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Biology of Human Nutrition

Course Code: BIOL 4102
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Tutorial
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course investigates the biological basis of human nutrition. Selected physiological functions and metabolic pathways of the major nutritional components (protein, carbohydrates, lipids and selected vitamins) are presented, as well as the health effects of non-optimal dietary levels. Nutritional and health aspects of energy balance are also discussed. The structure and processing of major dietary sources, including muscle proteins, milk, and plant products will be investigated. Topical nutritional issues of current interest are also discussed.

Course Content

Part I:  Biochemistry and health effects of major nutritional components

 1. Carbohydrates

  • Classification (simple/complex/fibre type)

  • Dietary sources

  • Absorption and comparative metabolism of simple sugars

  • Structure and function of major glucose transporters (GLUT 1-5)

  • Meaning and hormonal significance of glycemic index and load

  • Physiological and metabolic effects of fiber (such as cellulose, hemicelluose, pectins, lignin, hydrocolloids, beta glucans and fructans) (including GIT transit time, effect on absorption of other nutrients, degradation/fermentation of soluble and insoluble fiber by colonic microflora)

  • The mechanism behind associated health effects (including such topics as diabetes mellitus, dental caries, colon cancer, diverticulitis)

2. Lipids

  • Dietary sources

  • Absorption and transport, including structure and metabolic pathways of VLDLs, IDLs, LDLs and HDLs

  • Metabolism (catabolic and anabolic)

  • Synthetic pathways and metabolic effects of eicosanoids

  • The mechanism behind selected health effects (including such topics as the effect of cholesterol, trans fatty acids, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on the pathogenesis of inflammation, coronary heart disease and cancer)

3. Proteins

  • Dietary sources (including the concept of protein quality, nitrogen balance/equilibrium)

  • Classification (essential amino acids, functional classification)

  • Amino acid metabolism in specific tissues, including intestinal wall, skeletal muscle, kidneys and brain.

  • The mechanism behind selected health effects (including energy vs. protein balance)

4. Energy Balance

  • Factors affecting energy availability from food (including calorie content, digestibility)

  • Basal metabolic rate (methods to assess, factors affecting)

  • Methods to estimate energy requirements

  • Carbohydrate and lipid metabolic pathways during fed and postabsorptive states, including endocrine control of the interactions between the liver, adipocytes and skeletal muscle

  • Metabolic pathways in the cases of under- and overnutrition

  • Application of knowledge of metabolic pathways to investigate the principles behind, and efficacy of, common weight loss regimens

5. Vitamins

  • Sources, selected mechanisms of action, and health effects of under-supply of water soluble vitamins, including C, B1, B6, B3, folate and B12

  • Selected sources, functions and health effects of over and under-supply of fat soluble vitamins, including A, D, E and K

Part II:  Dietary sources of major nutritional components

1. Muscle foods

  • Structure and nutrient composition of muscle

  • Postmortem pre- and post-rigor changes in muscle

  • Production and composition of some common processed meats, poultry and seafood products

  • Health aspects of muscle food consumption

2. Milk and fermented milk products

  • Structure and nutrient composition of milk (bovine and caprine)

  • Effect of liquid milk processing on nutrient quality

  • Effect of fermentation on nutrient quality

  • Health aspects of milk/fermented milk product consumption

3. Plant products

  • Structure and nutrient composition (including secondary products) of common fruits, vegetables, cereals, nuts and pulses

  • Effects of processing (including cooking) on nutrient quality

  • Health aspects of consumption, including results of epidemiological studies

  • Composition and health aspects of plant based beverages:  coffee, cocoa, wine, spirits, beer.

Part III: Topical nutritional issues

  •  To include issues such as the health aspects of genetically modified organisms, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, phytosterols, probiotics, prebiotics, nutraceuticals/functional foods and superfoods, interactions between intestinal biome and nutrition, as well as regulatory topics such as changes to Canada’s food guide, food safety, and food labelling


Methods of Instruction

Instruction will be a combination of lecture, in-class activities and student presentations.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:



Quizzes and assignments        


Term examination 1


Term examination 2 


Term project


Final examination




Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • explain the human body’s acquisition, breakdown and utilization of major food components, including proteins, carbohydrates and lipids

  • explain the human body’s requirement for, and utilization of, selected vitamins

  • describe the connection between nutrition and the occurrence of such significant health problems as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes mellitus and cancer

  • describe and explain the composition and chemistry of major food systems, including muscle foods, milk and plant-based products

  • use knowledge of human metabolism to critically evaluate contemporary issues in human nutrition as they relate to human health and food safety


course prerequisites

BIOL 2421 and BIOL 2200



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.