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Food processing and gut microbial metabolism on whole grain phytochemicals: Interview with Ville Koi

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.



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.

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