The Division's research units

Updated on 11/22/2016
Published on 04/11/2013

The Division groups together 22 units, including four research units, 13 joint research units, four contract-based research units and one experimental unit. They are located in 10 sites throughout France.

Four major centres are composed of several units centered on specific research fields of the Division:

  • Dijon : sensory properties of food, perception, mémorisation et impact on dietary behaviours and choices
  • Clermont-Ferrand - Theix : role of food and diet in preventing metabolic disorders, mainly due to ageing
  • Toulouse : study of xenobiotics, quantification of exposure and characterization of their metabolism
  • Paris : biological, sociological and economic determinants of dietary behaviours 

  There are different types of unit :

  • research units composed exclusively of INRA staff
  • joint research units with universities or colleges of agriculture and research institutes
  • experimental units
  • contract-based research units, usually University Laboratories, Agricultural Schools or National Research Bodiesworking on research projects of interest to the Division

carte des unités du département Alimentation humaine. © inra
carte des unités du département Alimentation humaine © inra

Overview of the Division's units

Food and Digestive, Nervous and Behavioural Adaptations Integrated research on the adaptive processes of the digestive tract (neuro-immune control of the intestinal barrier and endocrine pancreas) and the central nervous system in relation to neonatal and adult nutrition. Two main axes: i) Digestive, central and behavioural adaptive responses to deleterious nutritional environments ii) Consequences of early nutrition on digestive physiology and feeding behavior research unit
Food-Immuno Allergy The major objective is to develop strategies and tools to better assess and prevent the allergy risk to foods. Research is related to i) the intrinsic factors involved in the allergenicity of food proteins (structure/activity relationships), ii) the underlying mechanisms involved in antigen sensitization, mainly the immunological status of the subject. This topic is focused on the role of gut microbiota and on the impact of the immunological status of the mother during gestation and lactation on the propensity of offspring to develop an allergic sensitization. research unit
Nutrition and Lipidic Regulation of Brain Functions The aim is to investigate in rodents the potential of n-3 PUFA in promoting the resilience of brain cells facing stressful challenges during the course of aging. Using diets depleted or enriched with n-3 PUFA and chronic restraint stress, studies are focused on synaptic function at hippocampus level, including the role of astrocytes and stem cells. The final endpoint is the emotional status and memory performance. research unit
Methodologies for Alimentary risk Analysis Development and improvement of risk analysis methodologies. Research programs are related to the modeling of human dietary exposure, risk-benefit characterization and the socio-economic analysis of regulatory measures. All the projects involve multidisciplinary approaches with computer scientists, statisticians, social scientists and risk assessors. research unit
Biology of Development and Reproduction Research focuses on the development of mammal embryo from the formation of the egg, up to the foetal organogenesis. It is organized around four axes: i) Dynamics of the embryonic genome during the first developmental stages and the acquisition of the pluripotence, ii) Establishment of the gestation and the mother-conceptus interactions, iii) Foetal gonadogenesis and gametogenesis, iv) Ontogeny of the metabolic, nutritional and environmental regulations during the development and study of long term effects. Programs are simultaneously driven at several species (cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, and mouse) so allowing an approach of comparative biology and physiology. joint research unit
Cardiovascular, Metabolism, Diabetes and Nutrition Three axes are developed: i) adaptation to nutritional challenges, ii) role of  physical activity on muscle physiology, iii) role of physical structure of dietary lipids on physiological and pathophysiological parameters joint research unit
Centre for Taste and Feeding Behaviour
The general objective is to get a better understanding of physico-chemical, molecular, cellular, behavioural and psychological mechanisms underlying sensory perception of food. The studies range from the release of aromatic substances and sapid molecules from the food matrix to the psychology and behaviour of consumer, through the biological events of food perception. This is performed at various levels peripheral (taste-olfaction) and central by studying some of the brain area involved (olfactory bulb, hypothalamus) and their involvement in food intake regulation. Changes in sensory perception in physiological (development, experience) or pathological conditions (nutrient excess, aging) are studied
joint research unit
Muscle Dynamcis and Metabolism Capacities of adaptation of skeletal muscle to the environment. Two aspects are considered: i) metabolism and mitochondrial activity in muscle, ii) regulation of skeletal muscle mass. The aim is to identify factors influencing the breakdown and repair of skeletal muscles, as well as factors involved in maintenance of muscle mass and function. The final endpoint is to develop strategies to preserve muscle integrity and function joint research unit
Food Engineering and Processes The topics of the research unit deal with construction of food and bioproducts using integrated and multidisciplinary approaches. The final aim is to be able to propose tailored food trough reverse ingeniering aproaches. Various disciplinary knowledges involve chemistry, chemical physics, sensory and consumer analysis, process, modeling, chemometrics. joint research unit
Food Microbiology and Human Health

Micalis institute is organized in three thematic research departments

1. Mechanisms of emergence and strategies for control of opportunist pathogens. The aim is to understand how microorganisms contribute to and interact with their environment.

