Prestigious Elite Researcher Prize awarded to food science researcher

Professor Hanne Christine Bertram, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University, has been awarded an Elite Researcher (EliteForsk) Prize for her research into the correlation between diet and health. The prize is awarded by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and goes to outstanding researchers under 45 years of age.

2017.02.22 | Nina Hermansen / Rasmus Rørbæk

Professor Hanne C. Bertram has been awarded an Elite Researcher (EliteForsk) Prize 2017 for her research of international excellence. (Photo: Ditte Valente/EliteForsk)

How does the body respond to the intake of specific foods, and what does diet mean for our health? Professor Hanne Christine Bertram, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University, has been working on these questions for more than a decade.

On Thursday 23 February, she is being presented with one of this year’s Elite Researcher Prizes for her contribution to the development of advanced food analysis, and in recognition of her position as a front runner in this field. The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science awards the prize to five outstanding researchers of international excellence.

“I’m incredibly pleased and honoured to be receiving this prestigious prize. Apart from the personal recognition, I’m extremely happy that I can make it possible for an Elite Researcher Prize to go to food science research that is without a doubt in Europe’s premier league,” says Professor Bertram.

Better knowledge about meat and health

The newly appointed elite researcher has gained particular attention by contributing to the development of the metabolomics technique – an advanced method of studying the body’s metabolisation of food products. When the body burns nutrients, different molecules are excreted in the urine or blood. By analysing and mapping the content of these molecules, researchers can study whether a particular food product is associated with a specific effect in the body.

The method has been used for purposes such as producing knowledge about why foods like cheese are healthy, and how milk proteins can influence weight control.

The new prize includes an amount of DKK 1 million to be used freely for research, and Professor Bertram expects that the funds will be used to understand how we can develop healthier meat products.

“There is a focus on the impact of meat on our health, but there are many unclarified factors. First and foremost, I’d really like to contribute to ensuring a better understanding of the way meat affects us when we consume it, and I hope this can provide knowledge so we can strategically use the food matrix to achieve an overall healthier solution,” says Professor Bertram.

In addition to strengthening research as regards generating knowledge that can lead to the development of healthier meat products, she would like to use the prize money to study how we are affected by what we get from our parents.

There is actually increasing evidence that our parents provide us with more than genes. The dietary pattern we get from our mothers seems to leave its mark on our health right up into adulthood.

Reaching out

Professor Bertram hopes to use the attention associated with the prize to also focus on the importance of strong collaboration between the universities and the Danish food industry.

“Fruitful collaboration is important in ensuring impact, and I experience industrial collaboration as inspiring and rewarding. However, mutual desire and determination is important. Collaboration can’t be created by force by the donor of the grant, where standardisation that the research should lead to a new product tomorrow means a loss of diversity and creativity in our research. Besides which, no generic knowledge is created, and this has great value for society,” says Professor Bertram.

“The food industry will only become more competitive by making new knowledge accessible and not by solving the challenges they are facing here and now. I would like to urge that we try to support and promote research that is not only of a more free nature, but that is also based on collaboration between universities and the food industry at different levels,” she concludes.

More information

The Elite Researcher Prize 2017 will be presented on Thursday 23 February by HRH Crown Princess Mary and Minister for Higher Education and Science Søren Pind at a ceremony at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

Read more about Metabolomics – and the correlation between diet and health (in Danish only).

Read also: Elite researcher appointed professor at the Department of Food Science

For more information, please contact

Professor Hanne C. Bertram
Department of Food Science, Aarhus University
E-mail: hannec.bertram@food.au.dk
Phone: +45 8715 8353

Head of Department Michelle Williams
Department of Food Science, Aarhus University
E-mail: mw@food.au.dk
Mobile: +45 2517 0049

DCA, Food