Biochemistry and Human nutrition

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
BIO/09 BIO/10
Learning objectives
This course, organized in the two modules "Nutrition and Human Nutrition" and "Biochemistry", will familiarize the student with the fundamental principles of biochemistry and human nutrition, including key concepts of nutritional requirements, macro-and micro-nutrient functions.
Expected learning outcomes
At the completion of this program the student will be able to understand the biochemical nature of foods and the associated molecular and metabolic mechanisms, and utilize knowledge from foundational sciences as a basis for understanding the role of food and nutrients in health and disease.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
According to the decrees on the health emergency, the lessons could be held remotely. The chosen procedure will be mixed with synchronous lessons - carried out on the MS Teams platform on the basis of the scheduled timetable - or asynchronous - with audio recordings on the ppt slides, uploaded as mp4 videos on the ARIEL website of the course-.
The program of the course will not undergo variations, but in virtual room specific activities could be proposed by the teachers, as self-assessment tests or group working, to evaluate any critical issues and to encourage horizontal teaching.
The exam will always take place orally on MS Teams in case of restrictions due to emergency or in presence. The link to the exam sessions will be uploaded on the ARIEL website of the course.
Prerequisites for admission
According to the prerequisites reported in the Manifesto degli Studi, the student must have acquired knowledge in General and Inorganic Chemistry, Biology, Physiology with elements of Human Anatomy, Organic Chemistry, to adequately address the contents of the teaching.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The verification method is an oral test on topics related to the arguments of the course. The final vote is given out of thirty (calculated as a weighted average of the vote obtained in the two modules: Biochemistry and Food and Human Nutrition)
For Biochemistry, it is evaluate the knowledge of the topics covered during the course, the ability to carry out a comprehensive and coherent answer to the question, to use an appropriate language, and to underline the metabolic relationships between the different tissues and organs in physiological and pathological conditions.
For Food and Human Nutrition, in addition to the assessment of the knowledge of the topics addressed in the course, it is also evaluated the ability to process the answers (the organization of the speech and the appropriateness of the response in relation to the question), the language property and the ability to logically link various topics.
Course syllabus
The program of the Biochemistry module addresses the following topics:
· Carbohydrates: chemical structure, stereochemistry, reactivity and function of monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides (homo and hetero-polysaccharides).
· Amino acids: chemical and chemical-physical features and properties of amino acids and their reactivity.
· Peptides and proteins: chemical and geometric characteristics of the peptide bond; secondary, third and quaternary structures of proteins; main functions.
· Fibrous and globular proteins (myoglobin and hemoglobin)
· Structure, function and reactivity of lipids: chemical and chemical-physical sources and characteristics of the main food lipids.
· Enzymatic kinetics: characteristics of enzymes, the principles of enzymatic kinetics and related mathematical models, and regulation of enzyme activity.
· Cofactors and coenzymes.
· Bioenergetics and high energy content biomolecules.
· Carbohydrate metabolism: glucose metabolism, glycolysis (mechanisms and thermodynamic considerations of individual reactions), gluconeogenesis (mechanisms of limiting reactions, gluconeogenic substrates, correlations with Cori and alanine cycle), pentose phosphate cycle (mechanisms and regulation), glycogen metabolism (enzymes and reactions of the synthesis and degradation pathway); coordinated regulation of glycolysis and gluconeogenesis; coordinated regulation of glycogen synthesis and degradation.
· Krebs cycle: structure of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex and reaction mechanism; structure of enzymatic complexes, mechanisms and thermodynamic considerations of the single reactions of the cycle; mechanisms and points of regulation of the entire cycle.
· Respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation: description of cellular respiration, chemical and structural characteristics of the universal electron acceptors of biochemical reactions; structure and function of the electron transport chain complexes; molecular aspects of electron flow; production reactions of reactive oxygen species at mitochondrial level; the chemiosmotic model; structure and function of ATP synthase; electron transport through the mitochondrial membrane (malate-aspartate shuttle, glycerol 3-phosphate shuttle).
· Lipid metabolism: digestion, absorption and transport of lipids, mechanisms of reactions of fatty acid biosynthesis; sites and regulation mechanisms; elongation and desaturation reactions of exogenous and endogenous fatty acids; notes on the metabolism of arachidonic acid; notes on triglyceride and phospholipid biosynthesis pathways; catabolism of fatty acids, metabolism of ketone bodies, cholesterol metabolism.
