Selasa, 25 Oktober 2011

Types of maize

Maize, the American Indian word for corn, means literally "that which sustains life". It is, after wheat and rice, the most important cereal grain in the world, providing nutrients for humans and animals and serving as a basic raw material for the production of starch, oil and protein, alcoholic beverages, food sweeteners and, more recently, fuel. The green plant, made into silage, has been used with much success in the dairy and beef industries. After harvest of the grain, the dried leaves and upper part, including the flowers, are still used today to provide relatively good forage for ruminant animals owned by many small farmers in developing countries. The erect stalks, which in some varieties are strong, have been used as long-lasting fences and walls.
Botanically, maize (Zea mays) belongs to the grass family (Gramineae) and is a tall annual plant with an extensive fibrous root system. It is a cross pollinating species, with the female (ear) and male (tassel) flowers in separate places on the plant. The grain develops in the ears, or cobs, often one on each stalk; each ear has about 300 to 1 000 kernels, weighing between 190 and 300 g per I 000 kernels, in a variable number of rows (12 to 16). Weight depends on genetic, environmental and cultural practices. Grain makes up about 42 percent of the dry weight of the plant. The kernels are often white or yellow in colour, although black, red and a mixture of colours are also found. There are a number of grain types, distinguished by differences in the chemical compounds deposited or stored in the kernel.
Special crops grown primarily for food include sweet corn and popcorn, although dent, starchy or floury and flint maize are also widely used as food. Flint maize is also used as feed. Immature ordinary corn on the cob either boiled or roasted is widely consumed. Floury maize is a grain with a soft endosperm much used as food in Mexico, Guatemala and the Andean countries. The dent type of maize has a vitreous horny endosperm at the sides and back of the kernel, while the central core is soft. Flint kernels have a thick, hard and vitreous endosperm surrounding a small, granular, starchy centre.

Origin of maize

The cultivation of maize or Indian corn most probably originated in Central America, particularly in Mexico, from whence it spread northward to Canada and southward to Argentina. The oldest maize, about 7 000 years old, was found by archaeologists in Teotihuacan, a valley near Puebla in Mexico, but it is possible that there were other secondary centres of origin in the Americas. Maize was an essential item in Mayan and Aztec civilizations and had an important role in their religious beliefs, festivities and nutrition. They claimed that flesh and blood were made from maize. The survival of the oldest maize and its distribution depended on humans who harvested the seed for the following planting. At the end of the fifteenth century, after the discovery of the American continent by Christopher Columbus, maize was introduced into Europe through Spain. It then spread through the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and later to northern Europe. Mangelsdorf and Reeves (1939) have shown that maize is grown in every suitable agricultural region of the world and that a crop of maize is being harvested somewhere around the globe every month of the year. Maize grows from latitude 58° in Canada and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to latitude 40° in the Southern Hemisphere. Maize crops are harvested in regions below sea-level in the Caspian Plain and at altitudes of more than 4 000 m in the Peruvian Andes.
In spite of its great diversity of form, all main types of maize known today were apparently already being produced by the native populations when the American continent was discovered. All maize is classified as Zea mays. Furthermore, evidence from botany, genetics and cytology has pointed to a common origin for every existing type of maize. Most researchers believe that maize developed from teosinte, Euchlaena mexicana Schrod, an annual crop that is possibly its closest relative. Others, however, believe that maize originated in a wild maize that is now extinct. The closeness of teosinte to maize is suggested by the fact that both have ten chromosomes and are homologous or partially homologous.
Introgression between teosinte and maize has taken place in the past and still does today in areas of Mexico and Guatemala where teosinte grows among the maize crop. Galinat (1977) indicated that of the various hypotheses on the origin of maize, essentially two alternatives remain viable: first, that present-day teosinte is the wild ancestor of maize and/or that a primitive teosinte is the common wild ancestor of both maize and teosinte or, second, that an extinct form of pod maize was the ancestor of maize, with teosinte being a mutant form of this pod maize.
In any case, most of the modern varieties of maize have been derived from materials developed in the southern United States of America, Mexico and Central and South America.

