Scientific Research Project Title

Chemo-Mechanical Upcycling of the Stale Bread Waste Matrix into a High-Performance Packaging Material

Research Institution

Aarhus University

Aarhus University

Research field

Food Chemistry

Research leader

Mario Martinez-Martinez

Tenure Track Assistant Professor

Project title

Non-covalent Binding to Target Prime Sites for Cardiometabolic Protection

What is your project about?

Starches and sugars represent one of the largest global challenges for obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Unfortunately, adhering to a strict diet might benefit only people with the time and cognitive and psychological resources required to engage. Thus, solutions affordable for everyone are urgently needed to reverse the burden of these twin global pandemics. This Sapere Aude aims to explore the contribution of three different sites in our body for the metabolic actions of plant derived polyphenolic flavonoids towards the prevention of high sugar related diseases, as well as elucidating non-covalent interactions between flavonoids and polysaccharide networks that govern flavonoid chemical stability, delivery and bioactivity.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I have always been interested in the health aspects of food. My research endeavors started with the investigation of starch, one the largest dietary polymers found in nature. Nevertheless, the relatively well-known stress caused by the high demand for insulin after high-glycemic starch-rich meals soon called the attention of my research efforts. Then, in the past two years, the emerging evidence highlighting the importance of food processing, gut microbiome, flavonoids and personalized nutrition drove my devotion to this multidisciplinary field of research to reduce the burden of obesity and diabetes using sustainable technologies. We are now in exciting times for food science and finding the crossover between nutrition and sustainability will critically dictate future food production and consumption.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

The main challenges to understand flavonoid-plant cell wall interactions lies in the complexity of the plant cell wall. Even walls from the same plant tissue present high heterogeneity. This is why, in this project, we will use plant cell wall analogues using a bottom-up approach, mimicking cell walls from different edible plants, almost identical but with well-defined components and structure.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

The world faces a global nutrition crisis, most clearly evidenced by obesity and type 2 diabetes. I believe this Sapere Aude holds the potential to unlock a crucial piece of the puzzle toward saving those many years of good quality of life sadly lost due to high blood sugar related diseases. Furthermore, it could perhaps contribute to future guidelines to upcycle food materials rich in cell walls and flavonoids, currently wasted in large amounts, recognizing this “garbage” for the gold it is.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

The Sapere Aude program represents for me a unique opportunity to consolidate and expand my research group in Denmark after my return to Europe, which occurred in the middle of the lockdown, and elevate my skills as a research leader in my field of research. This prestigious award will help attract new talent, as well as strengthening my collaborations. I cannot not think of a better way to establish my research program. This Sapere Aude will be critical to support my vision for my group in 5 years, where I will plan to apply for an ERC Consolidator hereafter.

Background and personal life

I am originally from Palencia, a small town located in the north of Spain, which possesses an extraordinary wealth of gastronomic specialties. After 18 months in USA and 33 months in Canada, I chose Denmark to settle and build a multidisciplinary research program with the commonality of healthy and sustainable solutions. Despite my typical hectic agenda of an academic, I still have plenty of hobbies that keep me busy during my free time, including playing soccer tournaments, going to the gym, running through the nearby Risskov park, watching good thriller movies and enjoying the city life of Aarhus.

City of your current residence

Aarhus

High school

IES Virgen de la Calle