Proteins may push canola to premium markets

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The value of one of Australia’s key crops, canola, is being tipped to escalate with the discovery of a potential new, high-value market for canola meal.

Until now canola meal has been a low-value, stockfeed by-product of canola oil, but researchers have found that proteins extracted from canola meal have potential use in food and pharmaceutical products.

This hidden value of canola meal has been unlocked by a team of GRDC-supported PhD researchers at Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, working under the direction of Dr Chris Blanchard.

The team has shown that canola meal proteins could replace other plant proteins that are widely used in processed foods and supermarket items such as condiments, meats and dairy products.

Further, the researchers have discovered that peptides derived from canola protein reduce blood-pressure levels in rats – potentially opening the way for canola meal to be incorporated into new ‘functional foods’ with direct health benefits.

Dr Blanchard believes any successful pharmaceutical product or functional food that uses canola meal would increase its value significantly: “It would provide an avenue for what was a semi-waste product to become something of very high value, benefiting both growers and community health.”

The research by PhD student Siong Tan involved new techniques for extracting protein isolates from canola without damaging them. Previous methods using alkaline solutions affected protein functionality. But the researchers have used alternative solvents, in a sequence, that retain the proteins’ functionality for use as emulsifying and gelling and foaming agents, in food processing.

While soy proteins already perform these functions, proteins from canola meal could complement a hoped-for expansion of such Australian functional food ingredients into global food industries.

On the pharmaceutical side, Dr Blanchard says the canola peptides have shown to be comparable, in the laboratory, with current products used to reduce blood pressure. However, he says canola has the added benefit of being an entirely natural product that should be less likely to have side effects and be more easily introduced into a normal diet. This research is being undertaken by PhD student Adeola Alashi.

With the research proved in the laboratory, Dr Blanchard says the next steps are to ensure it is economically viable on a large scale.

The research team is also analysing a range of other useful chemical compounds from canola. Its work is shadowing efforts by Canadian scientists to also put canola-derived extracts into advanced food products.

More information:

Dr Chris Blanchard
02 6933 2364

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