· Amino acid metabolism: exogenous and endogenous sources of amino acids; transamination reactions (mechanism); oxidative deamination; urea cycle (reaction mechanisms and regulation); fate of the carbon skeleton (cycle of tricarboxylic acids, gluconeogenesis and alanine cycle); nitrogen balance.
· Vitamins and vitamino-like factors
· Hormones and signal transduction: biochemical aspects of signal transduction; structure, function and modulation of the main receptors involved in the regulation of metabolic pathways
· Metabolic interrelations related to feeding/fasting cycle
Teaching methods
The lessons are all frontal, during which the teacher induces an intense interplay with the students with motivated discussions related to the biochemical topics
Teaching Resources
The recommended reference texts are: D.L. Nelson, M.M. Cox, Introduction to the biochemistry of Lehninger, Zanichelli; D.L. Nelson, M.M. Cox, Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry, Zanichelli; T.M. Devlin Biochemistry with clinical-pharmaceutical aspects, EdiSES; D. Voet, J.G. Voet, C.W. Pratt, Foundations of Biochemistry, Zanichelli; Campbell & Farrell, Biochemistry, EdiSES; G. Berg, J.L. Tymoczko, L. Stryer, Biochemistry, Zanichelli.
For non-attending students, consultation of organic chemistry text is also recommended.
Other reference material: slides of the lessons uploaded on the Ariel platform
Food and human nutrition
Course syllabus
The program of the Food and Human Nutrition module addresses the following topics:
· Call back principles of anatomy and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract. Motor and secretory activities of the digestive system and their regulations.
· Energy requirements and expenditure: basal metabolism, food-induced thermogenesis and physical activity. Evaluation methods of energy expenditure. Energy expenditure in relation to age, different physiological states and different levels of physical activity
· Proteins: Structure, digestion and absorption of dietary proteins. Functions, metabolism and use of amino acids in the human body.Essential amino acids, protein quality and methods to evaluate it.Protein requirements in different age groups and physiological states. Bioactive peptides.
· Lipids: Structure and classification. Digestion and absorption of food lipids. Lipoproteins. Metabolism and functions of lipids in the human body.Essential fatty acids, eicosanoids.Lipid requirements in different age groups and physiological states. Trans-fatty acids. CLA. Notes on the role of the quantity / quality of food lipids on human health.
· Available carbohydrates, simple and complex.Structure, digestion and absorption of carbohydrates (focus on lactose).Metabolism (focus on fructose).Blood glucose regulation, glycemic index and factors that influence it. Glycemic load and meaning for human health. Need for available carbohydrates in different age groups and physiological states.
· Not available carbohydrates, simple and complex (focus on sweeteners). Definition and structure of dietary fiber. Substances annexed to fractions of dietary fiber. food sources of dietary fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber and its effects on human health. Notes on the role of microbiota in relation to dietary fiber and consequences on the health of the host. Requirements of dietary fiber in different age groups
· Water balance and its regulation, functions performed by water in the human body, effects of dehydration
· Alcoholic and nervine drinks
· Dietary reference values of energy and nutrients for the Italian population: meaning of the different reference values.
· Nutrient bioavailability: meaning and factors that can influence it.
· Vitamins: absorption, metabolism, functions, food sources, requirements, risks related to deficiency states or excessive intake of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins
· Minerals and trace elements: absorption, functions, homeostatic regulation mechanisms, requirements, food sources, clinical signs of deficiency, toxicity.
· Nutrition status assessment systems: direct and indirect methods, advantages and limits of the techniques
Teaching methods
The lessons are all frontal with the involvement of students in discussions on specific topics stimulated by the teacher (comparison of opinions on issues related to the topics developed)
Teaching Resources
For non-attending students, in addition to the previous text, it is advisable to consult a text of Human Physiology for topics related to the physiology of the gastro-intestinal system
Other reference materials: slides of the lessons uploaded on the Ariel platform
BIO/10 - BIOCHEMISTRY - University credits: 7
Lessons: 56 hours
Food and human nutrition
BIO/09 - PHYSIOLOGY - University credits: 5
Lessons: 40 hours
Professor: Erba Daniela
by appointment
DeFENS Via Giuseppe Colombo 62 ,Milano