Associate Professor of molecular nutrition Anne-Maria Pajari: Today, we understand increasingly well the molecular biological mechanisms through which food impacts health

Anne-Maria Pajari, who recently assumed an associate professorship at her long-time workplace, the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, leads multidisciplinary research projects which strive to promote the transition to an increasingly sustainable and environmentally friendly food system.

What are your research topics?

I investigate the molecular mechanisms of action of food and its compounds in the body, and how they affect health and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer and other chronic diseases associated with living habits. I am particularly interested in proteins, dietary fibres and the bioactive compounds found in foods, as well as their link to metabolic health and the composition and functioning of the gut microbiota.

Increasing the use of legumes and other sources of plant protein can help to achieve not only health benefits, but also a food system that is more environmentally friendly. I consider the promotion of sustainable development a sensible part of my research projects.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

My research increases understanding of the significance of diet in maintaining health and preventing diseases. I am also heading multidisciplinary research projects whose goal is to promote the transition to an increasingly sustainable and environmentally friendly food system.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

I am particularly inspired by gaining, thanks to advances in research techniques, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which food and its compounds affect health and the risk of acquiring diseases on the population level.

In recent years, huge strides have been made particularly in terms of knowledge pertaining to intestinal metabolism and the composition of the microbiota affecting it. Still, a great deal remains to be investigated, and we are really only starting to understand the interaction between diet host genes, gut microbiota, and health.

I am also inspired by enthusiastic students who tackle topics related to nutrition science on the courses and in their theses, encourage discussion and grow, over the course of their studies, into experts of the field.

 Anne-Maria Pajari is associate professor of molecular nutrition at the Department of Food and Nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.

Research group Molecular Nutrition