Low nutritional quality of unconventional tropical crop seeds in rats.
As the search for alternative sources of food to alleviate hunger continues, this study was undertaken to determine the biological value in growing rats (BV) of proteins of some lesser known tropical seeds gathered in Nigeria. Antinutritional factors (trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid, oxalate, tannin, alkaloids) and amino acid compositions were also determined, and protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) was calculated using the amino acid requirement pattern of the preschool child and individual seed-specific correction factors for crude protein. A rat growth and balance study was conducted to determine digestibility, nitrogen-, and energy balance by feeding as the only unsupplemented protein source milled and heat-treated seeds of Adansonia digitata (Bombacaceae) and Prosopis africana, Lonchocarpus sericeus, Enterolobium cyclocarpium, Sesbania pachycarpa and Pterocarpus osun (Leguminosae) in comparison to casein fortified with methionine (control). Diets containing P. africana and L. sericeus seeds caused poor feed intake and weight loss in rats and were excluded from the nitrogen-balance test. Among the seed samples, S. pachycarpa followed by A. digitata showed the most advantageous nutritional quality [amino acid composition, digestibility, BV and net protein utilization (NPU)]. True digestibility was 82.9 and 74.5 vs. 98.5, BV was 64.6 and 70.0 vs. 90.4, and NPU was 53.5 and 52.1 vs. 89.0 for S. pachycarpa and A. digitata vs. casein (control), respectively. In terms of PDCAAS, lysine was the first limiting amino acid for S. pachycarpa (88%) and for A. digitata (58%). The PDCAAS of all essential amino acids was below 100% for E. cyclocarpium (e.g., cysteine + methionine: 37%) and for P. africana (e.g., threonine: 46%, except valine and a very high content of cysteine and methionine). In conclusion, all seeds tested in the rat balance trial were of inferior quality compared to casein. Before these tropical seeds could be used as food components or feed supplements, safety studies and proper processing to remove antinutritional factors and possible toxic constituents were required.