Electrical conductivity: A simple and sensitive method to determine emulsifying capacity of proteins

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Abstract: Emulsifying capacity (EC) of proteins is a benchmark standard widely used to evaluate the quality of protein ingredients in emulsion foods. EC (mL of oil emulsified per g of protein) is usually measured by a sudden drop in electrical resistance (phase transition) with the continuous addition of oil to a specific protein solution. However, little is known about electrochemical mechanisms behind this process because resistance, measured with an ohmmeter, is not sensitive enough to monitor changes in the concentration of protein electrolytes. Here, pea (PPI), myofibrillar (MPI), and whey (WPI) protein isolates were vigorously homogenized with oil at a series of oil/protein ratios to prepare emulsions with different final protein concentrations. The conductivity was closely monitored using a conductivity meter. A linear relationship was discovered between conductivity and the final protein concentrations. At higher oil fractions, the migration of proteins from the aqueous phase to the oil–water interface limited protein mobility, leading to a conductivity drop. EC was calculated from the regression lines; when the starting protein concentration was raised from 0.5% to 2.0%, the EC of PPI, MPI, and WPI decreased from 717, 782, 1339 to 219, 303, and 540 mL oil/g protein, respectively. The dependence of EC on the initial protein concentration and the sensitivity of conductivity to the depleting protein electrolytes suggest that protein concentration is an important factor to consider when determining EC for a given protein or comparing EC among different proteins. Practical Application: The simple and sensitive electrical conductivity test described in this paper allows for the accurate determination of emulsifying capacity of proteins. It may be adopted by the food industry to compare the emulsifying properties of different protein ingredients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4914-4921
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Food Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Institute of Food Technologists®


  • electrical conductivity
  • emulsifying capacity
  • oil-in-water emulsions
  • proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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