Bioactive Peptides in Cereals and Legumes: Agronomical, Biochemical and Clinical Aspects

Marco Malaguti, Giovanni Dinelli, Emanuela Leoncini, Valeria Bregola, Sara Bosi, Arrigo F. G. Cicero and Silvana Hrelia

Legumes ImageArrigo F. G. Cicero and colleagues from the Departments of Life Quality Studies, Agricultural Sciences and Medicine and Surgery from Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (IT) have conducted a review examining approaches for assessing effects of bioactive peptides from cereals and legumes. They determined that the best in vivo methods used activity-guided fractionation, where separation of protein-digested fractions is combined with an evaluation of specific biological activity in vivo.

In the search for a dietary approach to reduce the risk of chronic degenerative diseases, bioactive peptides may be useful. These peptides can be present in foods, as natural components, or derive from chemical or enzymatic processes, such as digestion or fermentation.

Studies have shown a correlation between lower risk of chronic diseases and the consumption of diets where cereals and legumes are staple foods, such as in the Mediterranean diet. However, it is difficult to translate the beneficial effects of cereals and legumes consumption to the biological effects of individual peptides because they are degraded during digestion, not absorbed, or fail to reach target tissues at high enough concentrations in isolation.

Cereals and legumes are key components of a healthy and balanced diet, but a better understanding of the effects of individual peptides could lead to scientifically validated health claims for these foods. Many reports already describe the bioactivity of peptides in vitro with a wide range of bioactivities, but the effects in vivo are still unclear and need to be elucidated before any application for a health claim can be made. This review provides researchers with an overview on in vitro methods for studying bioactive peptides in cereals and legumes, with suggestions for choosing appropriate methods for dietary intervention studies in the future.

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  1. Bioactive peptides from cereals and legumes exert a wide range of physiological effects in vitro and in animal models.
  2. Many peptides and small proteins have been demonstrated to exert important biological actions in the prevention of chronic/ degenerative diseases.
  3. Processes, such as digestion, can modify peptide activity inactivating bioactive peptides and vice versa.