Liya Yi

Characterization and functional properties of protein fractions from insects

Liya Yi                                                                                                                         


Supervisor: M.A.J.S. van Boekel (PDQ, WU)

Dr. ir. C.M.M. Lakemond (PDQ, WU)

Project term:

July, 2010 – July, 2014




Many insect species are consumed in Africa, Asia and Latin America. More than a thousand insect species are used as human food. Insect products can be consumed as different types of food, such as cocktail, snack, lollipops, and dessert (DeFoliart, 1992).    
For developed countries, insects are now seriously considered as an alternative and additional source of protein, which will be helpful in view of an increasing world population and the environmental problems caused by conventional cattle.     

Whole insects are consumed as egg, larvae, pupae or adult. However, it is also possible to extract proteins from insects for further use in food products. In view of consumer acceptance, this is particularly relevant for countries with no habit of consuming insects, such as Europe and North America (Valle and Mena, 1982).  


The aim of this study is to extract proteins from insects, in order to characterize the obtained protein fractions and to establish their functional properties.


This research will be performed in three phases; 1) protein extraction & purification, 2) protein characterization, and 3) protein functionality. The method that will be used to perform these three phases, are described in figure 1. In the protein extraction and purification step, the first aim is to obtain a protein isolate with a purity of >95%. Subsequently, methods in protein characterization will be used in terms of identifying types of proteins and determining protein content.

Further separation will be performed using a variety of chromatographic methods. Last but not least, the purified proteins will be tested in  physical properties, for instance, foaming, emulsification and gelation properties.


Figure 1: Schematic representation of the methodology that will be used in the 3 different phases of during the research. 


DeFoliart G. R. (1992). Insects as human food: Gene DeFoliart discusses some nutritional and economic aspects. Crop protection 11: 395-399
Valle F. R. and Mena M. H. (1982). An investigation into insect protein. Journal of Food processing and Preservation 6: 99-110