Increasing cost of animal husbandry to the environment and the ever increasing world population necessitate new sustainable protein sources for food market. Today, the use of plant protein ingredients in the human diet is restricted due to their lower nutritional value and poor technological functionality compared to the animal-sourced proteins. The only plant protein exploited in significant volumes as an ingredient for human nutrition is soy but other more relevant alternatives for Finland and Europe exist. Oat (Avena sativa L.) and faba bean (Vicia faba L.) proteins are potential domestic protein sources with relatively good nutritional profile.
Functional properties of proteins determine the texture and structural stability of various food systems such as foams, emulsions and gels. Plant proteins generally show limited solubility at neutral or slightly acidic pH which limits their use as functional ingredients in food products. The main goal of the PhD work of MSc Outi Nivala is to create protein particles with good solution stability and superior functionality in terms of stabilizing food colloids.
Enzymes which create covalent linkages within/between food polymers are natural tools for structure modification. The use of cross-linking enzymes transglutaminase and tyrosinase for engineering of stable protein particles from oats and faba beans and their effects on some protein physicochemical properties as well as stabilization of emulsions and foams are investigated.
The work is strongly connected to VTT strategic research on plant proteins and their utilization, a subject highly topical in Finland but also worldwide. Outi Nivala has a grant from Raisio Group Research Foundation, and her work is supervised by Dilek Ercili-Cura, Emilia Nordlund and Kristiina Kruus.
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