Thomas Bishop - "Harnessing Digital Agriculture to Produce Foods Beneficial to Human Health"

Digital Agriculture uses technology to improve food and fibre production and encompasses the entire supply chain. Historically, the emphasis has been on maximising production. However, some attention has been given to improving food quality. For example, increasing the protein content of grains such as wheat and barley.
More broadly Food security has been identified as a global challenge as the world’s population increases and as climate change impacts food production. Digital Agriculture clearly has a role to play in ensuring that demand for food is met. However, Digital Agriculture can also be harnessed to improve the quality of food produced in order to enhance human health. This could be achieved by manipulating the growing environment to enhance plant accumulation and production of nutrients and phytochemicals.
This lecture will provide an introduction to Digital Agriculture with case studies on varying management to optimise the nutritional and phytochemical composition of crops.


  Alex McBratney - “Soil, nutrition and human health”

In this short flipped presentation the importance of soil and soil security to human existence will be discussed and its relational to other existential challenges – food security, water security, energy security, biodiversity protection, climate change and human health. The biogeochemical cycles from soil to plants, animals and humans will be discussed. Finally, human health issues that relate directly or indirectly to soil will be presented, e.g., hidden hunger, valley fever.


  Damien Field - "Global Challenges in Securing nutritious and safe food"

In this unit you will be introduced to the ongoing challenge of providing food that is valued by consumers as nutritious and safe. We will discuss the a range of factors from limited resources, disease management and waste all affecting the provision of food. This will be coupled with an overview of changes in trade and the need to ensure that the right culture an infrastructure is in place to meet food safety standards. This will be illustrated with a few case studies and explored in the class.
By the end of this unit you will be able to;

  • Describe the major challenges that affect the provision of food
  • Be able to identify the man insources of risk and management of food safety
  • Critically review changes in food safety management and its impact
  • Be aware of the latest technologies used to ensure the traceability and provision of safe, nutritious food.



  Miriam Widmer - "Biodiversity for food and agriculture – why is it important?"

Biodiversity for food and agriculture is not only essential to food production, but also provides the basis for healthy, nutritious diets. The presentation will introduce the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its work on biodiversity for food and agriculture, present the key findings from the report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, and discuss the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition.



  Luca Busetto - "Nutrition, lifestyles and the obesity epidemic"

In this unit students will be introduced to the worldwide problem of overweight and obesity. A brief overview of the global epidemiologic data will be presented, with a specific emphasis to their medical and economic impacts. The link between changes in global nutrition, urban lifestyle and obesity epidemic will be explored with a focus on possible preventive intervention. The possible therapeutic strategies for the management of overweight and obesity will be briefly analyzed with a focus on compensatory mechanism and chronic care.
Learning outcomes - By the end of this unit students will be able to:

  • Understand the global burden of obesity epidemic
  • Understand the possible causes of obesity and the population level
  • Obtain knowledge about the complexity of obesity management in the long-term


  Angela Favaro - "Implications of malnutrition in patients with eating disorders: a bridge between neuroscience and clinical practice"

Research in the field of neuroimaging, connectomics and neuropsychology is growing in the field of eating disorders. However, few studies have attempted to explore the effects of malnutrition on the developmental trajectories of brain and cognition. In this presentation, I will review the recent advances of neuroscience research conducted by our group of research with a particular attention to those aspects that have direct or indirect clinical implications.
Anorexia nervosa displays peculiar neuropsychological characteristics that have an important impact on outcome. Similarly, although a lot of new knowledge is available in the neuroimaging of eating disorders, it is still difficult to translate research findings into practice and clinical implications. In this presentation, I will report about neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies that demonstrated that neuropsychological and brain morphological characteristics have a significant link with clinical characteristics and a predictive effect on the outcome.


