13952 - Nutritional Biochemistry

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Good health and well-being Quality education Responsible consumption and production

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to give a basic knowledge about the role of macro- and micronutrients in common foods, their dietary intake and requirements, to describe the role of functional foods and nutraceutical compounds in the prevention/counteraction of chronic degenerative diseases, to study the metabolism of the body for the normal state and for states where nutrient availability is altered or disease is imposed, and to give the general rationale about dietary supplements versus dietary changes in sedentary and physically active people.

Course contents

Defining Food Science and Nutrition Science. Food quality and its determinants from farm to fork. The role of consumers and the new "from fork to farm" assumption.

Formulation of dietary guidelines: BMI and biochemical evaluations, RDA, food pyramids. Nutrient classes. The seven classes of foods.

Nutrition and metabolism of carbohydrates: food sources, digestion, absorption, metabolism and function. Lactose intolerance. Galactosemia. Foods and glucose tolerance, glycemic index, nutrition of the diabetic. Non energy related functions of carbohydrates. Dietary fiber.

Nutrition and metabolism of fats: food sources, absorption, metabolism and function. Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Trans fatty acids. N-6 and n-3 fatty acids: biosynthesis, metabolic functions, RDA, nutritional sources. Cholesterol nutrition and the control of serum cholesterol concentration. Lipoproteins. Oxidative stress: reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Intracellular and extracellular antioxidants. Functional foods and nutraceutical compounds in the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases.

Nutrition and metabolism of proteins: essential aminoacids, food sources of proteins and protein quality, digestion, absorption, metabolism and function. Nitrogen balance. Protein requirements. Protein and disease: homocystinuria, phenylketonuria, celiac disease, protein malnutrition.

Water: endogenous and exogenous sources. Water requirement. Water homeostasis in the body.

Ethanol metabolism, diet and alcoholism.

Coffee, tea, cocoa and chocolate

Nutrition and metabolism of vitamins: nomenclature, sources and properties. Vitamin A, D, K and E: absorption, metabolism, storage, functions, requirements, deficiency and toxicity. Vitamin C: function, metabolism, requirements, deficiency and toxicity. The B vitamins involved in the intermediary metabolism: function, metabolism, requirements, deficiency and toxicity. Interaction of drugs with vitamins.

Nutrition and metabolism of the major minerals and of trace elements: absorption, metabolism, excretion, storage, requirements, deficiency and toxicity

Dietary supplements: definition and legal regulation in the EU dimension. Reasons for taking supplements. Vitamin supplements and mineral supplements: judging the adequacy of micronutrient intakes. Protein supplements. Branched chain aminoacids and creatine: rationale and evidence for the use of supplements. Dietary supplements in sedentary people and in physical activity.


A. MARIANI COSTANTINI, C. CANNELLA, G. TOMASSI, Fondamenti di Nutrizione Umana, Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, Roma.

I.COZZANI e E. DAINESE. Biochimica degli Alimenti e della Nutrizione. Piccin, Padova, 2006

M.C. Linder (ed.) Nutritional Biochemistry and metabolism with clinical application. Appleton & Lange, Norwalk, Connecticut (USA)

Teaching methods

Theoretical lessons with Power Point slides. During the course the utilization of the main food composition databases will also be illustrated.

Assessment methods

The examination at the end of the course aims to assess the achievement of learning objectives:
- to know the macro and micronutrients in food and their metabolic role
- to know the role of functional foods and bioactive nutraceutical compounds in the prevention of chronic/degenerative diseases

- to know the rationale and evidence to use nutritional supplements in sedentary people and in physical activity

- to have acquired ability to manage nutrition education programs

Examination consists of an oral examination. The vote is defined by an oral test with three questions aimed at evaluating the theoretical knowledge about macro and micro nutrients in food, about the possibility to prevent chronic degenerative diseases by an adequate nutrition and to evaluate the knowledge about dietary supplements to compensate potential inadequacy of the diet. Registration is required by Alma Esami. The final vote of the integrated course will be the arithmetic average of the marks obtained in the two parts (Physiology of Nutrition and Nutritional Biochemistry)

Teaching tools

PC, overhead projector

Office hours

See the website of Silvana Hrelia