Nutrition therapy research people

Group leader PhD Ursula Schwab, Email ursula.schwab(at), Tel. 029 445 4528


Arja Erkkilä, PhD, docent,
Vanessa de Mello Laaksonen, PhD, docent, Assistant Professor in Nutrigenomics, tenure track


Maria Lankinen, PhD,
Taisa Venäläinen, PhD, taisa.venälä

PhD students

Harri Heikkilä, M.Sc (Dr’sExtra study)
Mirja Huuskonen, M.Sc (rehabilitation of patients with coronary heart disease)
Henna Jalkanen, M.Sc (PANIC study)
Suvi Manninen, M.Sc (AlfaFish study)
Helena Orell-Kotikangas, M.Sc (head-neck carsinoma patients)
Jari Turkia, M.Sc (computational models for personalized nutrition)
Ulla Tolonen (prevention of type 2 diabetes)
Paula Walle, student of medicine (fatty acid metabolism in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis)
Susanna Kemppainen (prevention of type 2 diabetes)
Antti Petra, student of medicine (metabolites associated with lipid and glucose metabolism)
Katriina Malkki (prevention of type 2 diabetes)


Mika Ala-Korpela (metabolomics)
Ingrid Dahlman (gene expression)
Markku Laakso (type 2 diabetes)
Timo Lakka (The PANIC study)
Rainer Rauramaa (Dr’sExtra Study)
Ulla Sankilampi (lipidomics in premature babies)
Stine Ulven (gene expression)
Matti Uusitupa and the Sysdiet consortium
Craig Wheelock (plasma lipid mediator profiling metabolomics)
Jyrki Ågren (fatty acid composition of serum lipids)
Katariina Öörni (LDL aggregation and cholesterol efflux)
Jetty Chung-Yung Lee (lipid mediators)

Latest achievements and ongoing studies

We have studied the effects of weight reduction (Genobin) or dietary modification, i.e. fat (AlfaFish), whole grain products, berries and fish (Sysdimet) or the healthy Nordic diet (Sysdiet) in carefully conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Most of the studies have included subjects with features of the metabolic syndrome. Favorable effects on lipid and glucose metabolism, as well as on inflammation have been found. Furthermore, there have been favorable changes in gene expression.

In an RCT carried out in coronary heart disease patients fatty fish intake was associated with an anti-inflammatory response at the mRNA level and decreased plasma concentrations of potential mediators of lipid-induced insulin resistance and inflammation. The intake of lean fish significantly decreased blood pressure and, a marker of endothelial function. In another RCT (AlfaFish), we examined the health effects of fish intake more thoroughly in subjects with features of the metabolic syndrome.

Gene-diet interactions have been studied in e.g. a recent genotype based dietary intervention study (Fadsdiet). We found interesting results regarding low grade inflammation (unpublished). In order to investigate the mechanism linking fatty acid metabolism and inflammation together, plasma lipid mediator profiling metabolomics will be performed in Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.    

Lipidomics platforms, which enable quantification of hundreds of diverse lipid molecules across multiple lipid classes, have been utilized in many of our dietary intervention studies. Dietary changes related to the healthy Nordic diet alter metabolic profiles, e.g. lipids related to peroxidation, inflammation and insulin signaling (Sysdiet). Study on lipid metabolism of preterm infants in collaboration with Dr. Ulla Sankilampi offers a unique setting to study the link between inflammation and lipids.

In a prospective study examining the effect of intensified nutrition therapy in head-neck carcinoma patients the nutritional status of these patients has been examined at diagnosis, during the treatment and at the end of the treatment. Furthermore, the impact of intensified nutrition therapy on the nutritional status, quality of life and both acute and long term side effects have been examined. Furthermore, in this project the effect of nutritional status of colon carcinoma patients on the prognosis and survival will be examined.

Studies in collaboration with other research groups

In Dr'sExtra study a recommended diet has been shown to be associated with lower risk of the metabolic syndrome and abnormal glucose metabolism. This association is modified by cardiorespiratory fitness.

In the PANIC study (Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children) –, children's diet has been found to have the same shortcomings as in the diet in adults. Furthermore, irregular eating frequency and consumption of sugar sweetened beverages have been found to be associated unfavorably in glucose and lipid metabolism.

In the on-going T2D-GENE study the effectiveness of lifestyle intervention on incident diabetes in individuals with impaired fasting glucose and low or high genetic risk for the development of type 2 diabetes is studied in collaboration with Professor Markku Laakso.

Research methods

Randomized controlled trials
Glucose tolerance tests (oral and intravenous)
Serum lipid profile
Inflammatory markers
Fatty acid composition of serum lipids and erythrocyte membranes
Food records
Metabolomics by NMR (in collaboration with Professor Mika Ala-Korpela)
Gene expression in PBMCs and adipose tissue (in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Ingrid Dahlman)        
 LC-MS metabolomics (in collaboration with PhD Kati Hanhineva)