Contrary to the definition, “Dietary fiber contains lignin, which is not metabolized by mammalian animals”, we have our doubts according to our recent results.

The possible metabolic reactions of the aromatic biopolymer lignin were investigated as a part of the GOOD-project: Improved gut health by wood-derived gums (Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation). In the experimental setup of the project, rats consumed hemicelluloses (mainly xylan) derived from birch wood in their diet. In the first part of the project, it was found that xylan has potential as a prebiotic dietary fiber promoting gut health.

Reference to the first part of the study on xylan promoting gut health:

Kynkäänniemi, E., Lahtinen, M. H., Jian, C., Salonen, A., Hatanpää, T., Mikkonen, K. S., & Pajari, A. M. (2022). Gut microbiota can utilize prebiotic birch glucuronoxylan in production of short-chain fatty acids in rats. Food & Function, 13(6), 3746-3759.

In the experimental setup the xylan groups were further divided into two different groups: one group obtained purified xylan, whereas the other group also obtained lignin, which is present in the unpurified xylan. By using many modern analytical tools in chemistry and gut microbiome research, we gained multiple pieces of evidence showing that lignin is metabolized by the action of certain gut microbes from the Eggerthella genus in the large intestine to smaller molecules, such as sinapic and ferulic acids, and their derivatives. The collaboration in our multidisciplinary research team was integral and many of the tools used came from the field wood chemistry. In addition, knowledge in food and nutrition, and gut microbiome research were essential in order to gather, interpret, and make conclusions of all the findings.

Reference to the second part of the study on lignin metabolism:

Lahtinen, M. H., Kynkäänniemi, E., Jian, C., Salonen, A., Pajari, A.-M., Mikkonen, K. S., Metabolic fate of lignin in birch glucuronoxylan extracts as dietary fiber studied in a rat model. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2023, 2300201.

Exploring Helsinki: Our Thrilling City Adventure

The Food Materials Science Research Group embarked on a refreshing summer recreational event. Turning the bustling streets of Helsinki into our playground, we delved into an exciting Foxtrail city adventure.

Under the sunny sky, we collected at Rautatientori on May 29, 2023, at 2 pm, brimming with enthusiasm for our urban quest. We split into four teams. Two teams took on the challenge of Route Sampo, where modernity meets history, while the other two teams chose Route Louhi, where the bustling city meets tranquility. Equipped with the instructions, we were prepared for the adventure ahead.

As we followed the trail, we discovered a different side of Helsinki. From modern and historical buildings to green parks and beautiful shores, each clue led us deeper into the heart of the city. We were amazed by the vibrant tulips blooming at the entrance of an ancient castle and a magnificent sailing ship gracing the port. The excitement grew with each puzzle we solved, and the satisfaction of unraveling each clue motivated us to keep going.

Of course, the trail had its challenges. Some clues puzzled us, while others took us on unexpected detours. With some luck, the fastest team reached the destination in just two hours, stumbling upon the correct path without finding all the clues. However, not all teams were as fortunate. One team struggled briefly with a clue and almost boarded a ship bound for Suomenlinna, a distant island location. But we persisted and overcame each obstacle.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a reinvigorating and delightful meal. The thrill of reaching milestones, combined with the breathtaking views, made the journey truly worthwhile.

Our city adventure in Helsinki was an unforgettable experience. It revealed the city’s hidden treasures and left us with lasting memories. Additionally, it brought us closer as a group. In moments of puzzlement, we gathered together, shared ideas, and contemplated the intricate clues. Some riddles tested our patience and challenged our collective intelligence, but we approached the journey as a team, celebrating each breakthrough. This collaborative spirit mirrored our approach to research problems, strengthening our bonds and creating unforgettable memories.

Patent application

The first patent application from the Food Materials Science Research Group was submitted to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, with application number 20185908. Our innovation will enhance the shelf-life of fresh plant-based food products during transportation and storage, and reduce food waste along the distribution chain.