The Institute of Food and Environmental Research (ILU) has recently welcomed a new doctoral candidate to its ranks. Food chemist Sandra Grebenteuch passed her scientific examination on 8 September. She wrote her doctoral thesis on “Basic and subsequent reactions of volatile compounds from ω-fatty acids: formation pathways of methyl ketones and lipoid aldehydes”. This is based on an important finding: Sandra Grebenteuch actually discovered a second way in which methyl ketones are formed. Methyl ketones are lipid degradation products that are also relevant as flavourings in many foods. Until now, only a thermally initiated formation pathway was known – now, thanks to Sandra Grebenteuch, there is another pathway that will probably soon find its way into textbooks. Her experiments have shown that “methyl ketones can be formed from unsaturated fatty acids and their unsaturated secondary degradation products during lipid oxidation” (from the 2021 newsletter of the Nutrition Research Competence Cluster). Methyl ketones are formed, for example, during the oxidation of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are contained in many vegetable oils. In addition, various nitrogen-containing compounds (such as amino acids) in foods can strongly promote the formation of methyl ketones. As a result, some implications for food production can be derived from this research.

“I was lucky enough to find something that has been little researched”, says Grebenteuch, delighted with the results of her research. “Basically, I was interested in the interaction of different food ingredients, i.e. how lipids, proteins and carbohydrates influence each other”, explains the scientist. The path ultimately led her to lipids, which offered even more need for research.

Sandra Grebenteuch completed her doctorate at the Institute of Food Technology and Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin. Professor Sascha Rohn, Head of the Department of Food Chemistry and Analysis, supervised her doctoral thesis over the past few months after her supervisor Professor Lothar W. Kroh retired.

Sandra Grebenteuch came to the Institute of Food and Environmental Research through the NutriAct project, in which the ILU developed legume baked goods with a defined composition, among other things. She has now been a permanent member of the team for a year and works a lot on the topics of extraction, flavourings and analysis using gas or liquid chromatography. Sandra Grebenteuch is looking forward to a bright future at the ILU.