Bioactive compounds and functional foods


Lines of research

In this line of research we study the bioaccessibility of bioactive compounds present in foods of plant origin, preferably prebiotic (poly)phenolic compounds, after being subjected to an in vitro gastrointestinal digestion process and the action of the intestinal microbiota. It includes the identification and quantification, by means of targeted metabolomics, of bioaccessible polyphenolic compounds (potentially absorbable and/or fermentable by the intestinal microbiota), the metabolites generated (phenolics and short-chain fatty acids) after in vitro gastrointestinal digestion.

Likewise, the study of the bioavailability of these compounds and the profile of phenolic metabolites generated after their ingestion is addressed, by means of programs of study of intervention in humans, in order to elucidate the metabolic routesand the kinetics of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of these compounds in the human body, metabolism and excretion(ADME) of these compounds in the human body, in order to know which polyphenols or metabolites could reach the different organs and exert their beneficial activity there, and which would act only at the level of the gastrointestinal tract, mainly in the microbiota. This will make it possible to determine possible interindividual differences in the metabolism of these bioactive compounds(metabotypes) and to propose biomarkers of polyphenol intake, which is of great interest for progress towards personalized nutrition.

In addition, we evaluate the functional effect of bioactives and probiotics that, either alone or in combination, have beneficial effects. For this purpose, we have a wide range of in vitro (cell lines, co-cultures) and in vivo(C. elegans, rat, mouse, human) models, which allow the study at both phenotypic and molecular level of various parameters related to obesity, such as adiposity, weight control, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, oxidative stress and inflammation. Finally, we carried out programs of study mechanistic by metagenomics (study of the effect on the composition of the intestinal microbiota) and non-targeted metabolomics (HPLC-TOF), which allows us to identify metabolites of bacterial origin(postbiotics) related to the beneficial effects of these probiotics and prebiotics.

This line of research addresses the challenge of formulating ingredients or vehicles capable of incorporating bioactive compounds into food matrices for the development of functional foods. The nutritional/health aspects are studied, as well as the technological aspects, which allow processing lines that are easy to apply, and the economic aspects. In addition, the stability and shelf life of the developed foods are studied, as well as the bioaccessibility (through in vitro digestion) of the nutrients and bioactive components, as a consequence of the product elaboration process. We have experience in the development of foods in both the meat and bakery-pastry sectors.



reference letter: 0011-1411-2023-000103

Funding Entity: department de development Económico. Government of Navarra. Grants for the realization of strategic projects of research and development 2023-2026. challenge 4. ALPES. Personalized and Sustainable Food.

researcher Principal: Dr. Paula Aranaz Oroz

Consortium: AN S. COOP. (leader), ALIMENTOS SANYGRAN S.L., NUCAPS NANOTECHNOLOGIES, MONBAKE, EL CASERÍO, Centro Nacional de Tecnología y Seguridad Alimentaria (CNTA), Universidad de Navarra (research center in Nutrition), NAGRIFOOD.


Currently, there is a trend towards plant-based protein consumption due to the growing awareness of the environmental and health impacts of excessive meat consumption, the demand for healthier and more sustainable foods, and the availability of more accessible and tasty plant-based protein products.

The challenge of using plant protein derivatives in human food can be addressed by development of attractive, nutritious and cost-effective products that meet consumer needs and preferences, while being sustainable and healthy.

goal The general aim of project HIDROPEP is to develop new vegetable protein derivatives of high nutritional value based on new approaches and technological solutions with application in the agri-food industry of Navarra, such as:

- Obtaining vegetable protein concentrates

- Hydrolysis Chemistry and enzymatic hydrolysis of such protein concentrates

- Protein fermentation

- The generation of new proteins that can be used as microencapsulating agents.

In addition, the applicability of protein derivatives in the agri-food industry and their acceptability from an organoleptic and health improvement point of view will be studied.

Funding Entity: Program for the promotion of partnership in actions of research and development+i between Autonomous Communities. Complementary Agrifood Plan - Agroalnext.

researcher Principal: Dr. Paula Aranaz Oroz

Consortium: IATA-CSIC, CTICH and University of Navarra (research center in Nutrition and Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences).


Edible mushrooms have received increasing attention as they constitute a great source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. In particular, certain polysaccharides present in mushrooms, the β-glucans, stand out for which a great variety of health properties have been described. The growing knowledge of the health properties of certain mushrooms has led to an increase in their production and consumption, but also to an increase in the waste generated by the industry (the substrate containing the mycelia and peduncles or feet, mainly).

Among the most cultivated species, several species of the genus Pleurotus stand out, whose β-glucans have been described as potential bioactives for the development of functional foods and nutraceuticals against metabolic diseases.

However, the functional activity of these β-glucans depends on their structure Chemistry (molecular weight, Degree branching, types of linkages), at the same time influenced by the extraction method. Therefore, it is essential to know the relationship between the structure of these polysaccharides and their beneficial properties, in addition to achieving sustainable production.

The project PANACEA (Pleurotus Residues as Alternative Advanced Nutraceuticals source ) aims to use mushroom by-products to obtain β-glucans with healthy properties for development as nutraceutical ingredients of high quality added value, and at the same time be sustainable and accessible to the population.

To this end, it proposes a circular Economics strategy to revalue fungal by-products by combining different research technologies among the participating centers.

The objectives of this project are:

1- Optimize mushroom cultivation in bioreactors to improve their polysaccharide composition.

2- Optimization of β-glucan extraction from mushroom and mycelia residues.

3- Structural and functional characterization of the extracts obtained.

4- assessment security of the extracts.

5- Characterization of functionality against obesity / metabolic syndrome.

6- Dissemination and publication of results.

7- Consolidation of the partnership among AGROALNEXT groups to strengthen the links between Autonomous Communities.

reference letter: PC128-129 PARABIOTICS (0011-1383-2022-000000)

Funding Entity: Grants to SINAI Agents for the realization of collaborative research and development projects. Call for proposals 2022.

researcher Principal: Dr. Paula Aranaz Oroz

Consortium: research center en Nutrición-University of Navarra (leader), CNTA

programs of study of research carried out during the last few years have shown the important role played by the intestinal microbiota in the health of the host. In the case of overweight and obesity, it has been observed that obese individuals present alterations in the composition of the intestinal microbiota (dysbiosis), with physiological and metabolic consequences. One of the mechanisms by which the intestinal microbiota seems to affect the metabolism of the host is mediated by certain metabolites of the microbial digestion of some nutrients or ingredients of the per diem expenses, the so-called postbiotic agents, with biological activity.

Despite the health benefits, the use of live microorganisms as food supplements presents certain limitations, such as the possibility of virulence gene transfer, difficulty in maintaining viability and production stability, the development of antibiotic resistance, among others. Therefore, it is essential to expand the knowledge and development of postbiotic components derived from probiotics. In addition, as an alternative strategy to the use of live cells, the use of paraprobiotics, dead, inactive microorganisms or fragments of their cells with beneficial properties for health, has been suggested.  

Therefore, the general goal of this project is the identification and functional characterization of probiotic strains that, either in inactivated form (paraprobiotics) or through their metabolites (postbiotics), are able to improve obesity-related parameters such as excess weight, adiposity, insulin resistance or inflammation.


Research Team

Miguel López Yoldi





→ Lucía Cartagena


→ Gwenaelle Ceniceros




Maria Cartagena

Cristina del Burgo

Larisa M. Giura

Katherine Gutierrez

Cristina Matías

Deyan Yavorov Dayliev

Ignacio Goyache Sarasa










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