Dr. Alan Javier Hernández Álvarez

Profile

Mission Statement

Dr. Hernández-Álvarez investigates bioactive peptides and proteins in foods that promote health benefits for reducing oxidative processes, hypocholesterolemia, antimicrobial, antidiabetic and markers of type 2 diabetes inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular disease risk. He identifies and characterizes the functional properties of food components, notably proteins and phytochemicals from a wide variety of sources such as pulses, cereals, pseudo-cereals, algae, insects, microorganisms, among others.

Primary Research Area

  • Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition.
  • Extraction, isolation and purification of food proteins (novel and emergent proteins such as insects, algae, plankton, etc.), bioactive peptides and phytochemicals.
  • Functional, quality and structural characterization of food proteins.
  • Food processing.
  • Molecular interactions between proteins and other bio-molecules.
  • Proteinaceous seeds processing and utilization.
  • Study the behaviour and fate of food proteins/peptides/phytochemicals in the gastrointestinal tract using an in-vitro dynamic simulated GI tract system.
  • Preparation of protein controlled food matrices.
  • Enzymatic and physicochemical techniques applied to foods.
  • Functional and Nutraceutical Foods. 

Biography

Dr. Hernández-Álvarez joined the School of Food Science and Nutrition, at the University of Leeds in 2019. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Biochemical Engineering and received a PhD in Food Science from the Research and Graduate Department of Food Science at the National School of Biological Sciences, National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico in 2011. During his doctoral studies, he developed part of his research activities at the Food Phytochemistry Laboratory at the Fat Institute, CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), Seville, Spain. He worked as a Lecturer at the Food Biochemistry Faculty, Biochemical Engineering Department at the National School of Biological Sciences, National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico from 2012-2013. After working with AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) as a Postdoctoral Fellow with a scholarship granted from CONACyT (2014), then, he was awarded a Visiting Fellowships in Canadian Government Laboratories (VF) Award, NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) (2014-2017). Member of the National Research System, Mexico (SNI I, since 2014).

During his time at the Food Research and Development Centre in St. Hyacinthe (Quebec, Canada); he worked with a wide variety of research projects in the areas of value-added food processing, and food quality, acting in an advisory and research capacity providing expertise on protein quality assessment, protein extraction and characterization, pilot-plant scale-up, and techno-functional properties assessment. He has collaborated as well with different Canadian Industry Companies in a wide variety of industry-based projects such as Nature Zen, InnoVactiV (Experts in Science-based ingredients), among others, as a research & scientific advisor.

The long-range goal of Dr. Hernández-Álvarez’s research program is to enhance the health of individuals by identifying and determining the benefits of plant foods bioactive components. His research on legumes, vegetables, oilseeds, cereals have led to increased understanding of the antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and other physiological properties of these foods. His research is focused on the health benefits of bioactive compounds in plants, and he has engaged in reducing disease and promoting health and wellness as a global priority. The goals of nutrition and wellness efforts include reducing mortality as well as enhancing quality of life. He has investigated whole and individual plant components for their effects on obesity, diabetes, and cancer. These diseases collectively have an enormous global impact, with lost years of life and productivity cited as the largest drain on the global economy compared to other causes of death, including infectious diseases. He agrees, "Being a scientist and a teacher are one of the best vocations of the world and it is great to leave a legacy of motivated and educated people."

Responsibilities

  • FOOD5196M - Impacts of Food Processing on Nutritional Quality, Module leader.

Research interests

  • Molecular mechanisms of prevention of several disease chronic related diseases of bioactive food components, mainly proteins, peptides and polyphenols, and their safety. Study of food components with health benefits; analysis, characterization and mechanism of action of antioxidant, antihypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, and anticarcinogenic compounds in foods (legumes, cereals, pseudo-cereals. oilseeds and vegetables. Currently working with bioactive proteins from different novel protein sources (http://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12463). Our research group investigates the role of processing on the presence, concentration and physicochemical characteristics of proteins with biological potential against transformed human cells as well as their safety, such as allergenic potential. We also are studying the health benefits of phenolic compounds, in particular the molecular mechanisms underlying the biological effects of these compounds used in folk medicine to combat several disorders. This scientific study will introduce new materials to improve human health.
  • Research topics in regards to new emerging/novel proteins (nutritional properties, beneficial and non-nutritive compounds, storage proteins, and potential health benefits), as well as extraction and optimize their functionality (http://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.5841). Furthermore, understanding the required functionality, to develop or optimize the procedures for isolating the target protein(s), and its fractionation (http://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.06.016) and processing, to maintain or enhance that the protein’s functionality, and its characterization such as techno-functionality, solubility, particle size, chemical composition, peptide profile, bioactivity tests, establish secondary and tertiary structures, among others.
  • Another aspect of the research is located at the interface of the human digestion process and the fate of bioactive compounds with a focus on human health and functionality. A major aspect is centered on the development of methods to understand the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of prevention of bioactive food components, mainly proteins, bioactive peptides and phytochemicals, and their safety. Understanding the gastrointestinal digestion process, and how hydrolyzed components, nutrients and bioactive compounds have a role in the modulation of the microbiota interact with these in synergetic or antagonistic manners. In addition of the use of tools such as Foodomics, Digestomics and Peptidomics (http://doi.org/10.1007/s12393-012-9058-8). for gathering information on food/microbiota interaction, and biomarkers of food intake, as well as the effect of food components on the biochemical pathways taking place in the human organism. Therefore enhancing the knowledge and understanding the connection between food compounds and gastrointestinal microorganisms. Therefore, studying and expanding the knowledge of how diet changes, as well as their digested components, their structure and functions are important to understand their effects on metabolic health, leading to better treatments for a wide range of conditions, including obesity and cardiovascular-related diseases (http://doi.org./10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.09.084).

Qualifications

  • Postdoctoral Fellowship. (2014-2017), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Quebec, Canada.
  • PhD. (2008-2011), National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico.
  • Food Phytochemistry Laboratory, Group: Bioactive Compounds in Foods and Plant Products, CSIC.
  • BSc. (2003-2008), National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico.

Professional memberships

  • Certified Food Scientist, Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).
  • SNI 1, Recognition as a member of the National Researchers System, Level 1 (CONACyT, Mexico, 2014-2018).
  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Food Chemistry, Food Science Journals, Elsevier, Journal of Food Science (IFT Scientific Journals), Journal of Bioengineering and Biomedicine Research (JBBR).

Research groups and institutes

  • Nutritional Epidemiology
  • Nutrition and Public Health
  • Food Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Digestion and Delivery
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