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The current status on biomarkers of different cereals, fractions and specific cereal foods was recently summarized by, among other, a number of research members from the Nordic Rye Forum. The researchers conducted a literature review about potential biomarkers of the intakes of wheat, oats, rye, barley and rice and the pseudo-cereal quinoa as well as of different grain fractions (whole grain, refined grain, bran).

The role of cereals in human health is dependent on whether they are consumed as refined or whole grain and on cereal species. To unravel the underlying mechanisms of health effects attributed to specific cereal foods and to provide more precise dietary advice, there is a need for improved dietary assessment of whole-grain intake. Dietary biomarkers of specific cereals, different fractions or cereal-containing foods could offer such a possibility, the authors stated.

The results of the review showed that odd-numbered alkylresorcinols reflect whole-grain wheat and rye intake and are the most well-studied and -evaluated biomarkers. Even-numbered alkylresorcinols may, on the other hand, reflect quinoa intake. Avenanthramides and avenacosides show potential to be used as specific biomarkers of oat intake, while other compounds suggested to reflect other cereals such as rice, are too unspecific. Moreover, no biomarkers that reflect refined grains currently exist.

The researchers concluded that several putative biomarkers of different cereals exist that need to be validated in human studies by criteria recently developed for food intake biomarker validation.

Read more here:

Biomarkers of cereal food intake

Landberg, Genes Nutr: 2019.



The 23:rd of May, Ville Koistinen defended his doctoral thesis from the University of Eastern Finland on ‘The effects of food processing and gut microbial metabolism on whole grain phytochemicals: A metabolomics approach ’. Below follows an interview with Ville where he tells us about his work.

What has your research/thesis been dealing with?

The studies included in my thesis aimed to investigate how phytochemicals in whole grain, especially rye and wheat, are affected by food processing and microbial metabolism. To accomplish this, we performed enzymatic bioprocessing of rye bran, different bread baking methods including sourdough, and gut microbial fermentation of bread and bran both in vitro and in a mouse model. Another important objective was to identify and annotate as many compounds as possible from the samples for future use by our group and the metabolomics community.

What are your main results?

Some of the most interesting results from the study include the great impact that sourdough fermentation has on the metabolite profile of rye: there were 110 phytochemicals, amino acids, peptides and other metabolites that had levels more than twice as high in sourdough bread compared to bread fermented with yeast only. Perhaps the most important finding was how bran-enriched diet increased the levels of “good” gut bacterial groups in mice and how these bacteria contributed to the production of a novel metabolite group, amino acid derived betaines.

What implications may your findings have for future research?

The studies conducted for this thesis were untargeted or semi-targeted metabolomics studies. This means that the new hypotheses rising from the results, such as the metabolism of certain phytochemicals, need to be verified with labelled standard compounds. It would also be worth investigating if only specific bacterial groups are responsible for the metabolism and whether this would lead to individual variability in the physiological response to phytochemicals.

What will you do ahead?

After the PhD defence in May this year, I have started a post doc project related to malted grains. Next year, I am also planning to continue working in the same research group at the University of Eastern Finland. I am also acknowledging that at some point I should work for some time in another university abroad to expand my experience. However, I feel like I belong to my hometown Kuopio and it would be a huge step to move away permanently.

What was the most challenging - and the most rewarding - about your PhD studies?

I think time management was my biggest challenge during the PhD studies. Although the work gives certain flexibility, it also requires you to be flexible in case a deadline is approaching. I found that as long as you keep your goals and progressing the work clearly in mind, even relatively poor time management can lead to good results. The most rewarding things during the years of PhD studies was the nice working environment and people here at the clinical nutrition department and the possibility to travel to several wonderful countries, such as Portugal and Japan.

Papers

Thesis

Paper I

Paper II

Paper III

Paper IV

Supervisors

Dr. Kati Hanhineva, Academy Research Fellow at University of Eastern Finland

Dr. Anna-Marja Aura, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

About Ville Koistinen

Ville lived during his childhood in a small town called Inkoo (Ingå in Swedish). They always had pets and even now he have two oriental shorthair cats at home. Ville have always been very interested in science, ever since he was a small kid. After trying some very different career paths, such as architecture and post office, he ended up studying Pharmacy in Kuopio based on recommendations from friends. He was supposed to finish only the bachelor’s degree and start working in a pharmacy, but then the passion for science took over and Ville decided to continue his studies further to become what he actually wanted since childhood: a scientist.



In late Spring 2019, the third of May 3rd, Anne Kirstine Eriksen defended her doctoral thesis from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences on ‘The role of whole grains and lignans in lifestyle diseases – emphasis on prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes and their risk factors’. Below follows an interview with Anne Kirstine where she gives us an insight of her work.

What has your research/thesis been dealing with?

The overall aim of my PhD project was to investigate the effects of whole grain and dietary lignans on cardio-metabolic risk factors and the association between plasma enterolactone concentrations and prognosis of type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. The research was based on both dietary intervention trials and prospective cohort studies.

What are your main results?

Among men with metabolic syndrome, neither whole grain nor lignans had an effect on blood glucose or insulin levels assessed by oral glucose tolerance tests. However, a lipid-lowering effect was observed following intake of whole grain rye compared to wheat. Interestingly, composition of the gut microbiota at baseline seemed to be associated with response to diet.

High enterolactone concentrations (measured before diagnosis) were associated with lower mortality among people with type 2 diabetes, whereas we found no association between enterolactone and mortality from prostate cancer.

Lastly, we showed that men with non-aggressive prostate cancer were able to adhere to comprehensive lifestyle changes including high intake of whole grain rye and physical activity over a period of six months. In order to evaluate such lifestyle changes on prostate cancer progression, a full-scale study is warranted.

What implications may your findings have for future research?

Our results that indicate an important role of the gut microbiota in response to type of whole grain intervention are novel and very interesting. Hopefully, we will become wiser during the coming years on the role of our gut bacterial community in health and disease.

What will you do ahead?

I am now in a Postdoc position in the same group where I performed my PhD project (Diet, Cancer and Health) at the Danish Cancer Research Center working on a new project (POLLY) to establish a cohort of participants, from the National Screening Program for colorectal cancer, which had a colonoscopy performed. We will collect questionnaire information on diet and lifestyle to investigate the association with risk of recurrent polyps and colorectal cancer.

What was the most challenging - and the most rewarding - about your PhD studies?

I found it challenging to work as independently as a PhD project demands. It can become lonely at times. At the same time, it was really a learning experience and of course, I had my great supervisors and colleagues, but in the end, it is your project and your own journey. The most rewarding was the collaboration with great colleagues in Denmark and abroad; especially my stay in Uppsala, where I conducted the dietary intervention, will always stand as a very special time for me.

Papers

Thesis

Paper I (Submitted to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)

Paper II

Paper III

Paper IV

Main supervisors

Rikard Landberg, Chalmers University of Technology, Dept. Biology and Biological Engineering (former SLU, Dept. Molecular Sciences)

Anja Olsen, Danish Cancer Research Center (DCRC)

Other supervisors

Cecilie Kyrø, DCRC

Anne Tjønneland, DCRC

Johan Dicksved, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Dept. Animal Nutrition and Management

Anne Kirstine has a Bachelor degree in Food Science and a Master in Human Nutrition, both from University of Copenhagen. She did her master thesis in Cambridge, UK at the Medical Research Center (MRC) Epidemiology Unit where she got into the field of epidemiological research. She is an active, outdoor-loving person who like to spend time with her family, especially her 1 year-old daughter, Beate.


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