The composition and nutritional quality of biorefined lucerne protein depend on precipitation method

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BACKGROUND: Lucerne protein extract is a novel high-quality protein source with excellent amino acid (AA) composition of interest for human consumption. In this study, protein from screw-pressed lucerne juice was extracted by different precipitation methods to evaluate the effect on the chemical composition and nutritional quality of the extracted protein. Methods based on heat, acidification or fermentation were used for protein precipitation, and the nutritional value of protein was evaluated in a rat digestibility trial.

RESULTS: Heat precipitation at 85 °C produced a protein product with a crude protein (CP) content of 589 g kg -1 dry matter (DM), a balanced AA composition and a high standardized nitrogen (N) digestibility (82.8%). Precipitation by acidification, at a lower temperature (60 °C) or by fermentation, resulted in lower CP content (425-488 g kg -1 DM). Nitrogen digestibility for the pH-adjusted precipitate was equal to the 85 °C heat-precipitated protein, while the fermented and 60 °C precipitated proteins showed lower N digestibility (76.5% and 78.6%, respectively). By applying a two-step heat precipitation method (60 °C followed by 80 °C), a protein content of 712 g kg -1 DM and an N digestibility of 93.6% was reached, which are comparable to high-quality animal-based protein sources such as milk, whey, casein, and eggs, covering the AA requirements for children >6 months.

CONCLUSION: High-quality protein can be extracted from lucerne, but the future focus should be on increased yield as the current low yields of the refined product will challenge the environmental and economic sustainability of production. © 2023 Society of Chemical Industry.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Pages (from-to)3405-3412
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • biorefining
  • lucerne protein
  • nutritional value
  • precipitation


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