Bioactive Food Components and Health

Course content

This course contains a series of lectures and exercises followed by a group work assignment before the exam. Lectures start with an introduction to the area, its basic vocabulary and scientific methodologies. Then additional lectures will exemplify plant food, dairy and meat bioactive components, shortly touching upon their functionality in the food organism but with a main focus on their bioavailability, biotransformation, and bioactivities after consumption in humans at the physiological, nutritional and biochemical level. Also the scientific methodologies used to investigate such actions are detailed with respect to study designs and biomarkers. At least 10 of the following themes for lectures and theoretical exercises will typically be covered but others may also be added:

1. Overview of basic concepts in evaluation of bioactivity and functionality, including demands on scientific documentation for health claims and basics of chemical safety evaluation.

2. Overview of plant foods and health. How strong is the evidence for disease prevention and what is known or speculated about mechanisms.

3. Relationship between special plant components and taste, interactions in taste.

4. Vegetables 1: Crucifers including cabbage, mustards and watercress (glucosinolates; indoles; isothiocyanates; nuclear receptors; cell cycle control).

5. Vegetables 2: Onion, garlic, carrots, asparagus, parsnip tomato, non-crucifer green vegetables (polysulphides, alkyns, carotenoids etc.; phase 1 and 2 enzyme induction, effects on vision, provitamin A).

6. Fruit: Stone fruit, grapes and citrus (flavonols, ascorbate, triterpenes, carotenoids; antioxidation, effects on cholesterol).

7. Berries, grapes (strawberry, blueberry, craneberry, grapes; polyphenols (catechins and anthocyanins), stilbenes; anti-inflammation, effects on vessel walls).

8. Cereals, fruit and vegetables (soluble and insoluble fibre, glucans, fructans, pectins, arabinoxylans, cell wall structures; gut health and immunity, cholesterol and fat biokinetics).

9. Legumes and wholegrain (isoflavonoids, lignans; hormone mimetic effects).

10. Spices and bioactive compounds in relation to energy balance/expenditure (ginger, parsley, dill, chives, thyme, rosemary; terpenes, gingerol, furocoumarins).

11. Beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa, cola; caffeine, theobromine, cocaine, kahweol, cafestrol).

12. Dairy products (SCFA, peptides, gangliosides, Ca-species).

13. Meat and fish products (n-3 fats, carnosine, CLA, apecific amino acids)

14. Organic and conventional products (differences and similarities in contents; background for evaluation of differences in health effects).

15. Probiotics (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and other strains with specific health actions).

16. Bioactives in innovation.


MSc Programme in Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Food Innovation and Health
MSc Programme in Human Nutrition

Learning outcome

The course will give examples of specific nonnutritive components in foods and their possible mechanisms of action. The course is the only one in these programmes giving a systematic overview of non-nutritive bioactive components. The course will give a critical insight into the meaning of bioactivity and functional components, an important aspect of formulating health claims. It also aims to give a more in-depth insight into the health effects of many common foods, beverages and spices. After completing the course the student compentences should include:


- Describing the most common types of bioactive compounds and components in foods, beverages and spices, and their modes of action in the human body.

- Knowing the most important laboratory and clinical methods to evaluate typical health effects of plant foods in human studies in comparison to cell culture and animal studies.

- Knowing the use of the most common experimental designs in the study of effects of non-nutritive food components on health or on health-related biomarkers.

- Referring to the formal scientific demands for placing a health claim on a food product, - an important criterium for applying innovative activities in the biotechnology field.


- Critically assessing methods, results, and conclusions in scientific papers within bioactive compounds, human health and innovation.

- Evaluating the contribution of several studies on a food product to conclude on its effects on human health, enabling claims to be formulated for bioactive food compounds.


- Working independently and analytically with scientific literature.

- Critical oral and written presentation at a high scientific level.

- Insights into what it takes to bring a health-promoting product to the market.

In each session there will first be lectures in a general subject or on a specific group of foods with examples of potentially active ingredient groups related to one or more commonly reported actions in humans. Lectures will be followed by theoretical exercises, typically including critical reading of original articles on the day’s theme followed by plenary discussions or short individual or group presentations.

Course literature will be announced at study start and during the course on the course home page (Absalon/ Canvas).

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

At the group work presentations late in the course we use a combination of structured peer feedback from other students and oral feedback from the superviser.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 2 hours under invigilation

The course has been selected for ITX exam
All aids allowed


The University will make computers available to students taking on-site exams at ITX. Students are therefore not permitted to bring their own computers, tablets or mobile phones. If textbooks and/or notes are permitted, according to the course description, these must be in paper format or uploaded through Digital Exam.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal grading. One assessor.
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see "Learning Outcome"

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 132
  • Theory exercises
  • 48
  • Exam
  • 2
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
No restrictions.
Study Board of Food, Human Nutrition and Sports
Contracting department
  • Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports
  • Department of Food Science
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Lars Ove Dragsted   (4-6f6775644371687b76316e7831676e)
Saved on the 30-08-2021

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Courseinformation of students