Nutritional biochemistry

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
BIO/04 BIO/10
Learning objectives
Aim of the course is to integrate and deepen the basic biochemical concepts acquired in the previous formation of the student, covering further aspects about structure and biochemical properties of nutrients, about metabolism, as well as about mechanisms of integration and regulation of the metabolic pathways.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students should have acquired the cultural tools and advanced notions required to understand the biochemical nature of foods and the metabolic processes through which the digestion, absorption and elaboration of nutrients occurs in order to assure the homeostasis of animal organisms, with particular attention to humans. By means of specific seminars, student should have acquired skills for tackling individual topics related to nutrient biochemistry and metabolism, through the critical analysis of the scientific literature, as well as to disseminate the conclusions of such analysis.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Synchronous distance teaching via MS Teams. Audio-video records of lectures available in streaming in asynchronous mode through both MS Teams and and Ariel. PowerPoint presentations available through Ariel. The final exam consists in a distance oral examination via MS Teams.
Course syllabus
Nutritional needs and nutrients. Sources and bioavailability of nutrients. Energetic and plastic nutrients. Macronutrients and micronutrients. Non-nutrients and anti-nutrients.
Lipids. Chemical nature of fatty acids, triacylglycerols, phospholipids, cholesterol and derivatives. Essential fatty acids. Alimentary fats and oils.
Glycans. Glycemic index of foods. Chemical nature of simple sugars and polysaccharides. Glycogen and starch. Organization of starch granules. Edible fiber: soluble and insoluble components. Sources of sugars, polysaccharides, and vegetal fiber.
Protids. Chemical nature of amino acids, polypeptides and proteins. Essential amino acids and protein nutritional quality. Meats and other animal sources of proteins. Gluten proteins and other vegetal protids.
Vitamins. Inorganic nutrients.
Chemical and physical consequences of cooking and other food transformation procedures. Biochemical aspects of nutrient assimilation: digestion, absorption and transport within the digestive apparatus. Molecular mechanisms of digestive enzyme activation and hydrolytic activity. Hormonal control of digestive function.
Metabolism and bioenergetics. Biochemical aspects of the energetic metabolism of nutrients. Metabolic specialization of organs and tissues. Metabolism of liver and extrahepatic tissues. Integration and hormonal regulation of metabolism. Energy stores. Glucose homeostasis. Metabolic pathways of carbohydrates, lipids and nitrogen compounds. Ethanol metabolism. Vitamin biochemistry. Antioxidants and oxidative stress. Enzymatic mechanisms of xenobiotic detoxification: cytochrome P450s (CYPs) and flavin-dependent monooxygenases (FMOs). Examples of food toxins.
Molecular bases of major metabolic diseases and food intolerances. Rational of dietary restrictions in the treatment of metabolic disorders.
Molecular bases of biosignalling. Receptors and signal transduction pathways. Hormone signal transduction pathways involved in metabolism regulation.
Illustration of case studies, also aimed to explain how to perform bibliographic searches.
Prerequisites for admission
A good knowledge of principles and concepts of general chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry, whith a special focus on metabolism, usually covered by a bachelor program in Biology, is mandatory.
Teaching methods
Classroom lectures supported by projected material, with common discussions about covered topics. Seminars on specific topics.
Teaching Resources
Siliprandi e Tettamanti, Biochimica Medica. Strutturale, Metabolica e Funzionale. V Edizione (o posteriore), Piccin.
Giuseppe Arienti, Le Basi Molecolari della Nutrizione, IV Edizione (o posteriore), Piccin.
Videoprojected material and other supporting materials will be made available through the Ariel portal of the University.
Assessment methods and Criteria
In the absence of social distancing imposed by sanitary emergence restrictions, the exam is written and consists in a series of open questions aimed to assess the ability of the student to handle the topics covered by the course. Answers can be provided in English, if wished. Allowed time is usually 2 hours. Students may be asked to draw chemical structures and/or to solve simple numerical problems. At request, it is possible to sit the exam in oral form. Each answer will equally contribute to the final score. In order to have a positive evaluation at least 70% of the answers must be correct. Partial exams during the teaching semester for students attending the course are not planned.
BIO/04 - PLANT PHYSIOLOGY - University credits: 0
BIO/10 - BIOCHEMISTRY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 40 hours
Lessons (seminars): 8 hours
Educational website(s)
Monday, 08:30-12:30 (appointment required)
Dept. Biosciences, via Celoria 26, bldg C - floor 5