The maize plant

The maize plant may be defined as a metabolic system whose end product is mainly starch deposited in specialized organs, the maize kernels.
The development of the plant may be divided into two physiological stages. In the first or the vegetative stage, different tissues develop and differentiate until the flower structures appear. The vegetative stage is made up of two cycles. In the first cycle the first leaves are formed and development is upward. Dry matter production in this cycle is slow. It ends with the tissue differentiation of the reproductive organs. In the second cycle the leaves and reproductive organs develop. This cycle ends with the emission of the stigmas.
The second stage, also known as the reproductive stage, begins with the fertilization of the female structures, which will develop into ears and grains. The initial phase of this stage is characterized by an increase in the weight of leaves and other flower parts. During the second phase, the weight of the kernels rapidly increases (Tanaka and Yamaguchi, 1972).
The plant develops morphological characteristics and differences in the vegetative and reproductive stages as evolutionary consequences of natural selection and domestication. Some genotypes have adapted to specific ecological zones and so have developed such barriers as day-length sensitivity and temperature sensitivity, which limit their adaptability to specific areas of latitude and altitude. Thus improvement programmes must be conducted within the areas where the improved varieties are to be grown. This does not mean, however, that specific genetic characteristics can be attained by backcrossing.
The morphology or architecture of the plant has also suffered evolutionary pressures that have resulted in great variability in the number, length and width of leaves, plant height, positions of ears, number of ears per plant, maturation cycles, grain types and number of rows of grain, among many other characteristics.
This variability is of great value in improving the productivity of the plant and specific organic components of the grain. The main yield components include the number and weight of grains. These yield components are determined by quantitative genetic effects that can be selected relatively easily. The number of grains depends on the ear and is determined by the number of rows and the number of kernels per row. The size and shape of the kernel determine its weight in the presence of other constant factors such as grain texture and grain density. The ratio of grain weight to total plant weight for most maize lines is about 0.52. From 100 kg of cobs, about 18 kg of grain is obtained. One ha of maize yields about 1.55 tonnes of stalk residue. In field-dried maize plants from three locations in Guatemala, plant dry weight varied from 220 to 314 g. This weight comprised 1.8 percent dried flowers, 14.7 to 27.8 percent stalks, 7.4 to 15.9 percent leaves, 11.7 to 13 percent husks, and 9.7 to 11.5 percent cobs. The field-dried grain represented 30 to 55.9 percent of the whole plant dry weight. These data show the significant yield of plant residues that are often left in the field. The distribution may change, however, since it is accepted that about half of the dry matter is grain and the other half is made up of plant residues excluding roots (Barber, 1979).

