Europe builds on vegetable proteins
it imports for consumption, a new EU-funded project will focus on
how we can obtain quality proteins from grain legumes for both
human and animal consumption.
Financed under the Brussels push for science - the 6th framework programme - the project involves research teams from 67 institutions and 18 EU countries.
"There are three objectives : to identify the optimum parameters for legumes regarding their food quality and safety; to investigate the variation in the composition of the seeds and the factors affecting them; and to develop genomic, post-genomic and bio-information tools in order to enhance production and quality," said one of the research groups, the Public University of Navarre in Spain.
Navarre is participating in the work programme on abiotic stress, looking at the enhancement patterns in production and quality in relation to environmentally limiting conditions, especially in drought conditions.
Beyond their potential as sources of quality vegetable proteins and from an agricultural production perspective, the use of legumes reduces the need to use fertilisers and the incorporation of legumes into crop rotation substantially reduces the incidence of diseases and plagues, said the Navarre university group.
Nutritionists have long recogniased the need for adequate protein and the essential amino acids for basic health. Current consumer demand for protein is changing as research defines specific, unique aspects of individual proteins for optimal health, and the appropriate mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat in a diet.
In response to consumer demand ingredient manufacturers now market a range of speciality proteins for their potential nutritional and health benefits. The marketplace sees a variety of value-added foods and beverages with an emphasis on protein content. Soy protein in particular is enjoying strong growth on the back of its potential to reduce heart disease and to help menopause symptoms. In the dairy-protein arena, whey and fractionated-whey ingredients are also enjoying growth.
The high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods fad - driven by the Atkins diet in the US - is also contributing to an increase in demand for vegetable proteins.
At a formulation level, functional properties that proteins bring include gelation, viscosity, foaming, film-formation, water control, emulsification and taste.