HNE-30706 Food Digestion: Nutrient Breakdown and Absorption


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. GJEJ Hooiveld
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. GJEJ Hooiveld
dr. E Capuano
prof. dr. ir. WJJ Gerrits
dr. N van der Wielen
Examiner(s)dr. ir. GJEJ Hooiveld
dr. E Capuano

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

HNE-28305 Metabolic Aspects of Nutrition or HNE-25306 Food Components and Health;
FCH-20806 Food Chemistry or FHM-20306 Food Microbiology;
HAP-30306 Nutritional Physiology (or similar).


Digestion of food is a complex process that is essential for our life. The breakdown of food is done via a large number of complex mechanical, enzymatic and chemical processes, and is extensively controlled. This course will concentrate on the process of food digestion and regulation in the small intestine. In order to be able to modulate and optimize the digestion of foods, it is important to have insight into the various extrinsic (food-related) and intrinsic (host-related) factors that influence food digestion and nutrient absorption. For example, the macronutrients starch, proteins and lipids can form unique microstructures, which affects the rate and the extent of their digestion. Also, specific food components can modulate digestion by altering the activity of specific digestive enzymes, and disturbed feedback loops may contribute to disease.
This course will be divided into two main parts. The first part will address the nutritional physiology of the small intestine, with an emphasis on the sensing and regulation of nutrient digestion and absorption at the molecular level. The second part will address the relation between food structure and digestion.
Topics that will be covered include:
Anatomy and histology of the small intestine;
Digestion and absorption of the three macronutrients;
Regulation of digestion and absorption;
Comparative physiology of the small intestine;
Pathophysiology of the small intestine;
Factors affecting macronutrients digestion and micronutrients bioavailability;
Technological strategies to modulate nutrient digestion kinetics;
Bioavailability of minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals;
In vivo and in vitro models to study digestion in the small intestine;
Biomarkers of bioavailability and how to measure them;
Models of bioavailability and enzymatic digestion.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- describe and explain the structure and functioning of the small intestine;
- articulate the main intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence digestion of food macronutrients;
- understand the aetiology of some of the most common intestinal diseases and how these affect nutrient absorption and metabolic health;
- understand the main sensing and regulatory mechanisms influencing food digestion and absorption at the molecular level, and provide clues how these can be exploited to prevent (systemic) disease;
- design strategies to improve micronutrient bioavailability;
- use in vitro and in vivo models to study food digestion.


Lectures, tutorials, group work (assignment), a lab part, and self-study.


The final grade is based on a written exam (60%), and the results of the assignment (20%) and practical (20%). For the assignment and practical a minimum mark of 5.5 is required.

Restricted Optional for: MFTFood TechnologyMScJ: Food Digestion and Health4WD
MNHNutrition and HealthMScF: Food Digestion and Health4WD