Structure of the maize kernel

Maize kernels develop through accumulation of the products of photosynthesis, root absorption and metabolism of the maize plant on the female inflorescence called the ear. This structure may hold from 300 to 1 000 single kernels depending on the number of rows, diameter and length of the cob. Kernel weight may be quite variable, ranging from about 19 to 40 g per 100 kernels. During harvest the ears of maize are removed from the maize plant either by hand or mechanically. The husks covering the ear are first stripped off, then the kernels are separated by hand or, more often, by machine.
TABLE 1 - Weight distribution of main parts of the kernel
Percent weight distribution
The maize kernel is known botanically as a caryopsis; a single grain contains the seed coat and the seed, as shown in Figure 1. The figure also shows the four major physical structures of the kernel: the pericarp, hull or bran; the germ or embryo; the endosperm; and the tip cap (dead tissue found where the kernel joins the cob). The gross anatomy and the microscopic structure of these anatomical components were well described by Wolf et al. (1952) and by Wolf, Khoo and Seckinger (1969). They also studied the structure of the improved opaque-2 maize and found differences between its endosperm and that of common maize. The protein matrix was thinner and there were fewer and smaller protein bodies, since there is a restriction in zein synthesis in opaque-2 maize. Robutti, Hoseny and Deyoe (1974) and Robutti, Hoseny and Wasson (1974) reported on the protein distribution, amino acid content and endosperm structure of opaque-2 maize.
The weight distribution of the different parts of the maize kernel is shown in Table 1. The endosperm, the lqrgest structure, provides about 83 percent of the kernel weight, while the germ averages 11 percent and the pericarp 5 percent. The remainder is the tip cap, a conical structure that together with the pedicel attaches the kernel to the ear of maize. Table 2 shows the distribution of weight and nitrogen among the anatomical parts of common and selected kernel varieties, such as high-oil and high-protein maize and three quality protein maize (QPM) selections (Bressani and Mertz, 1958). The main difference in the high-oil variety is the size of the germ, which is about three times as large as the germ from common maize with a reduction in endosperm weight. Germ of the high-protein varieties is larger than that of common maize but about half the size of high-oil varieties. There are also differences in the weight of the seed-coats. Table 2 also shows some data for teosinte, the closest relative to maize. The seed weight is much lower than that of maize seed, and the endosperm weighs about half that of maize. The three QPM selections are similar to maize in weight per seed and in weight of the seed-coat, the endosperm and the germ. Similar data have been reported by other authors. Table 3 summarizes data for two common varieties and one opaque-2 maize (Landry and Moureaux, 1980). The two common samples have the same general characteristics as those reported above; the opaque-2 sample, however, has a larger germ providing more nitrogen than the QPM selections in Table 2. With respect to the germ, the increase of weight and of nitrogen amounts in absolute as well as relative terms is consistent with other results (Watson, 1987).
TABLE 2 - Distribution of weight and nitrogen among parts of the kernel
Maize sample Weight of 20 seeds (g)
Weight distribution (%)
Total N (%)
Nitrogen distribution (%)
    Seedcoata Endosperm Germ   Seedcoat Endosperm Germ
US 4251 5.62 6.3 86.3 7.4 1.31 3.3 81.2 15.5
US high oil (HO) 5.72 6.4 71.2 22.4 1.99 2.4 68.4 29.2
US high protein (H5) 4.32 6.9 82.7 10.4 2.24 2.2 83.2 14.6
US high protein (HP) 4.97 7.4 78.9 13.7 2.14 2.7 78.2 19.1
US normal-Sh1 PT 4.38 6.7 79.6 13.7 2.14 2.7 78.2 19.1
US normal mutant-Sh1 PT 2.50 10.7 70.6 18.7 2.21 6.1 64.6 29.3
Tiquisate (TGY)(Guat.) 8.24 4.9 83.9 11.2 1.37 2.8 75.2 22.0
San Sebastian (SSD)(Guat.) 8.24 4.9 83.9 11.2 1.37 2.8 75.2 22.0
Guatemalan 142-48 6.91 6.9 82.1 11.0 1.83 2.6 81.0 16.4
Guatemalan Cuyuta 5.95 5.7 82.5 11.8 1.28 2.9 72.4 24.7
Guatemalan teosinte 1.56 55.6b 44.4 - 1.81c 8.2 91.8d
Nutricta QPM 5.91 5.7 82.7 11.6 1.42 1.7 72.8 25.5
QPM yellow 6.49 5.9 81.6 12.5 1.48 2.4 73.4 24.2
QPM white 5.31 5.9 82.4 1.6 1.36 1.4 72.8 25.7
aPericarp plus tip cap
bIncludes the seed-coat (1.3%) and the hull (54.3%)
cThe hull contained 0.26% nitrogen; dehulled teosinte contained 3.81 % nitrogen
dIncludes the germ
Source: Bressani and Mertz, 1958
TABLE 3 - Weight and nitrogen distribution of parts of common and opaque-2 maize kernels
Part of kernel
Dry matter (%)
Nitrogen (%)
  Common Common Opaque-2 Common Common Opaque-2
Germ 13.5 8.1 35 20.1 14.9 35.1
Endosperm 80.0 84.0 61 76.5 80.5 60.7
Seed coat 6.5 7.9 4 3.4 4.6 4.2
Source: Landry and Moureaux, 1980   
World maize production increased from 1979-1981 to 1987, as shown by continent in Table 4. The land area planted with maize increased from 105 million ha in 1961 to about 127 million ha in 1987. Although part of the increase resulted from additional land area planted, significant increases in production resulted from genetic improvement and more efficient technological field practices and fertilizer applications, as well as from the introduction of new, more highly reproductive varieties.
TABLE 4 - World maize production
Region and year Area harvested (1 000 ha) Yield (kg/ha) Production (1 000 MT)
1979-81 18 193 1 554 28 268
1985 19 099 1 522 29 069
1986 19 580 1 575 30 840
1987 19 512 1 395 27 225
North and Central America      
1979-81 39 399 5 393 212 384
1 985 40 915 6 092 249 258
1986 37 688 6 116 230 511
1987 35 187 5 690 200 211
South America      
1979-81 16 751 1 928 32 369
1985 17 813 2 182 38 859
1986 18 799 2 021 38 001
1987 19 413 2 143 41 595
1979-81 36 815 2 296 84 531
1985 35 246 2 628 92 629
1986 37 474 2 729 102 274
1987 37 399 2 788 104 269
1979-81 11 738 4 668 54 792
1985 11 556 5 423 62 673
1986 11 539 6 207 71 621
1987 11 405 6 039 68 901
1979-81 76 4 359 332
1985 124 3 804 471
1986 107 4 402 471
1987 84 4 302 363
1979-81 3 063 2 989 9 076
1985 4 482 3 214 14 406
1986 4 223 2 955 12 479
1987 4 600 3 217 14 800
1979-81 126 035 3 345 421 751
1985 129 235 3 771 487 367
1986 129 411 3 757 486 198
1987 127 605 3 584 457 365
Source: FAO, 1988
The developing countries have more area given to maize cultivation than developed countries, but yield in the latter is about four times higher. Since 1961, yields per ha in the United States, for example, have increased significantly, while yields in Mexico, Guatemala and Nigeria (selected as countries where maize intake by the human population is high, particularly in the first two) have increased only slightly. While most of the production in developing countries is for human consumption, in the developed world it is mainly for industrial use and animal feed. The high yields and production in North and Central America are mainly attributed to the United States, which outproduces countries such as Mexico where maize is the most important staple cereal grain. With changing rural-to-urban populations and lifestyles in developing countries, there is a continuous shift to the consumption of wheat, which may influence maize production. There is a slow increase in its use in industry and as an animal feed, particularly for poultry and other monogastric animals. A comparison of the available data for wheat, maize and rice put maize as the second most important cereal grain, after wheat and before rice. In terms of yield per hectare, however, maize outyields the other two. The only food crop outyielding maize in tonnes per hectare is potatoes in their unprocessed state, though not on an equal moisture basis.


