VSU food researcher awarded $274,500 to explore new ways to process hemp protein as a food source

hemp oil
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A food scientist at Virginia State University’s Agricultural Research Station has been awarded a $274,500 grant to explore the effects of high-pressure processing, or HPP, on hemp protein for use in plant-based food.

Dr. Yixiang Xu received the grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Xu will work with Dr. GuiBing Chen, a food engineer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The pair will investigate how HPP affects the taste, nutrition and other key qualities of hemp protein.

With few exceptions, hemp protein supplies significantly more amino acids than soy and dairy proteins. Yet, to date, hemp has not responded well to processing methods for its production as a food source.

Hemp protein is nutritious and digestible with 20 amino acids – important in cell maintenance, cardiovascular health – and in regulating metabolic and inflammatory processes, as well as brain development and function.

With increasing demand for plant-based proteins, this research could prove invaluable with broad benefits for hemp growers, manufacturers, and other industries, and for consumers.

The grant will support the project through 2023 and will provide students with research-based learning opportunities.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.