The oxidation of food components is one of the main factors reducing meat quality regarding sensory traits, nutritional value and healthiness. Whereas the undesirable changes caused by lipid oxidation on muscle foods have been largely studied, scarce information regarding the occurrence of protein oxidation is available. Recent studies of protein oxidation in biomedical sciences have shed light on the mechanisms by which cellular proteins can be affected by free radicals leading to adverse biological effect s. The addition of antioxidants in foods is a commonly used method to reduce adverse effects of lipid oxidation. Lately, special attention has been given to natural antioxidants because of the worldwide trend to avoid synthetic additives. To this regard, increasing expectations have arisen due to the evidence that natural antioxidants could have further benefits because of their ability to inhibit biologically harmful oxidative reactions.
Recent studies carried out by Estevez et al. (the candidate) reported novel and sound data on the occurrence of protein oxidative reactions in cooked meat products and reasonable mechanisms by which those would affect certain quality traits in muscle foods. Prof. Marina Heinonens group (host institution) has largely contributed to shed light on the mechanisms of protein oxidation in model systems. Promising studies have been carried out by both groups regarding the protective role of natural antioxidants against protein oxidation in model and food systems.
Upcoming studies should deal with unknown aspects on this topic:
a) precise chemical mechanisms and characterisation of protein oxidation products, and
b) evaluation of the adverse effects of protein oxidation on a variety of muscle foods during production, handling and cold storage regarding sensory, nutritional, technological and safety aspects, and
c) evaluate natural antioxidants and food additives as inhibitors of protein oxidative reactions.
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