Food and drugs are inextricably linked in the development of the world, but it is now clear that they will need to be made from whole plant matter.
The latest research from researchers at the University of Bath has found that the production of plant-based proteins will be a key driver in the world’s fight against disease and hunger, as well as to make the food we eat safe and nutritious.
The research, published in Nature Medicine, found that plants can provide a unique source of plant protein in a variety of foods, which could provide a “critical mass” for global food security and to make food “safe and nutritious”.
“We’ve seen the effects of agriculture and climate change and now we know that it’s the climate that’s changing,” said Dr Sarah Breslow, from the University’s School of Biological Sciences.
“That means that the more plants we plant and use, the more food we need.”
We can’t rely on one plant for food and yet we’re going to need all of the plants in the land, so that’s why we need to use plants.
“Dr Breswell said the research was designed to explore the potential of plant proteins as a sustainable source of protein for the world to feed itself, as part of the research into how plant-derived proteins could be used to make pharmaceuticals and food.
She said that the team had studied a range of plants and looked at how they could be produced and used in different contexts.”
The most significant finding was that we can make proteins from a variety, including some of the most common and useful plant proteins, such as cellulose, phytates and lignans,” Dr Bresold said.”
This makes them the perfect candidate for the production and use of plant peptides as a protein-producing food, with a very low risk of toxicity.
“The team also studied a variety other plant proteins and found that a variety was a promising candidate for making a range, including rice and barley.”
Rice and barley are relatively easy to grow, so they are a great candidate for plant protein,” Dr Aimee Kelly, from Bristol University’s Centre for Plant Nutrition, said.
But it was important to keep in mind that, as Dr Brelow said, there are several limitations to the research, including that the researchers had only grown a small number of plant samples.”
However, we’ve managed to grow a small amount of different plants that can produce protein in different ways and so we’re trying to understand how they’re doing this,” Dr Kelly said.
There is an abundance of data available that shows how plants can be used for food production.
For example, the research group found that peas and chickpeas were grown from seeds from maize and lentils and then made into puddings.”
In terms of food, we can use these to make protein, but we also need to take into account the environment,” Dr Bell said.
For example, scientists at the university have developed a food-based plant-protein bioreactor that could be made using the same plant protein as the food, and would produce a protein that could easily be added to foods.”
It’s not the most efficient bioreactors that we’ve tested, but they’ve been successful for a variety different purposes, such a food bioreaction, biofuels, and as an alternative source of energy,” Dr Ryan Bell said