Denaturation of proteins is not a problem


Continuing the discussion from Soylent scares me:

I’d like to clarify something I’ve noticed not everyone gets right: what it means for a protein to denaturate.

Proteins are large chains of amino acids that, when folded a certain way, are catalysts to specific chemical reactions in the human body. Proteins need to be in precise three dimensional shapes to do this. This shape is affected by temperature, acidity, and many other factors. See the wikipedia article on protein denaturation.

However, we look upon protein as a nutritional source, a source of amino acids. Proteins do not have to be in working order for us to be able to get our nutritional needs, because we needs amino acids, not protein per se. Therefore, denaturation of proteins is no problem nutrition-wise.

For example: most humans use meat as their main source of proteins. Almost all meat is cooked before consumption, denaturing most proteins. Nevertheless, these humans don’t die of protein insufficiency (pfooh!).

However, if you add a certain protein to enhance your metabolism, it could be very important that the protein does not denaturate. For example: if you add amylase to improve starch breakdown, you should not cook the amylase.

Tl:dr; cooked proteins are just fine!


I thought cooked meat doesn’t exceed the temperature of denaturation? Eg: ideal internal temp of a steak is 120f, while denaturation occurs at > 180f.

Definitely a topic worth digging in to more of, though.


Yup - to add less technical language to the OP, we naturally use enzymes and acid to chop up proteins in the digestive system anyway, so it doesn’t matter what interesting shape we get them into through heating.


Oops! Yeah as soon as I read the article I realized my mistake. Thanks for clearing that up. I think I’m going to use Dylan’s idea of protein cookies, then. It helps if you can make soylent enjoyable.


Thanks for the clarifying post!


Does that mean that baking say whey protein isolate in a flapjack mixture wouldn’t matter?


As long as you do not burn them, no.


Guess what, something else I read recently (Reliable source) said that cooking proteins produces carcinogenic byproducts. The denaturation may not be an issue, but other factors are.


Isn’t that only if you burn them?
Can you share the reliable source? :smile:


I can guess, from some of what I’ve read, that cooking in the microwave will not have the same effect. So that’s probably the best option.

HCAs are apparently formed during the Maillard reaction, and require amino acids and a reducing sugar, so if you cook the protein without the presence of any sugar, it’s probably fine.

This quote really scares me and may even deserve its own thread:
“This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry.”

I’ll take the plain Soylent, thank you.

These are what’s formed at higher temepratures:


So seems like it’s mostly of concern if you burn stuff.
Still, microwave use where suitable sounds like a good solution… :smile: