Rajavel Elango, Associate Professor

University of British Columbia

Dr. Rajavel Elango is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He is also an Investigator at the Research Institute, BC Children's Hospital.

Dr. Rajavel Elango’s research program focuses on the identification of dietary requirements for protein and amino acids, and protein quality of foods during key stages of growth and development, such as pregnancy and in childhood malnutrition using state-of-the-art stable isotope techniques. His research also focuses on disease/inborn errors of metabolism, and how non-invasive stable isotope based techniques can be used as diagnostic tools to measure effectiveness of new treatment and management modalities.

Dr. Elango is a Deputy Editor (Reviews) for the British Journal of Nutrition, and a Section Editor for the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. He is a member of the American Society for Nutrition and Canadian Nutrition Society.

Dr. Elango was the recipient of the 2013 Vernon R. Young International Award for Amino Acid research from the American Society for Nutrition. Dr. Elango was part of the United Nations - Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2014 Expert Working Group on methods to assess protein quality of foods, and the FAO 2017 Expert Working Group on “Protein Quality Assessment in Follow-up Formula for Young Children and Ready to use Therapeutic Foods.

Protein quality of plant-based diets: Principles of assessment and impact of food processing

Protein quality refers to the composition of amino acids in foods and their bioavailability in-vivo for protein synthesis. Plant-based foods are often limiting in specific essential amino acids; for example, lysine is limiting in cereals such as rice, oats and methionine is limiting in pulses/legumes such as chickpeas, lentils. Furthermore, these limiting amino acids are also subject to losses from foods due to temperature, processing, presence of anti-nutrients etc. Traditionally the method to assess protein quality is based on digestibility, which is too invasive for routine use in humans. The use of stable isotope-based methods has revolutionized the ability to assess in humans the in-vivo bioavailability of limiting essential amino acids. This presentation will outline some of the fundamental principles and concepts in the assessment of protein quality, and the development of novel methods in humans, with data from adult humans on key food sources. The impact of food processing on lysine bioavailability from cereal sources in both adults and children will be discussed with recent evidence. Finally, the impact of plant-based diets from a global perspective will be provided with examples from data on lysine and protein requirements in malnourished children.