As indicated in previous sections, maize has three possible uses: as food, as feed for livestock and as raw material for industry. As a food, the whole grain, either mature or immature, may be used; or the maize may be processed by dry milling techniques to give a relatively large number of intermediary products, such as maize grits of different particle size, maize meal, maize flour and flaking grits. These materials in turn have a great number of applications in a large variety of foods. Maize grown in subsistence agriculture continues to be used as a basic food crop. In developed countries more than 60 percent of the production is used in compounded feeds for poultry, pigs and ruminant animals. In recent years, even in developing countries in which maize is a staple food, more of it has been used as an animal feed ingredient. "High moisture" maize has been paid much attention recently as an animal feed because of its lower cost and its capacity to improve efficiency in feed conversion. The by-products of dry milling include the germ and the seed-coat. The former is used as a source of edible oil of high quality. The seed-coat or pericarp is used mainly as a feed, although in recent years interest has developed in it as a source of dietary fibre (Earll et al., 1988; Burge and Duensing, 1989). Wet milling is a process applicable mainly in the industrial use of maize, although the alkaline cooking process used in manufacturing tortillas (the thin, flat bread of Mexico and other Central American countries) is also a wet milling operation that removes only the pericarp (Bressani, 1990). Wet milling yields maize starch and by-products such as maize gluten, used as a feed ingredient. The maize germ processed to produce oil gives as a by-product maize germ meal, used as an animal feedstuff. Some attempts have been made to use these by-products for humans in food mixes and formulations.
Although the technology has been available for a long time, the increase in fuel oil prices has resulted in much research on the fermentation of maize to produce alcohol, popular in some states of North America. Fermentation also provides some alcoholic beverages.
Finally, maize plant residues also have important uses, including animal feeds as well as a number of chemicals produced from the cobs, such as furfural and xylose. These residues are also important as soil conditioners.