  Paola Fioretto – “The role of nutrition therapy in the management of diabetes”

A healthful eating pattern, regular physical activity, and often pharmacotherapy are key components of diabetes management. For many individuals with diabetes, the most challenging part of the treatment plan is determining what to eat. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” eating pattern for individuals with diabetes. Thus, each person with diabetes should be actively engaged in self-management, education, and treatment planning with his or her health care provider, which includes the collaborative development of an individualized eating plan. Therefore, it is important that all members of the health care team be knowledgeable about diabetes nutrition therapy and support its implementation. The goals of nutrition therapy that apply to adults with diabetes are: To promote and support healthful eating patterns, emphasizing a variety of nutrient dense foods in appropriate portion sizes, in order to improve overall health and specifically to: Attain individualized glycemic, blood pressure, and lipid goals, Achieve and maintain body weight goals; Delay or prevent complications of diabetes; To address individual nutrition needs based on personal and cultural preferences, health literacy and numeracy, access to healthful food choices, willingness and ability to make behavioral changes, as well as barriers to change; To maintain the pleasure of eating by providing positive messages about food choices while limiting food choices only when indicated by scientific evidence; To provide the individual with diabetes with practical tools for day-to-day meal planning rather than focusing on individual macronutrients, micronutrients, or single foods.


  Roberto Vettor – “Nutrition, Inter-organ crosstalk and the development of nutrition related diseases.”

The discovery of adipokines has revealed adipose organ as a central node in the interorgan crosstalk network, which mediates the regulation of multiple organs and tissues. Adipose organ is a true endocrine organ that produces and secretes a wide range of mediators regulating adipose tissue function in an auto-/paracrine manner and important distant targets, such as the liver, skeletal muscle, the pancreas and the cardiovascular system. In metabolic disorders such as obesity, enlargement of adipocytes leads to adipose tissue dysfunction and a shift in the secretory profile with an increased release of pro-inflammatory adipokines. Recently, it was reported that several cytokines or peptides are secreted from muscle (myokines), bone, heart, and liver (hepatokines) in response to certain nutrition and/or physical activity conditions. Cytokines exert autocrine, paracrine or endocrine effects for the maintenance of energy homeostasis. The present review is focused on the relationship and cross-talk amongst muscle, adipose tissue , bone , heath and the liver as secretory organs in metabolic diseases. Adipose tissue dysfunction has a central role in the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. We provide an overview of the role of adipose tissue in metabolic homeostasis and assess emerging novel therapeutic strategies targeting adipose tissue, including adipokine-based strategies, promotion of white adipose tissue beging as well as reduction of inflammation and fibrosis.


UNI-PADOVA (Agri-food)

  Alessio Cecchinato – “Meet the meat: the biodiversity of Italian meat production”

Italian food production system is based on food products strictly linked to the place of origin through historical, social and cultural ties. In this presentation, students will be taught information on the main features of Italian pig and beef sectors. In particular, for the pig sector and especially for the dry cured ham production, the most important differences with other countries will be discussed, in connection with the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Italian regulations. For the beef sector, some specific case studies will be presented to describe the students the most common breeds reared in Italy and the food products derived from these breeds.
By the end of this unit students will know:

  • the most important features of Italian beef and pig production systems
  • some of the most important beef and pork products in Italy
  • the strong connection between the high-value products and tradition and place of origin


  Viviana Corich – “Can microbes make our lives better? Definitely yes!” 2. By producing tasty foods

The public’s perception of microorganisms is generally that they are ‘bad’, due to association with disease and spoilage, and their presence in food is instinctively thought as a negative signal. Instead, trough the millennia and across the globe, we have been reliant on the activities of microorganisms for the production – and processing – of many of our staple foods, particularly through fermentations, that have for this reason been referred to as “fermented foods”. By their action on perishable foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk or meat, microbes can transform them into a product equally or better tasty, healthy and more preservable.
Besides being a source of useful bacteria for our gut, fermented foods also contain several healthy substances of microbial origin, such as antioxidants, vitamins and bioactive peptides. For this reason, the consumption of fermented foods containing live microorganisms has emerged as an important dietary strategy for improving human health and their market has considerably increased during the last years.

By the end of this unit students will acquire skills on:

  • main categories of fermented foods
  • key actions operated by microorganisms
  • effects of microbial activity on fermented food quality and safety


  Mauro Dacasto – “Food & Nutritional Toxicology: A Comparative Feed-Animal-Food Overview”

Food and nutritional toxicology encompasses the health effects resulting from the presence of natural and anthropogenic toxicants, nutrient intakes and additives, as well as their interactions.
An overview of foremost environmental contaminants, natural toxicants, dietary nutrients and additives found in feed and food is provided. Comparative mechanistic, toxicological and health insights will be given by using prototypical case studies.

