Department of Food Chemistry and Phytochemistry

Department of Food Chemistry and Phytochemistry
Our research is focused on the plant cell wall, its constituents and their functions in the plant, in plant-based foods, and in human nutrition. The plant cell wall determines size and shape of a cell, provides strengths, protects against pathogens and abiotic stresses, and controls transport processes. The plant cell wall as a whole is most important for the texture of plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, individual constituents determine food texture, e.g. arabinoxylans in bread, and/or can be used as thickening or gelling agents, e.g. pectins. Because cell walls are the main source of dietary fiber for most of the population, cell components, which belong to the dietary fiber complex and generate interest for their health benefits, e.g. non-starch polysaccharides and lignin, are among our target molecules. Besides food applications, cell walls and their constituents are in the focus as a source of biofuels. The physicochemical properties of the cell wall polymers are not only dependent on the chemical structures of the individual compounds but also on their interactions. Thus, our group also studies plant cell wall cross-links such as oligomeric hydroxycinnamic acids and their impact on the cell wall and plant foods. Besides cell wall polymers and their cross-links, we are interested in certain low-molecular weight phytochemicals, their formation as a response to different types of stress, their fate during food processing, and their potential physiological effects in animals and humans.