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      Nitrogen-to-Protein Conversion Factors for Three Edible Insects: Tenebrio molitor, Alphitobius diaperinus, and Hermetia illucens


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          Insects are considered a nutritionally valuable source of alternative proteins, and their efficient protein extraction is a prerequisite for large-scale use. The protein content is usually calculated from total nitrogen using the nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor (Kp) of 6.25. This factor overestimates the protein content, due to the presence of nonprotein nitrogen in insects. In this paper, a specific Kp of 4.76 ± 0.09 was calculated for larvae from Tenebrio molitor, Alphitobius diaperinus, and Hermetia illucens, using amino acid analysis. After protein extraction and purification, a Kp factor of 5.60 ± 0.39 was found for the larvae of three insect species studied. We propose to adopt these Kp values for determining protein content of insects to avoid overestimation of the protein content.

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          Converting nitrogen into protein--beyond 6.25 and Jones' factors.

          The protein content in foodstuffs is estimated by multiplying the determined nitrogen content by a nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor. Jones' factors for a series of foodstuffs, including 6.25 as the standard, default conversion factor, have now been used for 75 years. This review provides a brief history of these factors and their underlying paradigm, with an insight into what is meant by "protein." We also review other compelling data on specific conversion factors which may have been overlooked. On the one hand, when 6.25 is used irrespective of the foodstuff, "protein" is simply nitrogen expressed using a different unit and says little about protein (s.s.). On the other hand, conversion factors specific to foodstuffs, such as those provided by Jones, are scientifically flawed. However, the nitrogen:protein ratio does vary according to the foodstuff considered. Therefore, from a scientific point of view, it would be reasonable not to apply current specific factors any longer, but they have continued to be used because scientists fear opening the Pandora's box. But because conversion factors are critical to enabling the simple conversion of determined nitrogen values into protein values and thus accurately evaluating the quantity and the quality of protein in foodstuffs, we propose a set of specific conversion factors for different foodstuffs, together with a default conversion factor (5.6). This would be far more accurate and scientifically sound, and preferable when specifically expressing nitrogen as protein. These factors are of particular importance when "protein" basically means "amino acids," this being the principal nutritional viewpoint.
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            Complete nutrient composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores

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              Growth performance and feed conversion efficiency of three edible mealworm species (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) on diets composed of organic by-products.

              Insects receive increasing attention as an alternative protein-rich food source for humans. Producing edible insects on diets composed of organic by-products could increase sustainability. In addition, insect growth rate and body composition, and hence nutritional quality, can be altered by diet. Three edible mealworm species Tenebrio molitor L., Zophobas atratus Fab. and Alphitobius diaperinus Panzer were grown on diets composed of organic by-products originating from beer brewing, bread/cookie baking, potato processing and bioethanol production. Experimental diets differed with respect to protein and starch content. Larval growth and survival was monitored. Moreover, effects of dietary composition on feed conversion efficiency and mealworm crude protein and fatty acid profile were assessed. Diet affected mealworm development and feed conversion efficiency such that diets high in yeast-derived protein appear favourable, compared to diets used by commercial breeders, with respect to shortening larval development time, reducing mortality and increasing weight gain. Diet also affected the chemical composition of mealworms. Larval protein content was stable on diets that differed 2-3-fold in protein content, whereas dietary fat did have an effect on larval fat content and fatty acid profile. However, larval fatty acid profile did not necessarily follow the same trend as dietary fatty acid composition. Diets that allowed for fast larval growth and low mortality in this study led to a comparable or less favourable n6/n3 fatty acid ratio compared to control diets used by commercial breeders. In conclusion, the mealworm species used in this study can be grown successfully on diets composed of organic by-products. Diet composition did not influence larval protein content, but did alter larval fat composition to a certain extent.

                Author and article information

                J Agric Food Chem
                J. Agric. Food Chem
                Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
                American Chemical Society
                02 March 2017
                22 March 2017
                : 65
                : 11
                : 2275-2278
                []Food Quality and Design, Wageningen University and Research , P.O. Box 17, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
                []Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University and Research , P.O. Box 17, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
                [# ]Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, Wageningen University and Research , P.O. Box 17, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                [* ](C.M.M.L.) Phone: +31 317 480 288. E-mail: catriona.lakemond@ 123456wur.nl .
                Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

                This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial No Derivative Works (CC-BY-NC-ND) Attribution License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article, and creation of adaptations, all for non-commercial purposes.

                : 31 January 2017
                : 22 February 2017
                : 02 March 2017
                Custom metadata

                Food science & Technology
                protein extraction,tenebrio molitor,alphitobius diaperinus,hermetia illucens,black soldier fly,yellow mealworm,lesser mealworm,edible insects,amino acids,nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor (kp)


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