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In conversation with a Chief Editor

Chief Editor Q&A

We spoke with Dr Rotimi Aluko, Chief Editor of the Journal of Food Biochemistry (JFBC) about the journal, food biochemistry research, the key trends that he has seen emerge over the last few years, and a selection of journal articles he wishes to highlight. Dr Rotimi Aluko is Professor of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba and the director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. He is Canada Research Chair in Bioactive Peptides and his research also focuses on food protein structure and function.

What is your background in the field of food biochemistry and what is the current focus of your research? 

I have a PhD degree in protein chemistry and the focus of my current research is bioactive peptides. In short, we perform enzymatic hydrolysis of food proteins to release peptides, which are then studied for potential health-promoting properties using in-vitro, ex-vivo, and in-vivo studies (including human intervention trials). 

Dr Rotimi Aluko, Chief Editor of the Journal of Food Biochemistry

What are the hot/emerging topics in the field right now?  

The emerging topics right now include the development of novel extraction methods to isolate high quality plant proteins with respect to utilization as ingredients to formulate novel foods. This is due to increased interest in the consumption of plant-based foods as a means of enhancing human health and protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with animal husbandry. Increased utilization of plant proteins also fits within the global Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. There is also a strong consumer interest in the development of natural products such as peptides, resistant starch, probiotics, and polyphenolic compounds as therapeutic agents. 

Another emerging topic is the need for a strong emphasis on the use of human intervention trials to test efficacy of these natural products, which will enable approval of health claims for the resultant formulated products (functional foods and nutraceuticals). 

What are some of the key developments in the field of food chemistry that you have observed in the past few years? Are there any particular challenges researchers are facing?  

The increased popularity and consumer use of probiotics have been part of the key developments in the field of functional foods and nutraceuticals. Not only do consumers have a wide range of fermented foods (especially yogurt) that contain health-promoting microorganisms, but also important is the availability of dried microbial preparations that are sold as capsules. In addition, there has been an increased number of health-promoting commercial products that are formulated with digested proteins (bioactive peptides). One of the challenges facing researchers includes lack of information from standard human intervention trials to prove the therapeutic efficacy of the functional foods and nutraceuticals. Currently, most of the evidence for these bioactive compounds is limited to animal feeding experiments, which are not sufficient for regulatory approval as therapeutic agents. 

Other challenges include insufficient knowledge of structure-function relationships of natural bioactive compounds, as well as their behaviour and ultimate metabolic fate within the human body. There is also the challenge of unravelling the mechanistic details of the relationships of the human diet with the growth and development of good or health-promoting microorganisms in the gut. Lastly, scientists still do not have a complete understanding of how variations in human DNA (e.g., single nucleotide polymorphism) affect metabolism of dietary compounds and relationship with a healthy body or normal physiological functions.  

What advice would you give an early career researcher beginning their career in academia?  

Believe in yourself, have a set of reasonable but achievable goals, work towards those goals, take research risks (but based on solid scientific principles), and be ready to learn from senior colleagues or peers that have similar or complimentary research interests. Most importantly, treat your trainees just as your colleagues because they do all the laboratory work, and hence your scientific breakthroughs and novel discoveries are tied to the ability of students and postdocs to translate your ideas into tangible or meaningful results. Always encourage your team with positive words and provide constructive criticisms that enable a collegial environment, because a happy research team is likely to be more productive than a team of frustrated trainees. 

What is your top tip for authors wishing to submit to the journal?  

Read and understand the scope of work acceptable for articles published in the journal. Peruse recently published articles to get a good feel of the scientific quality of work. Lastly, be a reviewer for the journal so that you will become familiar with the breadth of submitted scientific experiments and the outcomes from the peer review process. As a dedicated reviewer, you will learn from various manuscripts not only the art/science of experimental designs but also how to put a manuscript together that proactively addresses likely concerns of external reviewers. 

Where do you see JFBC in the future? 

I believe strongly that the scientific quality of JFBC will continue its upward trend with a future that includes attainment of Q1 rank and eventually being in the top 10 of journals that publish original research manuscripts in the field of food science and biochemistry. 

Why do you think it is important to publish research open access? 

Open access publishing provides a free gateway for the public or researchers to read advances in scientific work, which means that it is possible to be up to date with recent developments in a particular field of science. This free access will spur scientific innovation because researchers know results from latest experiments from all over the world and can then plan future experiments that take advantage of, or build upon prior knowledge in a more comprehensive manner than possible with subscription-based journal publishing. 

How did you select the articles you would like to highlight?  

The choice of articles was based on their content, which incorporated novel experimental approaches and the results showing major or new advances in scientific knowledge. Some of the articles were chosen based on their potential use as commercial tools either to formulate high-quality, better tasting, or safer (pathogen free) foods or products that could have strong positive influence on human health.  

A hand-picked selection of articles chosen by Journal of Food Biochemistry Chief Editor, Dr Rotimi Aluko:

Aqueous Extract of Sparganii Rhizoma and Curcumae Rhizoma Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Migration in Human Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Green Coffee Bean Extract Potentially Ameliorates Liver Injury due to HFD/STZ-Induced Diabetes in Rats

Pomegranate Peel in the Amelioration of High-Altitude Disease: A Network Pharmacology and Molecular Docking Study of Underlying Mechanisms

A Comparative Analysis of the Flavor, Aroma, and Compositions in Three Levels of Stir-Frying Cyperus rotundus Using E-Tongue, E-Nose, and HS-GC-MS

GC-O-MS Analysis of Aroma-Active Compounds of Chinese Almonds Obtained by Different Pretreatment Methods

Journal of Food Biochemistry publishes original research and review articles on the effects of handling, storage, and processing on the biochemical aspects of food tissues, systems, and bioactive compounds in the diet. For more information please visit the journal website

This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration by Sam Jennings.

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