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Where does protein come from?
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Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 6:57 am    Post subject: Where does protein come from?  Reply with quote    

I didn't do chemistry or biology at school, at least I didn't learn much. Please could someone explain to me where protein comes from? I am told that if I sprout grains they increase in protein, and if I grow mealworms on chicken food they are a good protein source. But where is the extra protein coming from?

I have had vegetarians staying here gently berate me for meat eating as one pound of meat takes many pounds of grain (they say, I reply that our meat is largely grass based). So how is the mealworm thing different?

Simple explaination for a bear of little brain please?

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Well the vegetarians are right about the energy costs of meat.

Meat must be fed with other living things (eg grain or grass) whereas plant matter grows using energy from the sun directly.

As a rule of thumb, plant eaters get only 1/10th of the energy they consume converted into their own body mass. Hence the reason you can feed more people if they eat a vegetarian or plant based diet than if they are meat eaters.

Meal worms are however meat in the sense that they do not grow using energy from the sun directly, but must eat plant matter in order to grow. So they are not any "better" in energy terms than meat.

This is all to do with food chains. In a food chain the plants are the 1st trophic level, also called Producers as they produce food by using energy from the sun to convert the raw ingredients (carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil) into glucose - which is the basic food molecule.

Vegetarians are on the 2nd trophic level. In Biology they are called Consumers (or Herbivores) because they cannot make their own food but instead eat the plants that made the food. They are also animals and they need to move around to find their food. So they produce muscles and the muscles are the bits that we call meat.

Food chains can go on up. The 3rd trophic level are also consumers, but they eat other animals and so are known as Carnivores. Meat eating humans are on this 3rd Trophic level.

Anything that eats a carnivore would be on the 4th Trophic level. However we tend not to eat carnivores (although some countries eat dogs I think). A carnivore at the top of a food chain is called a Top Carnivore. It is a vulnerable position in a food chain.

So back to meat - and to the protein story. Plants don't need to walk around, so they don't produce muscle. Muscle (meat) is made from proteins. So if we want a good concentrated source of protein, meat is a good place to start.

Making protein needs nitrogen and animals need to get their nitrogen from plant material. Plants can absorb nitrogen from their roots in the form of an ion called nitrate and they use it to build their own proteins by various reactions that also use the glucose it made using light energy.

Animals must eat plants to obtain the nitrogen they require. Actually when they eat plants they digest plant protein in to amino acids, which animals can then build into the protein the animal needs. Each amino acid contains one nitrogen and there are 20 amino acid types commonly used by nature.

Plant's tend to be a less concentrated source of protein than meat (well meat is made from protein so this is hardly surprising). Some plants will put more protein into their seeds than into their leaves. So vegetarians get most of their protein from things like peas, beans, lentils, nuts and so on. The plant puts the protein in the seed to give the young plant a head start.

So how do sprouted grains contain "more" protein than unsprouted?

They probably don't in the strictest sense. However if the seed has germinated then it is starting to mobilise the proteins that were put into storage for it to use when it was ready. The fact that the seed is starting to "unpack" these proteins (possibly breaking many of them into the protein building blocks - amino acids) tends to make the proteins in germinated seeds more easily digested and absorbed by humans. So you "get" more protein from the sprouted seed even though there may not really be more in them.....


At least that's my understanding....... I'll try to explain further if needed.....

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 34032
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Sally too wrote:

So how do sprouted grains contain "more" protein than unsprouted?

They probably don't in the strictest sense. However if the seed has germinated then it is starting to mobilise the proteins that were put into storage for it to use when it was ready. The fact that the seed is starting to "unpack" these proteins (possibly breaking many of them into the protein building blocks - amino acids) tends to make the proteins in germinated seeds more easily digested and absorbed by humans. So you "get" more protein from the sprouted seed even though there may not really be more in them.....


Oh, they do, around 25% more.

Quote:
Increases in Protein Quality Chavan and Kadam (1989) stated - “Very complex qualitative changes are reported to occur during soaking and sprouting of seeds. The conversion of storage proteins of cereal grains into albumins and globulins during sprouting may improve the quality of cereal proteins. Many studies have shown an increase in the content of the amino acid Lysine with sprouting.”
“An increase in proteolytic activity during sprouting is desirable for nutritional improvement of cereals because it leads to hydrolysis of prolamins and the liberated amino acids such as glutamic and proline are converted to limiting amino acids such as lysine.”
Increases in Crude Fibre content Cuddeford (1989), based on data obtained by Peer and Leeson (1985), stated - “In sprouted barley, crude fibre, a major constituent of cell walls, increases both in percentage and real terms, with the synthesis of structural carbohydrates, such as cellulose and hemicellulose”. Chung et al. (1989) found that the fibre content increased from 3.75% in unsprouted barley seed to 6% in 5-day sprouts.”
Crude Protein and Crude Fibre changes in Barley Sprouted over a 7-day period
Crude Protein Crude Fibre (% of DM) (% of DM)
Original seed 12.7% 5.4%
Day 1 12.7% 5.6%
Day 2 13.0% 5.9%
Day 3 13.6% 5.8%
Day 4 13.4% 7.4%
Day 5 13.9% 9.7%
Day 6 14.0% 10.8%
Day 7 15.5% 14.1%
Source: Cuddeford (1989), based on data obtained by Peer and Leeson (1985).

