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The influence of processing method on the pro-inflammatory properties of food and pathogenesis of food-related diseases

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Food processing and immunological response

Much of the food eaten today has been processed, which promotes a non-enzymatic reaction between proteins and sugars called the Maillard reaction (MR). Maillard reaction products (MRPs) and advanced Maillard reaction products (AGEs) give food products their taste, smell and colour, and are extremely important to the food industry.


The MR has raised concerns about public health due to its link to diet-related inflammatory diseases, including food allergy, Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. However, the immunological mechanisms behind the innate and adaptive immune responses by MRP’s and AGEs are not fully understood. This knowledge gap was addressed by the DIET DERIVED AGES (The influence of processing method on the pro-inflammatory properties of food and pathogenesis of food-related diseases) project. Its aim was to significantly improve the nutritional quality of food and the prevention of diet-mediated inflammation and food allergy. A combination of food chemistry with molecular in vitro studies enabled scientists to determine whether MR occurring during heating of soy protein extract (SPE) affected immunoglobulin E (IgE) binding potential, immunoreactivity and allergenicity. It also determined if it was related to processing conditions such as the time of heating and with or without sugar. SPE heated in the presence of glucose showed higher IgE binding capacity when compared to the heated control. This finding agreed with the basophil activation test, whereby enhanced basil activity was observed when exposed to SPE heated in the presence of glucose. In addition, 5 out of 7 allergic patients showed increased levels of the proteins interleukin -13 and -15 (IL-13 and IL-15) after incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with SPE heated with glucose. These results suggest the changes in protein structure caused by the MR may create new epitopes (the part of the antigen to which an antibody binds) capable of inducing an immune response. In order to reveal the mechanisms by which MRPs altered the immune cells, two different methods (ELISA-based and cell-based) to measure the interaction of MRPs with the receptor for advanced glycation endproducts (RAGE) were optimised. Both tests revealed that soy-derived MRPs react with RAGE and the strength of the binding corresponds with both time of heating with time of heating with glucose and the level of the MR. It appears that RAGE is the mechanism through which food-derived MRPs may activate the pro-inflammatory pathway of immune cells. DIET DERIVED AGES has led to a better understanding of largely unknown mechanisms responsible for inflammation induced by food-derived MRPs. This approach reflects the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and EU policy, which emphasises the need to increase understanding of food related inflammatory diseases at the molecular level.


Maillard reaction, DIET DERIVED AGES, diet-mediated inflammation, food allergy, soy protein extract, affected immunoglobulin E, blood mononuclear cells, receptor for advanced glycation endproducts

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