Nutritional metabolomics

Kati Hanhineva

Research at the group pertains to the molecular level understanding of the role of nutrition in the prevention of chronic diseases. The research projects extend from the assessment of chemical composition of food all the way to the in vitro examination of biochemical effect of individual food-derived compounds. The key analytical technology at the different stages of research is the mass-spectrometry based metabolomics approach that enables novel metabolic discoveries as well as detailed molecular level examination of cellular metabolic processes.

Phytochemical composition of plant-based food and impact of industrial processing. One of the key features in edible plants is that they have very rich content of plant-made bioactive chemicals i.e. phytochemicals, and these components are most likely contributing to the beneficial health effects associated with plant-food rich diets. Many of our research projects focus on characterizing the phytochemical composition of Nordic foods such as whole grains and berries, and the differences between plant varieties. Additional topic of interest is how the industrial processes involved in the food making affect the composition of phytochemicals in the ready edible product. Special emphasis here is on processes involving microbial fermentation, such as sour-dough based bread baking.

Role of gut microbiota in the metabolism of diet-derived compounds. The colonic microbiota has a critical role in determining what kind of chemical array will enter our circulation from the ingested food. The relationship with gut microbiota is multifaceted, as also the diet affects the composition of microbes inhabiting the colon. Our aim is to understand what kind of chemical conversions the gut microbes can perform on diet-derived compounds, especially the phytochemicals, and what are the bacteria most associated and enhanced with healthy food, especially the Nordic diet.

Impact of diet in endogenous metabolism and role in disease prevention. The population-based evidence on healthy food is accumulating with increasing speed, and simultaneously, with the novel technologies we can have wider window to the metabolism in general as well as individual metabolic events related to certain diets and dietary compounds. Our aim is to better understand the metabolic impact of healthy diets underlying the beneficial health effects related to them. Particular focus here is within the gut microbiota derived metabolites and their relationship with cellular metabolic events.  We focus on both epidemiological collections as well as dietary intervention studies with the aim to locate novel candidate metabolites connected with beneficial health outcomes. In addition, we utilize also animal trials to be able to address the metabolism of individual organs. 

Molecular effect of diet-derived compounds in cellular processes. Although the metabolic impact of diet to our metabolism is a combination of thousands of chemical players acting in synergistic or even antagonistic effect, the examination of individual compounds can give us detailed information on certain cellular processes. Our aim is to take interesting, potentially bioactive candidate compounds into further examination on cellular level, and analyze their impact with various targeted as well as profiling techniques.

Research Group:

Principal investigator: Dr. Kati Hanhineva

Post docs:

Dr. Marjo Tuomainen

Dr. Iman Zarei

Dr. Merja Häkkinen

PhD students:

MSc Ville Koistinen

MSc Stefania Noerman

MSc Marietta Kokla

MSc Topi Meuronen


Anton Mattsson

Sanna Puurunen


Dr. Olli Kärkkäinen (current: Senior scientist, School of Pharmacy, UEF)

Dr. Jenna Jokkala (current: Admescope Ltd., Oulu, Finland)

MSc Soile Rummukainen (current: PhD student, School of Pharmacy, UEF)

Dr. Otto Savolainen (current: Chalmers University of technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Dr. Pekka Keski-Rahkonen (current: IARC – International agency for research on cancer, Lyon, France)

Dr. Anna Kårlund (current: Senior scientist, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, UEF)


Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition: Prof. Jussi Pihlajamäki, Prof. Marjukka Kolehmainen, Prof. Ursula Schwab., Assoc. Prof. Jyrki Virtanen, Assoc Prof. Vanessa De Mello Laaksonen

Institute of Biomedicine, Prof Timo Lakka

A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, Prof. Pasi Tavi, Prof. Tarja Malm, Assoc Prof Katja Kanninen

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Prof. Kaisa Poutanen, Dr. Anna-Marja Aura

University of Helsinki, Prof. Juho Rousu, Prof. Hannes Lohi, Prof. Pia Siljander, Prof. Hannele Laivuori

