Department of Chemical & Biological engineering at Chalmers University of technology employs about 100 researchers. In addition to Food Science, it includes units for molecular biology, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry and physical chemistry. Since 1998, the department has been closely connected to the Swedish Centre of Excellence and Innovation in Functional Foods. Research at Food Science is focused on biologic processing techniques and molecular biology techniques for the improvement of nutritional, sensorial or functional properties of food or food raw materials. In addition to fish, yeast, cereals, fruits and vegetables are addressed. Right now, there are 26 employees in the Food Science group.
In 2001, activities on fish were started at Food Science, which were anchored in the Swedish herring industry.
Currently, the fish-team consists of ten persons; 2 Professors, 4 PhD-students, 1 post doc and 3 research engineers, and is coordinated by Prof Ann-Sofie Sandberg and Associate Prof. Ingrid Undeland.The overall aim of our research is to provide a knowledge basis for development of fish-based functional foods. Several aspects are currently considered; (i) health beneficial effects of a fish containing diet, (ii) chemical changes in fish (particularly lipid oxidation and protein functionality) and (iii), isolation of functional proteins from under-utilized marine materials. Herring (Clupea harengus) has been the primary "model species” because of its high relevance for the region and its potential for being better used for food production. In addition, the lipids and proteins of herring are highly susceptible to oxidation why chemical changes are fast.
Regarding health effects, three studies have recently been conducted, two on humans and one on rats. Both are aiming at investigating if herring/herring sub-fractions in the diet affect markers of cardiovascular disease. These are performed in collaboration with the Wallenberg Laboratory and Department of Internal Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
In the EU-project LIPIDTEXT (part of the integrated project SEAFOODplus), the role of lipids/lipid oxidation products in protein oxidation is evaluated, and also vice versa. Chalmers have been responsible for development of washed fish mince model systems to study oxidative changes; both their kinetics and how they can be inhibited by antioxidants.
In the NI-project 02106 "Good quality of herring for humans”, the influence of season, stock and year of catch on composition and oxidation storage stability of herring is addressed. Two general backbones in our lipid oxidation research have been studies of fish-derived aqueous compounds as and fish haemoglobins (Hb) as pro-oxidants. The antioxidants are however considered not only out from their lipid/protein-stabilizing effects in food systems, but also out from their potential health effects. Thus, several in vitro and in vivo model systems have been used, e.g. muscle systems, liposomes, single cell systems and animals (rat, mice).
Since 2006; a large project on acid and alkaline isolation of proteins from underutilized marine raw materials like herring, herring by-products and crushed/small mussels is carried out. Both functional, nutritional and safety aspects of the isolates are addressed.