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Wholegrain rye may improve blood glucose regulation and blood lipid composition. The effects are hypothesized to be mediated through fermentable dietary fiber and lignans. In recent studies, the role of gut microbiota has been highlighted as a potential modifier of health effects of wholegrain intake.

In this study, several researchers from the Nordic Rye Forum were involved to investigate the effect of wholegrain rye (alone or supplemented by lignans) and wholegrain wheat diets on glucose tolerance and other cardiometabolic risk factors. Effects of the intervention diets were analyzed in relation to gut microbiota composition. The study subjects were men with higher risk of developing metabolic disorders, who during eight weeks consumed the rye (4 wks alone, 4 wks supplemented by lignans) or the wheat diets. After the eight week period, the diets were switched during eight more weeks; a so called cross-over setup, where the subjects serve as their own controls.

The effects on glucose metabolism were similar between the different wholegrain diets, irrespective of lignan supplementation. However, depending on variations in the subjects' gut microbiota, the both rye diets lowered LDL-cholesterol during a defined time-period compared with the wheat diet.

Read more here: Effects of whole-grain wheat, rye, and lignan supplementation on cardiometabolic risk factors in men with metabolic syndrome: a randomized crossover

Kati Hanhineva is newly appointed professor in food development at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Turku. We welcome the university as a new member in the Nordic Rye Forum with a fresh interview of Kati and her research.

What is your main research interest and how did you get into the area?

I did my PhD within plant biotechnology and got fascinated by bioactive plant-made secondary metabolites, phytochemicals, at that time. When I moved to a post doc position to University of Eastern Finland (UEF), I started to look at phytochemicals from a bit different angle, namely what is their importance in terms of human health when we eat plant-based, phytochemical-rich food. I have stayed in this field my whole career, and the key reason is that I have always found it very intriguing to resolve the structures of nice molecules, and more recently also to study how our gut microbiota is modifying them.

What is new and what attracted you with the new position?

Actually, within this position I feel that I am a bit closer back to my roots, as there will be strong emphasis on the (plant-based) food development and analysis. This is also the key issue that attracted me in the position, as it is not every day that you can read a perfectly matching job description, especially in your own country, in professorship level.

Has there been any surprises or challenges along with changes in affiliation?

Surely changes always bring challenges, and the least one is not the logistics, as I am happy to be able to continue also leading my research group at UEF, as well as collaborate within the EU funded MarieCurie position at Chalmers. But all of these offer great, complementary possibilities for cutting edge science very much involving Nordic rye research, so despite intensive traveling, I am very excited for the new situation.

What value can you bring into the Nordic Rye Forum from this new position?

Naturally the position is ensuring that I can continue contributing to the Nordic Rye and whole grain research, but also, I hope I can widen up the network and bring in complementary expertise via the new position.

What is next in your nearest future?

Setting up the new research group, and planning the research activities, as well as lot of grant applications to be able to conduct the research

What do you hope to accomplish in a long-term perspective in your new position?

My current focus is leaning more and more towards the direction of the importance of gut microbiota, and I hope that I can widen up our understanding in the area, especially when it comes to the healthy Nordic diet. Understanding the metabolic relationship would help us to develop food products that can modulate the gut flora in beneficial directions for our health.

What would you do with a € 1 000 000 grant – if it was handed to you today?

I would invest in a brand-new mass-spectrometer, an instrument that can measure very small compounds. The rest would go to the research of the importance of not only gut bacteria fermentation, but also the step before it - food fermentation – like the good old sourdough fermentation of rye for example!

November 21 through 22, the yearly Nordic Rye Forum Seminar was successfully held. The seminar started out with a joint lunch, which was followed by 30-minute intervals of interesting presentations, questions and discussions:

For all available presentations; if shared, source must be stated (researcher and affiliation).

The following session consisted of open discussions, including among other things discussions on the need for an updated review in the area of rye and health and the Nordic Rye Forum in Social Media.

The evening ended with a very pleasant joint dinner, followed by rye sandwiches the morning after, innovative rye snacks by Lantmännen and a fruitful continuation of the seminar with more presentations:

Engaged discussions followed; and the seminar was wrapped up, bringing a number of action points to take forward. The seminar was closed by a joint lunch.

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