What Happens When a Protein Is Denatured?

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Denatured proteins are hydrolyzed, and the peptide bonds are broken down into easily digestible amino acids. Protein supplements often contain denatured proteins to increase absorption. Athletes use denatured proteins to get supplemental protein into their muscles more quickly.

The denaturation process is not strong enough to break apart the peptide bonds that make up the amino acids in protein, so they remain useful for supplements and nutritional drinks. Heat is the primary method for denaturing protein. The kinetic energy from the temperature increase causes the molecules of the protein to vibrate and the bonds to break. Some of the vitamins and minerals are lost during the process, but the amino acids usually stay intact. Denatured proteins in powders often include added supplements to make up for the lost nutrients.

Most proteins are denatured when people eat them. Cooking egg whites denatures the protein. Denaturing rearranges the proteins, but does not destroy them. Some high heat denatured protein is inferior in nutritional value. Denaturing protein requires precise temperature adjustments and often a process that renatures the protein before use in powders and supplements. Undenatured protein supplements forgo the denaturing process and have more of the original nutrients. Protein supplements are mostly denatured to increase absorption and reduce contaminants.