Chelsey Hinnenkamp loves learning about food reactions, and is interested in common allergen-causing foods. Her research is aimed at developing a hypo-allergenic soy protein ingredient while maintaining ingredient functionality.
“Soy protein is widely used to affordably produce a variety of products sought after by consumers for their health advantage,” she says. “However, the major drawback of soy protein is it is a major food allergen.”
Hinnenkamp is studying ways to reduce allergenicity that minimally modify the protein using two chemical processes that occur in food production. She’s using enzymatic hydrolysis, a method used in cheese making or in meat tenderization, to cleave the allergenic portions of soy protein. Maillard glycation, the reaction that gives us toasted bread and roasted coffee, is employed to block the allergenic portions. Reducing soy protein’s allergenicity could help increase the types of products to which soy protein can be added.
It’s a novel solution to a major health problem. “Food plays a complex role in human health, and I believe food scientists have a unique opportunity to use our discipline to produce creative solutions to food and health issues,” she says. “I appreciate how my project addresses this duality, and I am interested by the unique challenges it creates.”