  • knowledge about the main classes of food toxicants, nutrients and additives potentially contaminating feed and foods products
  • mechanistic toxicology and resulting toxic effects of reference compounds among those mentioned above
  • species-, breed-/ethnic-, and individual differences in susceptibility to the aforementioned toxicants


  Edi Defrancesco - “Are geographical indications (GIs) effective value adding tools?”

The European Union (EU) GIs framework for agricultural products, foodstuffs and wines is analyzed. The main distinctive characteristics and the system of legal protection in the European Union market are explored. The conditions under which GIs are effective value adding and rural development tools are addressed. Finally the different system of valorization and protection of the GI products in the international context are compared and the Union strategies for the EU GIs international recognition are examined.
By the end of this unit students will acquire skills on:

  • the functioning of sui generis EU quality scheme based on Geographical Indication,
  • the management system of a collective GI and its value-adding potential.
  • the main differences from the trademark systems of protection of the ‘new world countries and the existing agreement of mutual recognition and protection in the international context.


  Valerio Giaccone – “Emerging and returning food borne diseases in food safety: an up-to-date according to food micro-ecology”

In this unit the teacher will summarize the current knowledge on the prevalence in the world of the main foodborne diseases, with reference both to emerging diseases (campylobacteriosis, E. coli STEC infections, listeriosis, new emerging protozoal infections) and to “traditional” foodborne diseases that are adapting to new food production and consumption scenarios.
The teacher will explain to students the concept of "microbial ecology of foods" and he will pay particular attention to the diffusion in food for humans of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria and the causes that led to the development of the global phenomenon of antibiotic-resistance among food pathogens.

By the end of this unit students will be able to: Have more in-depth and up-to-date information on emerging food diseases Being able to better understand the health risks that food consumption entails for humans and better identify the most appropriate operational strategies to prevent the increase of these risks in the different food supply chains. Know how to better identify new food technology strategies able to eliminate or reduce the risk of pathogenic microorganisms in foods by applying the concept of food microbial ecology.


  Alessio Giacomini – “Can microbes make our lives better? Definitely yes!” 1. By working in our gut

There is a complex world living inside us, especially in our gut. Intestinal microorganisms, often collectively referred to as intestinal microbiota, contribute significantly to an enormous amount of activities in our body so much influencing our well-being that it even has been dubbed “our second brain”. These microbes interact with the foods that we eat by operating a paramount number of transformations producing molecules that are then absorbed by our body.
Thanks to new technologies emerged during the last years, it has been possible to describe the microbiota composition and to study its variations from person to person. Over recent years it has therefore become possible to establish a link between the gut microbiome and a plethora of diseases and health conditions, from diabetes to autism and anxiety to obesity.

By the end of this unit students will acquire skills on:

  • meaning, composition and main functions of the human microbiota
  • possible influences of the gut microbiota on human health


  Anna Lante & Paolo Tessari - "Mild technologies and new health computations for improving food quality"

Food quality attributes. Emerging technologies in food processing. Food quality and requirements for human nutrition looking to the environmental footprint of food production.
Curing diabetes with diet: the “functional bread” concept.

Learning outcomes: By the end of this unit students acquire skills on:

  • new trends in Food Science and Technology
  • an integrated vision of the impact of food choice on health and environmental sustainability

anna.lante@unipd.it, paolo.tessari@unipd.it

  Sara Pegolo – “Facts on Fats: the fat paradox and meat quality”

The increasing awareness of the need for healthy diets has increased the consumer attention towards meat fat content and fatty acid composition. This is because meat is seen as a major source of dietary fat and in particular of saturated fatty acids, which have been associated to diseases, especially in developed countries. On the other hand, fatty acids are involved in various ‘‘technological’’ aspects of meat quality such as fat firmness or softness, color and shelf life. In this presentation, aspect related to the link between meat fatty acid composition and human health as well as the main effects of fatty acid composition on meat technological quality will be addressed.
By the end of this unit students will understand:

