Structure and function of organic molecules in food

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims at providing the necessary knowledge in order to understand, at the molecular level, the characteristics and reactivity of the main organic compounds in food, including the different classes of additives. Particular attention will be paid to the study of the correlation between chemical structure (lipophilicity, steric and electronic effects), macroscopic properties, biological activity and stability (temperature, pH, light and oxygen) of these molecules.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, the student will be able to understand the relationship between chemical structure, macroscopic properties and biological activity of the main classes of natural or synthetic organic compounds contained in food. Moreover, student will be able to foresee the modifications due to technological processes based on the chemical reactivity of food components and will have knowledge of the main methods for the structural determination and analysis of organic food components.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
More specific information of the delivery modes of training activities for academic year 2021/2022 will be provided ower the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation.
Course syllabus
Reminder of structure and nomenclature of the main classes of organic compounds. Chemical modifications of organic compounds in food components. Oxidative degradations of alkenes, polienes, phenols. Autooxidations of fats. Antioxidants and chelators. N-Nitrosation reactions of nitrogen-containing compounds. Hydrolytic and thermic reactions. Maillard reaction: formation of aromas and coloured compounds. Dyes and colour: basic notions of spectroscopy. Natural (polienes, porphirin derivatives, quinones, flavonoids, poliphenols) and synthetic dyes: structure and stability. Chemoreception of taste. Taste receptors: structure. Models for taste active compounds. Sweet, bitter and umami molecules. Natural sweeteners. Synthetic intensive sweeteners. Hot and cooling compounds. Compounds affecting pH. Polysaccharides: relationships between structure,conformation and physico-chemical properties. Use of polysaccharides in foods. Emulsifying agents. Cyclodextrins. Terpenoids and Carotenoids:properties and uses. Methods for structural elucidation of organic compounds. UV and IR spectroscopy and their use to analyse organic functional groups. NMR spectroscopy: basic concepts, application to the analysis of organic compounds. Use of NMR in food analysis. Practical: extraction and spectroscopic studies of food-related natural substances.
Prerequisites for admission
It is assumed that the student has the basic organic chemistry knowledge acquired in the three-year degree, in particular on the chemical reactivity of carbonyl compounds and carboxylic acids and their derivatives, and on stereochemistry.
Teaching methods
Lessons: 4.5 CFU
Laboratory : 1.5 CFU
Teaching Resources
1. Brown, Introduction to Organic Chemistry, or J. McMurry, Organic Chemistry, or any other book of Organic Chemistry used in the 3-year course. 2. Belitz, Food Chemistry, Springer Verlag 3. Copies of transparencies and slides can be found on Ariel platform.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The assessment of the achievement of the learning outcomes takes place by means of a written test . The written test requires the solution of application-type exercises, having contents and difficulties similar to those faced in class exercises. The test will deal with all the topics covered during the course and laboratory experiences. The following skills will be evaluated: knowledge of the structure and reactivity of organic molecules; knowledge of the main transformations of organic compounds; ability to identify the relationships between chemical structure, macroscopic properties and biological activity of organic molecules contained in food; ability to describe the structure of a simple organic molecule on the basis of the provided spectroscopic data; knowledge of the fundamental techniques for the recognition, separation and purification of organic compounds.
To take the exam it is necessary to register on the UNIMIA platform.
The mark is communicated to each student by e-mail by the University's verbalization system
CHIM/08 - PHARMACEUTICAL CHEMISTRY - University credits: 6
Laboratories: 24 hours
Lessons: 36 hours
Professor: Dallavalle Sabrina