According to a recent analysis of
Essential Science IndicatorsSMfrom
Reuters data, the work of Dr. Lorenzo Cerretani has
entered the top 1% in the field of Agricultural
Sciences. His citation record in this field includes 33
papers cited a total of 239 times between January 1,
1999 and June 30, 2009. Some of his papers appear in
the field of Chemistry as well.
Dr. Cerretani is a researcher in the Department of
Food Science at the University of Bologna at Campus of
Food Science in Cesena, Italy. Below, he talks
with ScienceWatch.com about his highly cited
The bulk of your research concerns olive oil—what
drew your interest to this field?
Correct. Some 85% of my published papers are on olive oil. My interest in
this field is related to several events. I was born in Loreto Aprutino, a
beautiful village situated in the center of Italy encircled by olive
orchards, where just about everyone produces virgin olive oil. My family
still produces and bottles olive oil.
During my studies in Food Science and Technology at the University of
Bologna, I had the chance to meet the research group coordinated by
Professor Giovanni Lercker, where Dr. Tullia Gallina Toschi and
Alessandra Bendini also work, with whom I worked closely during my
Ph.D. thesis and postdoctoral studies. During my initial studies, I also
spent several months at Spanish universities looking at olive oil chemistry
and composition, collaborating with different research groups at the
University of Castilla La Mancha with Professors Giuseppe Fregapane and
Amparo Salvador, at the University of Granada with Professors Alberto
Fernández-Gutiérrez and Antonio Segura-Carretero and at the
University of Valencia with Professor Ernesto F. Simó-Alfonso.
members of our
At present, most of my research is on olive oil, and it is even a hobby for
me. In fact, I'm a professional olive oil taster and panel leader; I am
often a judge for national and international olive oil contests.
From the sound of it, olive oil is a complex as
wine—would you agree?
Yes, it is true. Olive oil, and more correctly virgin olive oil, is a very
complex matrix constituted mainly of triglycerides (>98%), although
minor components are the most interesting. This fraction contains some
molecules (i.e. phenolic compounds, tocopherols, and squalene) that are
interesting in terms of their potential protective role against some
diseases. Different from wine, virgin olive oils can be consumed even after
cooking, which leads to changes in the chemical composition of oils and in
the sensory and chemical characteristics of foods. For this reason, we have
recently studied, in collaboration with Dr. Maria Theresa Rodriguez-Estrada
(of my department), Dr. Emma Chiavaro, and Prof. Elena Vittadini (of the
University of Parma), the effects of thermal treatment on olive oil
composition, the results of which were recently published:
Cerretani L, Bendini A, Rodriguez-Estrada MT, Vittadini E, Chiavaro E,
"Microwave heating of different commercial categories of olive oil: Part I.
Effect on chemical oxidative stability indices and phenolic compounds,"
Food Chemistry 115 (4): 1381-8, 2009.
Chiavaro E, Barnaba C, Vittadini E, Rodriguez-Estrada MT, Cerretani L,
Bendini A, "Microwave heating of different commercial categories of olive
oil: Part II. Effect on thermal properties," Food Chemistry
115 (4): 1393-1400, 2009.
What is your specific focus within olive oil
Currently, the main focus of my research is phenolic compounds in virgin
olive oils. In particular, thanks to interdisciplinary collaborations, we
have studied the effects of agronomical differences (in collaboration with
Dr. Olfa Baccouri of the Centre de Biotechnologie de Borj-Cédria at
Hammam-Lif, Tunisia) and technological processing on phenol content in
virgin olive oil.
Moreover, we set up methods for analysis of these compounds in
collaboration with the University of Granada for separative techniques, and
with the University of Teramo (Prof. Angelo Cichelli and Dr. Michele del
Carlo) for rapid electrochemical evaluation. Most recently, we are also
interested in establishing methods for detection of olive oils fraudulently
sold as extra virgin olive oils. We have used both traditional and rapid
spectroscopic methods, and have collaborated with Dr. Ruben Maggio of the
University of Rosario in Argentina.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work? The
The main spur is represented by the practical application of our research,
which shows that research can indeed contribute to the growth of knowledge
for the benefit of society. Quite honestly, the most rewarding aspects are
obtaining research results, publishing them and receiving international
acknowledgement. In fact, I am only 33 years old, and do not yet have a
permanent position in the university—the future for young researchers
in Italy is very hard. Unfortunately, the results recognized by this
interview are of little relevance for a staff position in Italian
Where do you plan to take this research in the
The next step of our research will be the study of the interaction of
antioxidant compounds to oxidative stability in virgin olive oils during
storage, and to set up a treatment process for extending shelf-life. We
have recently obtained an Italian patent for this kind of treatment before
oil bottling. In addition, I think that the knowledge acquired over the
years on antioxidant compounds in virgin olive oils will be useful for
other sectors of agricultural and food sciences, such as emulsified
Lorenzo Cerretani, Ph.D.
Università di Bologna - Alma Mater Studiorum
Dipartimento di Scienze degli Alimenti
Carrasco-Pancorbo A, et al., "Evaluation of the
antioxidant capacity of individual phenolic compounds in virgin
olive oil," J. Agr. Food Chem. 53(23): 8918-25, 16
November 2005. Source:
Essential Science Indicators from