Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2016

Evaluating the dietary protein quality of Canadian pulses to meet human nutrition needs by measuring the metabolic availability of the most limiting amino acids; methionine

Project Description:

The world’s population will reach 12 billion by this century’s end and nations are being challenged to provide enough safe, nutritious foods for all. Protein in foods is made up of 20 amino acids (AAs) needed for growth and bodily function. Animal protein contains all 20 AAs but its production is “more resource intensive than any other form of food production” and its high saturated fat content is linked to chronic diseases. Plant protein sources like pulses are important alternatives shown to “enhance ecosystem resilience, and improve human health”. However, pulse protein is low in the essential AA methionine which affects protein being made in the body. It is therefore necessary to measure the amount of methionine available to the body from pulse protein so that we can make sure our body’s need for methionine is met when eating pulses. The protein quality (PQ) of pulse proteins have been little studied in humans despite their importance in the diet and their well-recognized positive effects on chronic diseases especially in countries like Canada. In addition, Canada is a world leading producer and exporter of pulses. With the increasing interest in vegetarian diets among Canadians, and recommendations by Health Canada that Canadians consume more plant protein foods, it is necessary to evaluate the PQ of Canadian pulses so that plant protein recommendations is accompanied by knowledge of their quality.

Current methods to study PQ are inaccurate or too invasive to use in humans. We recently developed a minimally invasive stable isotope based state-of-the-art method to assess the quality of proteins in foods. Our method is completely safe, participants need to be on the test diet for one day and only breath samples are collected. Using this method, this project we will directly evaluate, in humans the quality of the protein found in Canadian grown lentils and chick peas.

Our results will allow governing agencies to better assess the amount of protein provide by Canadian pulses to meet the needs of Canadians as well as the world’s population. It will provide the information to help nutrition experts make accurate recommendations on how to get enough plant protein in the diet to maintain health. It would provide a base for promotion and recommendation of pulses as alternative protein sources. Globally, this will help support the Food and Agricultural Organization’s commitment to compile tables on protein quality of foods for worldwide distribution.


Dr. Glenda Courtney-Martin

Dr. Courtney-Martin’s research focus is on protein and amino acid requirement and metabolism through the lifespan and evaluation of dietary protein qulity of foods for human nutrition. Her early work focused on the requirement and metabolism of the sulphur amino acids in the total parenteral fed (TPN) post surgical human » More Info

Dr. Paul B. Pencharz

Dr Pencharz is a Professor of Paediatrics and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and a Senior Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children. From 2000-2005 he was a member of the Macro-Nutrient Panel, of the Food and Nutrition Board. He was also a member of the protein and energy panels of the Food and » More Info

Dr. Rajavel Elango

Dr. Ronald O. Ball

Dr. Christopher Tomlinson