2045 Bainer Hall
Engineering Digestion: In Vitro, In Vivo, and Computational Approaches
Dr. Gail Bornhorst, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis
Food digestion is a complex, multiscale process that has recently become of interest to the food industry due to the developing links between food and health or disease. As such, development of functional food products and increasing functionality of agricultural commodities has increased in alignment with industry and consumer demand. However, to develop innovative food products, it is necessary to understand the behavior of food during the digestion process, from its initial physical breakdown, to the transformation and absorption of its constituent nutrient molecules. Although the complex, interrelated processes of food digestion may seem like an extremely challenging system, digestion processes can be effectively related to similar unit operations found in food or chemical plants, many of which are well-characterized. By taking an engineering approach to study the food digestion process, quantitative comparisons can be made across model systems and foods, facilitating food product optimization. This engineering approach involves a combination of in vitro, in vivo, and computational studies to fully understand food breakdown and nutrient release mechanisms during digestion. Examples of how this engineering approach can be applied to study food digestion will be given for a variety of food products, including brown and white rice, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, and apples. Based on results from these studies, a Food Breakdown Classification System (FBCS) has been developed, which may be used to effectively classify food products into six categories based on their initial hardness and rate of softening during gastric digestion. Use of these approaches and tools will allow for better-informed food product design and useful interventions to improve consumer health by optimization of food products with targeted functional properties.
2045 Bainer Hall University of California Davis