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Can Vegan get complete essential amino acids?

Aug 04, 2021

Intake of protein in the diet stimulates muscle protein synthesis. For different protein sources, the effect of muscle synthesis varies greatly. The vast majority of this difference in the effect of muscle protein synthesis lies in the postprandial utilization of essential amino acids (especially leucine). The utilization of essential amino acids after meals is regulated by many physiological processes, including dietary protein digestion, amino acid absorption, visceral amino acid retention and skeletal muscle perfusion, as well as various dietary factors, including amino acid composition, essential amino acid content and the presence of anti-nutritional factors.

In this study, we identified various plant protein isolates (oats, lupins, wheat, hemp, microalgae, soybeans, brown rice, peas, corn and potatoes), animal protein isolates (whey, milk, caseinate) , Casein and eggs) and human skeletal muscle protein. Using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) technology, we evaluated the amino acid composition of these protein types and sources. This research provides a basis for identifying plant-based proteins with high anabolic potential and defining new plant-based protein mixtures that provide a complete spectrum of essential amino acids similar to most animal protein sources.

Experimental results:


1) Comparison of protein content

Compared with the protein content of the same animal and plant protein isolate, the content of vegetable protein is 51%-81%, among which hemp seeds (51%), lupin (61%), corn (65%), the content is lower; brown rice protein (79%), pea protein (80%), potato protein (80%), wheat protein (81%), the content is relatively high. The content of animal protein is 51% to 81%. Dry human skeletal muscle contains 84% protein. The protein content of samples from different suppliers is also different. The distribution of wheat protein ranges from 74 to 88%, soy protein ranges from 61% to 91%, pea protein ranges from 77 to 81%, corn protein ranges from 58 to 75%, and potato protein ranges from 77 to 77%. 83%, whey protein from 72 to 84%, casein from 67 to 78%.


2) Comparison of essential amino acid content

Compared with animal protein (accounting for 37% and 38% of total protein) and human skeletal muscle protein (accounting for 38% of total protein), the essential amino acid content of plant protein (accounting for 26%+-2% of total protein) Lower. Plant-based protein oats (21%), lupins (21%), wheat (22%), hemp (23%) and microalgae (23%) have lower essential amino acid content than WHO/FAO/UNU amino acids Request (WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation, 2007). When one of the proteins is the only source of protein consumed, it cannot meet the demand for essential amino acids. Please note that this requirement is based on the recommended daily protein intake for adults of 0.66 g/kg. Plant-based proteins that meet the essential amino acid requirements include soybeans (27%), brown rice (28%), peas (30%), corn (32%), and potatoes (37%). Among animal proteins, whey protein has the highest essential amino acid content, reaching 43%. Milk protein (39%) and calcium caseinate (38%) show intermediate products, while casein (34%) and eggs (32%) have lower essential amino acid content.


In summary, we actually see that

Vegetarian protein does not mean that any one of the essential amino acids is missing. It is just that the ratio of 8 amino acids of a single vegetarian protein is not very similar to the ratio suitable for absorption by our human body (relative to animal protein).

However, vegetarian diet does not mean the unity of protein intake. When we supplement protein with mixed vegetarian protein, this becomes a linear combination problem. It must be able to use a certain combination to form a complex protein source that can match the body's absorption. It may even be closer to the needs of the human body than our single source of animal protein.