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Protein quality in human nutrition and contribution of cereals to protein intake


Protein intake has increased in the world during the last 5 decades, from 62 to 75 g/kg/d in average. In industrialized countries, animal products mainly contribute to protein consumption (60 to 75 %) whereas in Africa, plant proteins, and especially cereals, are the main contributors (up to 90 %). Cereals are relatively rich in proteins (4 to 10 % depending on the foods) and because they are largely consumed in industrialized countries, they significantly contribute to protein supply. In France, they are the third contributor after meat and milk products. Despite a good digestibility, the protein quality of cereals is assumed to be relatively low because of their poorness in lysine. For instance, wheat contains about twice less lysine than the reference protein profile, which corresponds to the indispensable amino acid composition that is required to satisfy amino acid requirements. In other terms, when cereals are the unique dietary source of proteins, it would be necessary to ingest about the double of the recommended protein intake (i.e. 0.83 g/kg/d) to satisfy the lysine requirement. This low lysine content results in a decreased in vivo utilization of dietary amino acids for protein synthesis. In contrast, there are no other limiting amino acids in cereals and this protein source can easily be completed with other sources, such as legumes. Cereal fermentation is implemented in many countries and is suggested to improve nutritional quality. However, the benefit regarding the amino acid profile has not been clearly demonstrated, even if it has been reported that it increased the available lysine. Beside, pseudo cereals, such as quinoa and amaranth, are interesting protein sources. They are richer in proteins than cereals (12 to 14% protein) and they are not lysine deficient. In conclusion, cereals are an important protein source worldwide, in developing and industrialized countries. Because of their limiting content of lysine, they must be combined to other protein source to satisfy the amino acid requirements.
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Dates and versions

hal-01619026 , version 1 (18-10-2017)


  • HAL Id : hal-01619026 , version 1


Claire C. Gaudichon. Protein quality in human nutrition and contribution of cereals to protein intake. VI Sourdough symposium, Sep 2015, Nantes, France. ⟨hal-01619026⟩
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