  • the main factors affecting meat fatty acid composition
  • health implication of meat fat consumption with focus on specific fatty acids
  • the relationships between fatty acids and meat technological traits


  Luca Sella – “Mycotoxins in the agro-food chain”

Plant pathogenic fungal species belonging to the Aspergillus and Fusarium genera infect seeds of the most important food and feed crops, including maize, wheat, and barley, contaminating them with toxic secondary metabolites named mycotoxins. The biosynthesis of mycotoxins can occur both in the field and during post-harvest under specific environmental factors such as temperature and relative humidity, but generally within a wide range of variation. Among mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus and Fusarium, aflatoxins, fumonisins and trichothecenes show a higher frequency of occurrence and threaten health and food security worldwide. The consumption of contaminated grains or derived foods can cause severe diseases (mycotoxicoses) affecting human and animals. In particular, aflatoxins are hepatotoxins demonstrated to be carcinogenic at very low concentrations, while fumonisins and trichothecenes, such as deoxynivalenol (DON), can cause acute and chronic effects.


  Enrico Sturaro - “Livestock farming, ecosystem services and human well being”

The concept of 'Ecosystem Services' (ES) focuses on the linkages between ecosystems, including agroecosystems, and human well-being, referring to all the benefits, direct and indirect, that people obtain from ecosystems. Livestock play a special role in the provision of ecosystem  services and are an essential part of many agro-ecosystems. They do so by: (1) transforming feeds unsuited for human consumption into nutritious foods and useful products, for example, by converting grass into milk or meat;(2) interacting directly with ecosystems through grazing, browsing, trampling and the production of dung and urine; and (3) moving around, meaning they can respond to fluctuations in resource availability and climate (FAO, 2016). The presentation aims to introduce the concept of Ecosystem services in livestock farming by using some case studies.
At the end of the session students can:

  • have an overview on multiple relationships between livestock farming, agro-ecosystems and human well being
  • see different methodological approaches to investigate potential ecosystem services provided by livestock chains


  Benedetto Ruperti - "High quality and eco-friendly extra virgin olive oil production"

Contents: This session will focus on how high quality standards for extra virgin olive oil production are only met when an optimal combination of factors, ranging from the field to the mill is obtained.

  • The relationships between compositional aspects of high quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and their health-related and sensory effects.
  • The fruit and EVO oil quality link, its origin and maintenance from the field to the mill: the effects of cultivars, cultivation and post-harvest practices.

Learning outcomes - by the end of this unit students will acquire knowledge/skills on:

  • compositional aspects of extra virgin olive oils: the high-quality EVOO concept;
  • the origin of fruit and oil quality in the field: the impact of genetics (cultivars) and terroir (environment, cultivation and post-harvest practices) on compositional aspects;
  • eco-friendly olive oil production
  • the high quality EVOO and its beneficial impact of consumption and use on health related aspects


  Teofilo Vamerali – “Agricultural practices for preventing mycotoxin contamination in cereal grains”

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi in plant foodstuff under specific environmental conditions. These metabolites are very toxic and some of them carcinogenic for human and animals at very low concentrations. The number of known mycotoxins is very high and new emerging toxins (ET) are progressively discovered and ruled by the EU and worldwide. Besides the official determination methods by HPLC, new quick detection procedures are being set-up based on test Elisa or fluorescence in order to identify rapidly critical conditions and altered foods. The high thermal stability of mycotoxins requires great attention during plant cultivation to prevent their accumulation in food and feed. Cereals are greatly subject to this problem, depending on the environmental conditions and method of cultivation. Contaminations by deoxynivalenol (DON), produced by Fusarium graminearum and F. culmorum in wheat, as well as by aflatoxins (by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus) and fumonisins (by Fusarium) in maize frequently occur. As Fusarium is favored by high humidity and moderate temperatures, its prevention requires well-protected grains in maize cobs, controls of insects and diseases, early sowing and harvest. Against Aspergillus, which is favored by high temperature and drought, effective tools are screening of high grain specific weight varieties/hybrids, irrigation under water stress, control of insects and early harvest. Chemical control of fungi is useful, particularly in wheat, but often not resolutive. Recent identification of non-mycotoxigenic A. flavus strains allows their spread in the field for increasing competition towards toxigenic resident populations.