabolic consequences of nutrition and lifestyle

Nutrition and lifestyle are the most important extrinsic factors governing the metabolic makeup of an individual and thus critical in modulating the risk for chronic diseases. Certain foods such as the Western diet have been linked in numerous epidemiological and clinical trials with increased incidence of chronic diseases, whereas diets rich in plant-based ingredients and dietary fiber have a protective role. While the observational evidence for these connections is strong, the molecular level causality, involved metabolic pathways, and role of microbiota are not well understood. This is the area where the research of the Food, gut, and nutritional metabolomics research group resides (  

The group focuses on understanding the metabolic consequences of foods, diets, and lifestyle habits, extending the research from the biochemical composition of foods to the molecular alterations on individual organs related to them (  A particular focus of the group is on the molecular-level examination of the gut-brain axis and connectivity to neurological health ( The group has deep metabolomics expertise and is one of the leading laboratories focusing the technique on food and nutritional studies. Metabolomics examination is typically conducted in a non-targeted manner, allowing the primary exploration of metabolite differences in the study set-up taken, e.g. a feeding trial or clinical study. These results are often fused with other omics layers such as metagenomics and transcriptomics and also clinical data. The data offers multitude of possibilities for examination of the food and gut-derived biochemicals and their linkage with gut microbiota, endogenous metabolites, and clinical outcomes, thereby ultimately offering the possibility for better understanding of the metabolic role of food on disease risks – an area where ample possibilities for breakthrough findings are enabled when state-of-the-art technologies are employed, as proposed here.  

The group offers the possibility for the post doc to study the role of diet, in particular plant-based foods on the gut-brain axis. The studies may involve the examination of novel relevant samples originating from other partners of the network within the area of neurological disorders and diet, designing in vitro examinations e.g. on cell culture models to examine particular metabolites, or may focus on the already existing vast sample and data collections the group has within these areas.  The specific projects may be tailored together with the candidate and necessitate previous experience within the areas of metabolomics/metagenomics, LC-MS based biochemical analysis, and metabolism relevant for the gut-brain signaling. 

For further information, please contact the group PI

Key words:
Diet, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Gut microbiota, Gut-brain signaling, Endogenous metabolites, Metabolomics, Metagenomics, Transcriptomics
Dr. Kati Hanhineva
Professor, Food Sciences
Early Nutrition and Health research

The goal of the Early Nutrition and Health research group is to provide a scientific basis for the relationship between diet and health focusing on the effects of maternal nutrition, metabolism and gut microbiome on both maternal and child health by conducting both clinical and mechanistic studies. We consider it of importance to evaluate these interactions to define clinical health outcomes including cardiovascular and brain health as part of a holistic approach.  

Our largest research project is mother-child study, which was initiated in early pregnancy and extends to child’s age of six years. In this project we have demonstrated the importance of maternal diet and gut microbiota for the health of both mother and child. For example, dietary intake during pregnancy has been linked with gut microbiota composition and the role of both diet and gut microbiota as regulators of gut permeability, low-grade inflammation and onset of gestational diabetes mellitus were demonstrated. Our recent research results extend to studies investigating the impact of pregnancy gut microbiota and metabolomics to the onset of pre-diabetes in women and the role of maternal diet, obesity and gestational diabetes mellitus to the neurodevelopment and obesity in children.  

Successful candidates should have a background and PhD degree in nutrition, biomedicine/medicine, bioinformatics, or related fields, and skills for working in multidisciplinary environment. We offer an opportunity to design and conduct further research on the impact of maternal and early life nutrition on the health of a mother or child. The research could include studies on the relations of diet, gut microbiota and metabolism as determinants of women’s or their children’s cardiovascular function and obesity or cognitive health in child. For further information, please contact the PI of the research group professor Kirsi Laitinen. 

We operate in the Faculty of Medicine, Functional Foods Forum (with a new name to be announced in January 2024), which is a unique combination of nutrition and food science expertise as part of medical sciences. The unit possesses clinical research facilities, wet laboratories, sensory laboratory and coordinates Flavoria research platform enabling in-depth studies on complex relationship of nutrition and healthy, sustainable food choices. We collaborate closely within University of Turku, particularly Institute of Biomedicine, as well as nationally in Finland and internationally. 

Key words:
Gestation, Children, Diet, In utero nutrition, Gut microbiota, Neurodevelopment, Gestational diabetes, Cardiovascular health
Selected publications:
Lipids in food, nutrition, cardiometabolic and brain health

Lipids are important structural and functional components of all living organisms. The composition and structure of lipids are the results of complex regulation of multiple biosynthesis pathways and affect the nutritional properties and physiological functions of dietary fats and oils. The regio- and stereoisomeric profiles of natural lipidomes are largely unknown, despite the fast development in non-targeted lipidomics revealing lipid classes and the fatty acids of lipid molecules in various organisms. Triacylglycerols and glycerophospholipids are the dominating components of the lipidomes in majority of the natural lipidomes such as in animals and plants. The regio- and enantiomeric composition of chiral lipid molecules often presents the key to understanding the chiral activities of the enzymes acting in the biochemical processes and pathways of biosynthesis, digestion and metabolism of lipids. The Lipid Research Group at University of Turku is internationally leading in regio-/stereospecific analysis of natural fats and oils. Recently we have created novel powerful methods to resolve the full spectrum of triacylglycerols and glycerophospholipids regioisomers in natural lipidomes, which are among the most challenging tasks of analytical chemistry. By integrating the novel methods into lipidomics research, we aim to upgrade the current state of art in lipidomics from the current molecular species level to regio- and stereospecific level. Furthermore, our research aims to improve the current understanding on the relevance of regio- and stereospecific structure and lipidomics profiles for the health effects of dietary lipids as well as to discover new lipid biomarkers of cardiometabolic and brain health.     

Key words:
Dietary lipids, structures and functions of fats and oils, regio- and stereospecific lipidomics, lipid biomarkers, cadiometabolic and brain health
Baoru Yang
PI, Professor
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