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Ilario Mennella

Ilario Mennella

session, year:
2017 1st


Receiving laboratory:
NuMeCan Nutrition, Métabolismes et Cancer, Rennes

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Mobility project


The increase of overweight and obesity worldwide is an urgent health and social issue. An efficient strategy to tackle the problem can be the release on the market of new foods with a lower energy density, but equal palatability compared to the high-energy foods. Appetite control may be a strategy to reduce energy intake and guarantee weight management (WM) on the long-term. The lipid compound oleoylethanolamide (OEA), showed strong anorectic properties in mice and rats when used as a drug. However, its activity as food ingredient in a specific tailored food was not tested so far. In this framework, this research project will test the hypothesis that OEA can be an effective food ingredient to modulate the endocannabinoids (ECs) pathway at the gut-brain axis level in order to achieve appetite control and WM. The project consists of three phases based on experiments carried on an animal model of Yucatan minipig (YM). In the first step, sixteen YM (8 obese minipigs (4M and 4F), 8 normal-weight minipigs (4M and 4F)) is equipped with a jugular catheter and then used to study the bio-availability of OEA and the secretion of gastrointestinal hormones following the intake of 4 different foods: a liquid food control, a liquid OEA food, a semi-solid control food and a semi-solid OEA food. In the second stage the same animals and study design will be used to test the short-term consequences of the consumption of the 4 foods on the eating behavior during a test meal. Finally, in the third step, the effect of chronic consumption of these foods containing OEA will be tested to investigate whether they can affect eating behavior, brain metabolism and body weight using a parallel randomized controlled trial study design on 16YM.

Biography & research interests

I obtained a bachelor degree in food technology and master in human nutrition (2009) both from the University of Naples “FedericoII” (UNINA). During my studies I met prof. V.Fogliano and prof. P.Vitaglione, both listed in the list of Highly Cited Researcher, who passed me part of their huge scientific background. After the master, I wanted to do some experience in an industry, thus I worked one year in a food factory as quality manager. Thanks to a Leonardo project, I came back to work in the basic research, at the University of Barcelona, studying the preventive role of resveratrol in Alzheimer's Disease. Fascinated by the interaction between food and the gut brain axis I applied for several PhD and between 2012 and 2016 I carried out a dual PhD at University of Wageningen (2015) and at UNINA (2016). The first one was related to the impact of food structure and composition on biochemical markers of sensory perception and satiety, the second one on the role of dietary fiber polyphenols on subclinical inflammation through the modulation of the gut microflora. After that I carried out my first post-doc project investigating interactions between Mediterranean diet and the gut microbiota, and the potential of modulating these interactions for prevention of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular complications in humans in UNINA. Since October 2017, I started my new post doc in InraInserm-University of Rennes Joint research Unit NuMeCan.

Selected publications

Mennella I, Di Monaco R, Balazy A, Ferracane R, Miele NA, Cavella S, Vitaglione P., 2018. Salivary endocannabinoids and N-acylethanolamines upon mastication of a semisolid food: implications in fat taste, appetite and food liking. Food Funct., 9(1):476-484.

Mennella I, Fogliano V, Ferracane R, Arlorio M, Pattarino F, Vitaglione P., 2016. Microencapsulated bitter compounds (from Gentiana lutea) reduce daily energy intakes in humans. British Journal of Nutrition, 116(10), 1841-1850.

Mennella I, Ferracane R, Zucco F, Fogliano V, Vitaglione P., 2015. Food Liking Enhances the Plasma Response of 2-Arachidonoylglycerol and of Pancreatic Polypeptide upon Modified Sham Feeding in Humans. J Nutr., 145(9):2169-75.

Vitaglione P, Mennella I, Ferracane R, Rivellese AA, Giacco R, Ercolini D, Gibbons SM, et al., 2015. Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber. Am J Clin Nutr. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.088120.

Mennella I, Savarese M, Ferracane R, Sacchi R, Vitaglione P., 2015. Oleic acid content of a meal promotes oleoylethanolamide response and reduces subsequent energy intake in humans. Food Research International. 66 463-468.

Talks in annual meetings


Oleoylethanolamide; N-acylethanolamines; endocannabinoids; food technology; functional foods; bioavailability; satiety; appetite control; body weight control; eating behaviour; neuroscience;