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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.



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.

Photo: Heini Pekkala

On June 18 in Espoo, Finland, a symposium was arranged to honour the scientific achievements of Kaisa Poutanen and her work as research professor at VTT Technical Researh Center of Finland. The symposium was arranged in connection to the Healthgrain Forum Workshop 2019 the 17:th, and approximately 90 international participants attended the event.

The workshop took place at VTT facilities with topics discussed such as an update on sourdough research and ‘Industry 4.0’: reflections to food ecosystem. The honorary event for Kaisa Poutanen started with a common dinner at the Hotel Hanaholmen, followed the day after by the honorary symposium, including presentations on whole grain, rye and oats - and a talk by Kaisa Poutanen on her 30 years in cereal science.

During the session on rye, presentations were held by renowned researchers in the field: Per Åman from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Kati Hanhineva and Marjukka Kolehmainen from the University of Eastern Finland, both part of the Nordic Rye Forum, and Pia Silventoinen from VTT.

Their presentations covered the following topics:

  • Achievements in Nordic rye collaboration (Åman)

  • Whole grain rye phytochemicals, metabolism and impact on health (Hanhineva)

  • Whole grain rye: possibilities to have an effect on brain health (Kolehmainen)

  • Multifunctional rye bran ingredients for novel cereal foods (Silventoinen)

The rye session ended by Marjut Lampinen from the Finnish family owned company Linkosuo that talked about a novel way of using rye in the company’s new rye whole grain snacks; and, lastly, a panel discussion with the speakers.

Photos: Heini Pekkala

In a recently published study, several researchers from the the Nordic Rye Forum showed for the first time an association between the phytoestrogen enterolactone - a metabolite of plant lignans that are commonly found in rye - and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mortality.

A number of 450 deceased random cases of diabetes and a randomly selected subcohort of 850 persons, were included in a nested case-cohort from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort. Pre-diagnostic enterolactone concentrations (measured at baseline, before disease development) were found to be associated with lower mortality, especially deaths from diabetes. The findings call for further exploration of enterolactone in type 2 diabetes management.

Read the full article here: Pre-diagnostic plasma enterolactone concentrations are associated with lower mortality among individuals with type 2 diabetes: a case-cohort study in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort.

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