Chalmers Technological University, Gothenburg, Sweden, Prof. Rikard Landberg

USDA, USA, Dr. Joe Urban

RIKEN, Yokohama;, Japan, Prof. Masanori Arita,

University of Gunma, Japan; Dr. Romanas Chalekis

IARC, Lyon, France, Pekka Keski-Rahkonen and Augustin Scalbert

Federico II University of Naples, Naples, Italy, Gabriele Riccardi, Marilena Vitale

Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen,  Netherlands, Prof Hauke Smidt

Montpellier SupAgro-INRA, Montpellier, France, Prof. Valerie Micard

Recent publications:

Kärkkäinen O, Tuomainen T, Koistinen V, Tuomainen M, Leppänen J, Laitinen T, Lehtonen M, Rysä J, Auriola S, Poso A, Tavi P, Hanhineva K (2018) Whole-grain intake-associated molecule 5-aminovaleric acid betaine decreases β-oxidation of fatty acids in mice cardiomyocytes. Scientific Reports, 8:13036

Kärkkäinen O, Lankinen M, Vitale M, Jokkala J, Leppänen J, Koistinen V, Lehtonen M, Giacco R, Rosa-Sibakov N, Micard V, Rivellese A, Schwab U, Mykkänen H, Uusitupa M, Kolehmainen M, Riccardi G, Poutanen K, Auriola S, Hanhineva K. (2018) Diets rich in whole grains increase levels of betainized compounds associated with glucose metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 108: 971–979

de Mello V, Paananen J, Lindström J, Lankinen MA, Shi L, Kuusisto J, Pihlajamäki J, Auriola S, Lehtonen M, Rolandsson O, Bergdahl IA, Nordin E, Ilanne-Parikka P, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Landberg R, Eriksson JG, Tuomilehto J, Hanhineva K, Uusitupa M (2017) Indolepropionic acid and novel lipid metabolites are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study. Scientific Reports, 7: 46337

Koistinen V, Mattila O, Katina K, Poutanen K, Aura A-M, Hanhineva K (2018) Metabolic profiling of sourdough fermented wheat and rye bread. Scientific Reports, 8:5684

de Mello V, Lankinen M, Lindström J, Puupponen-Pimiä R, Laaksonen D, Pihlajamäki J, Lehtonen M, Uusitupa M, Tuomilehto J, Kolehmainen M, Törrönen R, Hanhineva K (2017) Fasting serum hippuric acid is elevated after bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) consumption and associates with improvement of fasting glucose levels and insulin secretion in persons at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 61: 1700019

Kärkkäinen O, Tuomainen T, Mutikainen M, Lehtonen M, Ruas JL, Hanhineva K, Tavi P (2019) Heart specific PGC-1α deletion identifies metabolomics of cardiac restricted metabolic heart failure. Cardiovascular Research, 115:107-118

Tovar J, de Mello V, Nilsson A, Johansson M, Paananen J, Lehtonen M, Hanhineva K, Björck I (2017) Reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors by a multifunctional diet is mediated via several branches of metabolism as evidenced by non-targeted metabolite profiling approach. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 61: 1600552

Shi L, Brunius C, Lehtonen M, Auriola S, Bergdahl IA, Rolandsson O, Hanhineva K, Landberg R (2018) Plasma metabolites associated with type 2 diabetes in a Swedish population – A nested case-control study. Diabetologia, 61:849

Shi L, Brunius C, Johansson I, Bergdahl IA, Lindahl B, Hanhineva K, Landberg R (2018) Plasma metabolites associated with healthy Nordic dietary indices and risk of type 2 diabetes- A nested case control study in a Swedish population. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108:564–575

Jääskeläinen T, Kärkkäinen O, Jokkala J, Sarkkinen K, Heinonen S, Auriola S, Lehtonen M, Hanhineva K, Laivuori H (2018) A non-targeted LC-MS metabolic profiling reveals elevated levels of carnitine precursors and trimethylated compounds in the cord plasma of pre-eclamptic infants. Scientific Reports, 8:14616

Puurunen J, Tiira K, Vapalahti K, Lehtonen M, Hanhineva K, Lohi H (2018) Fearful dogs have increased plasma glutamine and gamma-glutamyl glutamine. Scientific Reports, 8:1-12