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Quote:
Increases in Protein Quality Chavan and Kadam (1989) stated - “Very complex qualitative changes are reported to occur during soaking and sprouting of seeds. The conversion of storage proteins of cereal grains into albumins and globulins during sprouting may improve the quality of cereal proteins. Many studies have shown an increase in the content of the amino acid Lysine with sprouting.”
“An increase in proteolytic activity during sprouting is desirable for nutritional improvement of cereals because it leads to hydrolysis of prolamins and the liberated amino acids such as glutamic and proline are converted to limiting amino acids such as lysine.”


Erm.... this is basically saying what I just said.....


The rest of your quote is about fibre not protein.

Last edited by Sally Too on Tue May 10, 11 7:55 am; edited 1 time in total

Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

So with sprouts you are losing fibre and gaining protein?
But what about the case for growing and feeding insects to poultry. This seemed a great idea until I looked at what people were feeding them, they mentioned chicken feed and cat biscuits! They said you could get a cubic food of mealworms for three pounds of feed input. But a lot of that cubic food is going to be water, isn't it? I am wondering what the advantage is, to grow meal worms, other than the chickens like them....

Thanks for the explaination Sally, it makes sense to me that every step up the food chain you need more input for less output, given that animals use up energy to move around and create waste!

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Okay Nick... spotted the first column of crude protein increasing as crude fibre increases in the figures.

So back to BL's question. Where does that protein come from.
Where does the nitrogen for the extra protein come from? Were the seeds germinated in water or in a nitrate solution? It would make a difference to folk wanting to sprout seeds in the kitchen....

Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Nitrate solution? Could I sprout my chicken grains in a weak pee solution?

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

What does "crude" fibre/protein measure?

I would be happier with dried mass. Could the apparent increases be linked to water uptake as germination started?

Last edited by Sally Too on Tue May 10, 11 8:07 am; edited 1 time in total

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Bulgarianlily wrote:
Nitrate solution? Could I sprout my chicken grains in a weak pee solution?


Please NO! I'm trying to find out where the apparent extra protein is coming from. The nitrogen for that protein cannot come out of thin air. So if the experimenters had their seeds in nitrate solution then that could account for the extra protein formed as the nitrogen would be available. If the seeds were in water (as most home sprouters will be doing I hope) then where did the extra nitrogen come from to produce the extra protein?

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 34032
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thin air *is* 79% nitrogen, of course.

Maybe there's nitrogen fixing bacteria there? I honestly don't know, I just found the information and thought it might be vaguely useful.

Truffle



Joined: 07 Feb 2006
Posts: 526

PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Whats possibly happening:

The dry matter levels reduce during sprouting and the protein levels (dry weight) don't actually increase but the % of protein does. So the % of protein increases but the dry weight decrease, so you're left with no real increase in protein and possibly even a decrease.
There's a good open source article here (note: I've only read the abstract): www.sproutnet.com/Nutrition/Research/nutrient_and.pdf (Animal Feed Science and Technology,
13 (1985) 203-214)
truffle

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Nick wrote:
Thin air *is* 79% nitrogen, of course.

Maybe there's nitrogen fixing bacteria there? I honestly don't know, I just found the information and thought it might be vaguely useful.


I AM glad you put a smilie after that first statement. For others: Nitrogen gas is totally unavailable as a direct nitrogen source to plants and animals. The two nitrogen atoms are bonded by a triple bond which is very difficult to break, making N2 a very stable and unreactive molecule. Nitrogen fixing bacteria can access it though.

Sally Too



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2511
Location: N.Ireland
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Truffle wrote:
Whats possibly happening:

The dry matter levels reduce during sprouting and the protein levels (dry weight) don't actually increase but the % of protein does. So the % of protein increases but the dry weight decrease, so you're left with no real increase in protein and possibly even a decrease.
There's a good open source article here (note: I've only read the abstract): www.sproutnet.com/Nutrition/Research/nutrient_and.pdf (Animal Feed Science and Technology,
13 (1985) 203-214)
truffle


Okay so respiration removes some of the carbs reducing the dry matter. That makes more sense! Thanks.

So still no "real" increase. Just a massaging of figures to suit some sprouting seed sales person?

Truffle



Joined: 07 Feb 2006
Posts: 526

PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Sally too wrote:

So still no "real" increase. Just a massaging of figures to suit some sprouting seed sales person?


Exactly. I'm sure there's loads of heath benefits to sprouting seeds but, according to the cited reference, an increase in protein (on a dry weight basis) isn't one of them

truffle

Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 11 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

So that makes it not worth doing then, unless the other health benefits turn out to have some major effect.

What about raising insects on cereals to feed to chickens?

I have just been asked (by husband) if sprouting grains makes them more digestable, so more protein gets taken up?

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