Nutritional Aspects of Cereal Proteins

  • Bjørn O. Eggum
Part of the Basic Life Sciences book series (BLSC, volume 8)


Recent years have brought a greater awareness of the need for more plentiful as well as more nutritious foods. Discoveries of strains of maize, barley, and other crops having higher levels of essential amino acids have shown the differences in nutritional quality that can occur among strains of crop varieties. Comparisons are made between the total lysine content of common cereals and selected high-lysine mutants. It appears from these comparisons that the total lysine content expressed in percent of protein is very high in some varieties. However, if the digestibility of the individual amino acid components is taken into consideration the picture is somewhat different. Experimental data show that lysine especially has a low availability in several of the cereal grains. It is assumed that this is because lysine is mainly deposited in the protein fractions of lowest digestibility. Based on these observations, the validity of the concept of additivity of gross values can be questioned. It is documented that when barley, rye, wheat, maize, and sorghum are fertilized with increasing amounts of nitrogen more protein will be deposited in the prolamins. As the prolamin fraction is a poor but highly digestible source of lysine, more digestible protein but of lower biological value is obtained. For oats and rice the situation is different as glutelin (relatively rich in lysine) is the main storage protein in these grains. Tannins are present in a number of plant materials. Present work shows that barley also contains significant amounts of tannins. Experiments with rats showed that a highly significant negative correlation exists between the tannin contents of barley and protein digestibility. By adding increasing amounts of tannin to rat diets it was found that tannin has a specific affinity for proline, glycine, and glutamic acid. Protein quality of cereal grains with modified amino acid pattern is discussed and compared with common varieties. The comparison is based mainly on nitrogen-balance experiments with rats. The nutritional superiority of several of these high-lysine varieties is obvious. However, the necessity of taking the availability of the nutrients into consideration in this type of biological study is emphasized. To stress this further, experimental data are given for gross energy and digestible energy in cereal grains. The differences between gross energy and digestible energy vary considerably between different grains. In oats, for instance, only 70% of the energy is digestible, whereas for polished rice almost all the energy is available. It is therefore concluded that in cereal grains neither gross energy values nor crude protein values are additive from a nutritional point of view.


Milled Rice Protein Efficiency Ratio Lysine Content Limit Amino Acid Quality Protein Maize 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bjørn O. Eggum
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal ScienceCopenhagenDenmark

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