FPE-32306 Food Digestion: Ingestion and Structure Breakdown


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work3
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. AEM Janssen
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. M Mars
dr. MA Stieger
prof. dr. ir. WJJ Gerrits
ing. M Strubel
dr. ir. AEM Janssen
dr. N van der Wielen
Examiner(s)dr. ir. AEM Janssen
dr. ir. M Mars

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

FCH-20806 Food Chemistry or FHM-20306 Food Microbiology, HNE-25306 Food Components and Health (or similar).


Digestion of food is a complex process that is essential for our life. The process of digestion starts in the mouth and continues in the stomach, small and large intestines, and ends at the anus. On its way the food bolus is systematically broken down into smaller pieces and/or soluble components. This is done via a large number of complex mechanical, enzymatic and chemical processes. Mechanical transformations reduce the size of the food particles and mainly take place in the mouth and stomach. During enzymatic transformations, macromolecules (proteins, carbohydrates etc.) are hydrolysed into smaller components.<
In this course the interaction between food and the upper part of the gastro-intestinal tract is discussed. The focus is on the breakdown of the structured food matrix in the mouth by oral processing and further breakdown in the stomach. The influence of food structure on breakdown is discussed in relation to its effect on perception, satiety and satiation. The process of food digestion can be studied by in vivo experiments in humans and animals or by using in vitro models and mathematical modelling. You will learn what information can be obtained from human and animal studies, including the technical difficulties and ethical limitations. Furthermore attention is paid to the large variety of in vitro models that are available nowadays, from simple in vitro models that are used to gain mechanistic insight in the digestion process to the complex in vitro systems that are mimicking the whole human digestive tract. In vitro models usually have to compromise between technological complexity and biological significance, so a critical attitude is required towards the information derived from such models. Currently mathematical models are not widely used yet, but they might give new insights in the digestion process and therefore provide new hypothesis for experimental research. The knowledge on digestion of food can be applied to design foods with desired properties and functionalities such as foods providing enhanced satiety (suitable for weight management), efficient energy release (useful for athletes), controlled glucose uptake (important for diabetics) or high uptake of proteins (relevant for elderly or chronically ill people).

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand how digestion of structured food takes place in the upperpart of the gastro-intestinal tract, including the mechanical and enzymatic processes;
- understand the effect of food complexity, food interaction and food source variation on the digestion process;
- critically evaluate in vivo and in vitro models/techniques that can be used to investigate ingestion and structure breakdown;
- being able to make simple mathematical digestion models by using the software SMART;
- apply the knowledge on food digestion to design a food product for a specific application e.g. for enhanced satiety, more efficient energy release etc.;
- design, carry out and evaluate experiments with in vitro digestion models.


The course consists of lectures, tutorials, a case study and a practical.


The final grade is based on the written exam (70%) and the results of the case study (10%), the computer simulation exercises (10%) and the lab practical (10%).


Course material will be available at the start of the course. Additional material will be provided through Blackboard.

Restricted Optional for: MFTFood TechnologyMScJ: Food Digestion and Health5AF
MNHNutrition and HealthMScF: Food Digestion and Health5AF