PDCAAS and Protein Rich Ingredients

Originally Published: October 18, 2013
Last Updated: March 4, 2021
PDCAAS and protein rich ingredients. Peanut butter and bread have complimentary essential amino acid compositions. When combined, they become a more complete protein.

An explanation of how to calculate types and levels of proteins needed to maximize a food’s PDCAAS value in a formula was provided by Scott Martling, Group Leader for the R&D firm, International Food Network in a presentation entitled “Using Protein Rich Components to Achieve Desired Labeling.” International Food Network’s Martling discusses PDCAAS and protein rich ingredients used to achieve maximum protein quality, as follows:

“A 2012 consumer research study we conducted indicated that protein is an exciting category for consumers; they want it—they may not always know why—but they want it. This is a tremendous category that is not going to fade away soon,” began Martling. However, to maximize the protein content of a product sometimes is more a matter of adding the appropriate type(s), rather than just increasing levels overall.

For example, in the nutrition facts panel, the quantity of protein is listed in grams, but the % Daily Value (DV) is not always provided. In order to list the % DV, the protein quality must also be known as measured by the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). Therefore, if the % DV is not listed, a consumer will not know the quantity of complete protein of a food.

PDCAAS scores for protein quality range from 0 to 1.00, Martling went on to explain. The score represents a ratio of the complete proteins in an amino acid.  A “Good Source of Protein” claim can be made on a product if it contains between 10-19% DV per serving; and “Excellent Source” can be stated if above 20% DV per serving.

As stated above, the DV calculation must take into account the amount of complete protein, not just total protein; therefore, the PDCAAS must be known. Martling noted there is a newer measure for protein quality called Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS), which may someday replace PDCAAS. However, DIAAS was not covered in this conference.

Considerations when selecting proteins for a product application include not only price, solubility and taste, but also percent protein, quality, type and function of a protein. Often, confusion exists over wet- vs. dry-basis protein percent. As a reminder, wet basis is the amount of protein per the entire ingredient, where dry basis means the amount of protein in the solids portion of the food. Ingredient manufacturers may list either or both, and their technical representatives are the best resource for answering this question. And, while some ingredients may be less expensive, they may have other undesirable constituents, i.e., more may be needed to achieve a desired effect. Therefore, it is often best to use the product that functions properly, even if the price is higher than an alternative, Martling advised.

A wide range of protein ingredients are available, ranging from milk, egg, soy, pea, quinoa and other plant sources, to newer trends, such as algae. Algae is an evolving, up-and-coming ingredient with up to 70% protein that is currently being grown in fermentation bioreactors—which are controlled, clean environments. Algae protein is being used in novel new products and has a lot of promise and potential.

A formulation strategy for choosing complimentary protein sources in order to obtain the highest quality of protein can be compared to a peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter and bread have complimentary compositions, with peanut butter high in lysine and bread high in methionine. When combined, they become a more complete protein. Apply this principle to a real product, such as pasta, with a content of 40% complete protein or 0.43 PDCAAS. Reformulate by adding 25% lentil flour with a higher amount of complete protein, 0.71 PDCAAS, to complement the pasta and increase the complete protein.

Again, it is not just protein content, but protein quality, Martling reminded the audience. In order to bring the PDCAAS of a product to 1.00—that is, in order to have all of the proteins complete—protein ingredients need to be added that bring in the limiting amino acids.

Through all this information, the take-away should be leveraging ingredients with complementary ami­no acid profiles. Be conscious of quantity and quality of protein. Use specifications from trusted suppliers; and verify data using accredited labs. The benefit will be successful, high-quality, value-added products and happy consumers, Martling concluded.

Scott Martling, Group Leader, R&D for the International Food Network, can be contacted at Scott.martling@intlfoodnetwork.com, +1.607.257.5129 x 230 or www.intlfoodnetwork.com. Click here for a link to download Martling’s calculation-filled presentation: https://foodproteins.globalfoodforums.com/food-protein-rd-academy/using-protein-rich-components-to-achieve-desired-labeling-presentation/

The summary above is an excerpt from the “2013 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Magazine.”