Is Denatured Protein Useless? Some Insight into Protein Denaturation

Perhaps one of the most common questions people have when it comes to the ‘quality’ of protein is ‘will denatured protein still work?’. I watched a video of a meathead giving his verdict on a protein supplement and what it offers to the consumer, it started out great as he read from the back of the container and asserted that protein is high, carbs are low and the calories are at a good level…until he alluded to the ‘undenatured protein’ in the product. He then proceeds to say that ‘undenatured protein is good because denatured protein can’t be used by the body’! Hang on for a sec here, clearly this chap has never consumed a fried egg, or any cooked egg for that matter, and evidently he would be none the wiser that the ‘denaturation’ process of protein that goes on when an egg is fried actually made the digestion, and thus absorption of said egg a lot easier and efficient! ‘Denaturation of protein’ is a term that has spread like wildfire, in turn making people question the validity and efficacy of what is still a legitimate (and useful) source of protein.

What is denaturation?

Denaturation is basically the process of disruption or destruction of the secondary and tertiary structures in protein. However the key here is that a denaturation reaction is not strong enough to break the peptide bonds, meaning the main (or primary) structure of the protein remains the same. There are many causes of denaturation, but the main culprit is heat…heat increases the kinetic energy in a protein and causes the molecules to vibrate disrupting the bonds, a classic example is the protein in egg, and the firmness that follows the cooking of meat. Many people don’t realise this, but the denaturation of the protein in an egg actually improves its digestibility and absorptive capacity. Although denaturation can cause proteins to become slightly hydrophobic, in other words, it makes them scared of water making them a little more globular like in the stomach…the protein and its amino acids are still absorbed in the same way it always was. So don’t be fooled by the scare mongering associated with protein denaturation. Don’t worry too much about the ‘cold filtered’ (not to be confused with ‘cold pressed’ labels on the likes of coconut oils etc) labels plastered on proteins, yes it’s nice attention to detail, but does it actually make any difference on the bioavailability of the protein…no, not at all. References Ophardt, C, E. (2003). Virtual Chembook, Elmhurst College. Retrieved 12th May, 2014, from discount supplements Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, (2009). Elsevier. Retrieved 12th May, 2014.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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