Wheat gluten: a functional protein still challenging to replace in gluten free cereal-based foods

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Gasparre, Nicola
Rosell, Cristina M
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Background and Objectives: Wheat gluten in cereal-based products has unique functionality derived from its viscoelastic properties. Nevertheless, many food applications required its replacement to obtain gluten-free foods but keeping similar quality characteristics. This review analyzes the distinctive characteristics of wheat gluten, and the technological strategies implemented to mimic its behavior within the gluten-free systems. Findings: The viscoelastic behavior of wheat gluten is due to the interplay of glutenins and gliadins after being hydrated and subjected to mechanical stress. Disulfide bonds and non-covalent interactions are key in holding its structure and explaining its solubility and hydrophobicity. Gluten-free flours and starches have represented the first adopted strategies for gluten replacement, but results have not been completely satisfactory. To tackle this issue, non-wheat protein addition, physical treatments, hydrocolloids, enzymes, and emulsifiers have allowed to recreate a pseudo gluten network of the cereal-based foods. Conclusions: Despite technological sensorial achievements, a gap still exists when gluten-free products are compared with their wheat-based counterparts. A better comprehension about the coactions of different processing aids and technologies could offer future answers. Significance and Novelty: The review points out the main characteristics of the wheat gluten uniqueness, shedding light on its replacement strategies to guide future research.
wheat, starch, protein, gluten-free, hydrocolloids, enzymes