ECU research a boost for lupin market

Edward ScownMidwest Times
PhD candidate Arineh Tahmasian analised the seeds’ proteins through mass spectrometry
Camera IconPhD candidate Arineh Tahmasian analised the seeds’ proteins through mass spectrometry Credit: Supplied

Lupins are not generally regarded as food for humans, but new research from Edith Cowan University could be the next step in bringing the legume to your lunch room.

PhD candidate Arineh Tahmasian leads a team which has identified more than 2500 different proteins in a wide range of lupin varieties. These proteins can be manipulated to affect nutrition, allergenic properties, yield, and taste.

“We’ve been eating lupins for thousands of years, but they are still very underutilised and understudied,” she said.

Australia is home to 55 per cent of the world’s lupin crop, most of which is grown in WA. From about 550,000 tonnes grown in 2020-21, only 10,000 tonnes were used for human consumption. While there are lupin-based foods on the market, most of Australian production is sold as stock feed.

With more research, Ms Tahmasian sees lupins competing with soybeans as one of the world’s dominant bean crops. They have the highest protein content of all legumes, and it comes without the oestrogen present in soy. Research has also shown a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

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“They’re commonly used in gluten-free products and increasingly as a protein booster in plant-based meat products,” she said.

One hurdle in the process, and the main focus of the ECU team, is lupin allergy. As lupins are related to peanuts, they have similar rates of allergy. By manipulating proteins in the seeds, the team are identifying potential varieties which can be used by breeders to develop hypoallergenic strains.

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