Nutritional quality of the protein of Vigna unguiculata L. Walp and its protein isolate

Karoline de Macêdo Gonçalves Frota, Lays Arnaud Rosal Lopes, Izabel Cristina Veras Silva, José Alfredo Gomes Arêas


A protein’s true digestibility and amino acid composition are important characteristics for its nutritional characterisation. This study determined the true digestibility of the protein from cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) and of its protein isolate, and their nutritional values were estimated after correcting for the amino acid score. The protein was isolated from the defatted whole bean by its alkaline solubilisation and isoelectric precipitation. The amino acid composition of the protein from the whole bean and from the isolate was determined by ion-exchange chromatography. Protein digestibility was assessed by the nitrogen balance method. The amino acid score is the lowest value obtained from the ratio between the individual amount of each essential amino acid present within the protein and the recommendation of each one for preschool infants. Methionine was the limiting amino acid in both the whole bean and the isolate. The true digestibility of the protein corrected by the amino acid score is an estimate of its nutritional value. The amino acid score for the whole bean was 0.44, and protein digestibility was 86.7%. For the isolate, these values were 0.60 and 96.7%, respectively. Correcting each score by the digestibility resulted in an estimated nutritive value of 38% and 58% for the whole bean and the isolate, respectively. Therefore, by having higher digestibility and increasing the bioavailability of essential amino acids, cowpea protein isolate is of interest for inclusion in food products, especially cereal-based products, which contain lysine as a limiting amino acid and are rich in methionine. 


Legume; Amino acid composition; Proteins; Digestibility

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