Chapter 2 - Chemical composition and nutritional value of maize

There are significant amounts of data on the chemical composition of maize. Many studies have been conducted to understand and evaluate the effects of the genetic make-up of the relatively large number of available maize varieties on chemical composition, as well as the effects of environmental factors and agronomic practices on the chemical constituents and nutritive value of the kernel and its anatomical parts. Chemical composition after processing for consumption is an important aspect of nutritive value (see Chapter 5); it is affected by the physical structure of the kernel, by genetic and environmental factors, by processing and by other links in the food chain. In this chapter, the chemical nature of maize, of both common and quality protein types, is described as a basis for understanding the nutritive value of various maize products consumed throughout the world.

Chemical composition of parts of the kernel

There are important differences in the chemical composition of the main parts of the maize kernel as shown in Table 5. The seed-coat or pericarp is characterized by a high crude fibre content of about 87 percent, which is constituted mainly of hemicellulose (67 percent), cellulose (23 percent) and lignin (0.1 percent) (Burge and Duensing, 1989). On the other hand, the endosperm contains a high level of starch (87.6 percent) and protein levels of about 8 percent. Crude fat content in the endosperm is relatively low. Finally, the germ is characterized by a high crude fat content, averaging about 33 percent. The germ also contains a relatively high level of protein (18.4 percent) and minerals. Some information is available on the chemical composition of the aleurone layer (see Figure 1), which is relatively high in protein content (about 19 percent) as well as in crude fibre. Tables 2 and 3 provide some additional details on nitrogen distribution in the maize kernel. The endosperm contributes the largest amount, followed by the germ, with only small amounts from the seed-coat. About 92 percent of the protein in teosinte comes from the endosperm. Protein in the maize kernel has been reported on by a number of researchers (e.g. Bressani and Mertz, 1958).
TABLE 5 - Proximate chemical composition of main parts of maize kernels (%)
Chemical component Pericarp Endosperm Germ
Protein 3.7 8.0 18 4
Ether extract 1.0 0.8 33.2
Crude fibre 86.7 2.7 8.8
Ash 0.8 0.3 10.5
Starch 7.3 87.6 8.3
Sugar 0.34 0.62 10.8
Source: Watson, 1987
From the data shown in Tables 2 and 3 it is evident that the carbohydrate and protein contents of maize kernels depend to a very large extent on the endosperm, and crude fat and to a lesser extent protein and minerals on the germ. Crude fibre in the kernel comes mainly from the seed-coat. The weight distribution among parts of the maize kernel and their particular chemical composition and nutritive value are of great importance when maize is processed for consumption. In this regard there are two important matters from the nutritive point of view. Germ oil provides relatively high levels of fatty acids (Bressani et al., 1990; Weber, 1987). Where there are high intakes of maize, as in certain populations, those who consume the degermed grain will obtain less fatty acids than those who eat processed whole maize. This difference is probably equally important with respect to protein, since the amino acid content of germ proteins is quite different from that of endosperm protein. This is indicated in Table 6, in which essential amino acids are expressed as mg percent by weight and as mg per g N. As Table 2 shows, the endosperm represents between 70 and 86 percent of the kernel weight and the germ between 7 and 22 percent. It follows that, in considering the whole kernel, the essential amino acid content is a reflection of the amino acid content in the protein of the endosperm, in spite of the fact that the amino acid pattern in the germ protein is higher and better balanced. Germ proteins nevertheless contribute a relatively high amount of certain amino acids, although not enough to provide a higher quality of protein in the whole kernel. The germ provides some lysine and tryptophan, the two limiting essential amino acids in maize protein. Endosperm proteins are low in lysine and tryptophan, as is the whole grain protein (see Table 6, in which the FAO/ WHO essential amino acid pattern is also shown). The deficiencies in lysine tryptophan and isoleucine have been well demonstrated by numerous animal studies (Howe, Janson and Gilfillan, 1965) as well as by a few studies on humans (Bressani, 1971).
TABLE 6 - Essential amino acid content of germ protein and endosperm protein
Amino acid Endosperma Germb FAD/WHO pattern