2. Food and gut microbial ecosystems and food-microbiota-host functional interactions. The endpoint is to understand how complex microbial ecosystems contribute to preservation of food quality and human health.

3. Systemic and synthetic microbial biology. The major goals is to decipher the general principles underlying the design and the functioning of biological networks in bacteria.

joint research unit
Nutrition, Obesity and Thrombotic Risk Research is organized according to three axes: i) bioavailability of lipid micronutrients, ii) role of adipocytes in the control of insulin resistance, iii) nutritional contribution to haemostasis and thrombosis joint research unit
Nutrition and Integrative Neurobiology Impact of lipid nutrition on brain functions and development of mood and cognitive disorders.  The general hypothesis is that lipidic nutritional imbalances contribute to the development of cognitive and mood disorders, due to their effects on the pathophysiological processes involved in these disorders. Experiments are conducted in rodents and humans joint research unit
Physiology of Nutritional Adaptations Research is focused on imprinting by early life nutrition using a translational approach. The objectives are to improve the understanding of the pathophysiology of the programming effect of perinatal undernutrition, and to develop nutritional strategies for the perinatal prevention of adult chronic diseases. The main ongoing studies are related to the impact of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) on postnatal brain maturation and the development of the neuronal circuitry controlling food intake, and to the improvement of IUGR consequences by perinatal supplementation with specific nutrients (oligosaccharides and amino acids). joint research unit
Physiology of Nutrition and Feeding Behaviour
Adaptations and responses of target tissues (intestine, liver, muscle, bone, adipose tissue, brain) to dietary protein and energy nutrients. Three axes are developed: i) adaptation of the gut and the gut microbiota to diet, ii) relationships between protein intake; energy balance and homeostasis, iii) relationships with risk factors for chronic non-communicable and degenerative diseases
joint research unit
Food Toxicology Fate and toxicity of food chemical contaminants with a focus on the toxicity of their metabolites. The main targets are endocrine disruption, intestinal barrier, metabolic disturbances and perinatal period. Contaminants are studied at low doses joint research unit
Human Nutrition

The general research themes focus on human nutrition at preventive steps. Particularly, our goals deal with age-related disorders. This is why JRU 1019 studies the impact of food, style of nutrition and micro/macronutrients in the maintenance of the main human biological functions and metabolic pathways. In fact, increasing our understanding of the needs is crucial for establishing nutritional recommendations and preventing metabolic alterations associated with aging, a major societal issue. In this respect, the major targets are muscle mass and function (prevention of sarcopenia), bone health (prevention of osteoporosis), endothelial functions (prevention of atherosclerosis), adipose tissue-related dysfunctions (prevention of overweight and insulin resistance). These issues are addressed together with a strong expertise in the nutrition field, particularly in protein sources and metabolism, lipid metabolism and micronutrients. Additional research on nutritional stress and modelisation of metabolic pathways have been recently initiated.

To reach our objectives, we have developed complementary approaches and models, from cell and mechanistic studies to human trials, including animal models such as rats, GMO-mice and minipigs

joint research unit
Nutritional Epidemiology

The main research objectives are: i) to study the nutrition-health relationships by identifying nutrition-related risk or protective factors involved in the etiology of various health outcomes, in particular chronic diseases, important bodily processes (aging, cognition, fertility…), and quality of life; ii) to achieve a better understanding of the determinants of dietary behaviours and nutritional status; iii) to elucidate underlying mechanisms (biomarkers, intermediate endpoints…)

The ultimate goals of our research are to contribute to the efforts for establishing better nutritional recommendations and public health policies in order to improve prevention of chronic diseases

joint research unit
Animal and Functionality of Animal Products   contract-based research unit
Biochemistry and Nutrition   contract-based research unit
Interaction of Intestinal Epithelium and Immune System   contract-based research unit
Residues and Contaminants in Food   contract-based research unit
Infrastructure for Experimental Food Processing   experimental unit