Study shows the potential of pea isolate as a 'high-quality protein'

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Roquette
Image: Roquette

Related tags Pea protein Pea alternative protein

Roquette’s pea protein isolate displayed a well-balanced indispensable amino acid composition associated with a high digestibility.

France-based pea protein supplier Roquette claims its latest study confirms ‘the excellent’ nutritional quality of pea protein.

The company, in partnership with academics from the INRAE, France's National Research Institute for Agriculture, investigated the digestibility and nutritional quality of pea protein isolate versus casein.

It aimed to evaluate their nutritional quality through calculation of the digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS), the protein quality method recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization. It also aimed to determine the net postprandial protein utilization (NPPU), the ratio of amino acid mass converted to proteins to the mass of amino acids supplied.

Fifteen healthy volunteers were fed nine successive portions of mashed potatoes containing either pea protein or casein. Their ileal contents, plasmas, and urine samples were then collected.

The results revealed some amino acids (leucine, valine, lysine, and phenylalanine) were less digestible in pea protein than in casein. However, the real ileal digestibility and the NPPU were not different. The DIAAS of 1.00 obtained for pea protein (versus 1.45 for casein), meanwhile, demonstrated its ability to meet all amino acids requirements. “This study shows the potential of pea isolate as a high-quality protein,” concluded the study.

“The present study highlights the observation that the digestive and metabolic bioavailability of pea protein is high, enabling fulfillment of the IAA requirement as reflected by the DIAAS of 1.00,” ​it said. “It emphasizes the potential of pea to be consumed as a source of dietary protein, as it seems to be one of the rare plant proteins with no limiting AAs and high digestibility.”

Juliane Calvez, Research Scientist at INRAE, said: “In a clinical study on healthy volunteers, we showed that Roquette’s pea protein isolate displayed a well-balanced indispensable amino acid composition associated with a high digestibility. We obtained a DIAAS of 100 that demonstrates pea isolate is an excellent source of plant protein for human diet​.”

Roquette said the study’s results are a major milestone in its ‘commitment to contribute to the development of a new plant-based cuisine offering high nutritional quality and sustainable food for a healthier planet’.  

Late last year the company opened what it claims is the world’s largest pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, becoming the first player to operate major pea protein facilities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jeremy Burks, Senior Vice President of Plant Proteins at Roquette, added: “The result of this study is another piece of evidence that pea protein is an outstanding plant-based ingredient. At Roquette, we aim to be the best partner for our customers and all the players along the value chain, and we are proud to be the first to use this methodology that confirms our strong bet for this extraordinary pulse.”


Real ileal amino acid digestibility of pea protein compared to casein in healthy humans: a randomized trial 

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


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