  mg % mg/g N mg % mg/g N  
Tryptophan 48 38 144 62 60
Threonine 315 249 622 268 250
Isoleucine 365 289 578 249 250
Leucine 1 024 810 1 030 444 440
Lysine 228 180 791 341 340
Total sulphur amino acids 249 197 362 156 220
Phenylaianine 359 284 483 208 380
Tyrosine 483 382 343 148 380
Valine 403 319 789 340 310
a1.16 percent N
b2.32 percent N
Source: Orr and Watt, 1957
TABLE 7 - Net protein of whole grain, germ and endosperm of Guatemalan maize varietiesa
Sample Yellow Azotea Cuarenteño Opaque-2
Whole grain 42.5 44.3 65.4 81.4
Germ 65.7 80.4 90.6 85.0
Endosperm 40.9 42.0 46.4 77.0
aExpressed as percentage of case in (100%)
Source: Poey et al., 1979
The superior quality of germ protein to endosperm protein in various samples of maize is shown in Table 7, which compares the quality of the two parts as percentages of the reference protein, casein in this case. The maize varieties include three of common maize and one of quality protein maize (QPM). In all cases the quality of germ proteins is much higher than that of endosperm proteins and is obviously superior to the quality of whole kernel protein. Endosperm protein quality is lower than that of the whole kernel because of the higher contribution of germ protein. The data also show less difference in the quality of germ and endosperm proteins in the QPM variety. Furthermore, the QPM endosperm and whole grain quality are significantly superior to the endosperm and whole grain quality of the other samples. These data, again, are important in regard to how maize is processed for consumption and in its impact on the nutritional status of people. They also clearly show that the quality of QPM is better than that of common maize. The higher quality of QPM endosperm is also of significance for populations that consume maize without the germ.
Information on the gross chemical composition of maize is abundant. The variability of each major nutrient component is great. Table 8 summarizes data on various types of maize taken from several publications. The variability observed is both genetic and environmental. It may influence the weight distribution and individual chemical composition of the endosperm, germ and hull of the kernels.
TABLE 8 - Gross chemical composition of different types of maize (%)
Maize type Moisture Ash Protein Crude fibre Ether extract Carbohydrate
Salpor 12.2 1.2 5.8 0.8 4.1 75.9
Crystalline 10.5 1.7 10.3 2.2 5.0 70.3
Floury 9.6 1.7 10.7 2.2 5.4 70.4
Starchy 11.2 2.9 9.1 1.8 2 2 72 8
Sweet 9 5 1 5 12.9 2.9 3.9 69.3
Pop 10.4 1.7 13.7 2.5 5.7 66.0
Black 12.3 1.2 5.2 1.0 4.4 75.9
Source: Cortez and Wild-Altamirano, 1972
The major chemical component of the maize kernel is starch, which provides up to 72 to 73 percent of the kernel weight. Other carbohydrates are simple sugars present as glucose, sucrose and fructose in amounts that vary from 1 to 3 percent of the kernel. The starch in maize is made up of two glucose polymers: amylose, an essentially linear molecule, and amylopectin, a branched form. The composition of maize starch is genetically controlled. In common maize, with either the dent or flint type of endosperm, amylose makes up 25 to 30 percent of the starch and amylopectin makes up 70 to 75 percent. Waxy maize contains a starch that is 100 percent amylopectin. An endosperm mutant called amylose-extender (ae) induces an increase in the amylose proportion of the starch to 50 percent and higher. Other genes, alone or in combination, may also modify the amylose-to-amylopectin ratio in maize starch (Boyer and Shannon, 1987).
After starch, the next largest chemical component of the kernel is protein. Protein content varies in common varieties from about 8 to 11 percent of the kernel weight. Most of it is found in the endosperm. The protein in maize kernels has been studied extensively. It is made up of at least five different fractions, according to Landry and Moureaux (1970, 1982). In their scheme, albumins, globulins and non-protein nitrogen amount to about 18 percent of total nitrogen, in a distribution of 7 percent, 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The prolamine fraction soluble in 55 percent isopropanol and isopropanol with mercaptoethanol (ME) contributes 52 percent of the nitrogen in the kernel. Prolamine 1 or zein 1 soluble in 55 percent isopropanol is found in the largest concentration, about 42 percent, with 10 percent provided by prolamine 2 or zein 2. An alkaline solution, pH 10 with 0.6 percent ME, extracts the glutelin fraction 2, in amounts of about 8 percent, while glutelin 3 is extracted with the same buffer as above with 0.5 percent sodium dodecyl sulphate in amounts of 17 percent for a total globulin content of 25 percent of the protein in the kernel. Usually a small amount, about 5 percent, is residual nitrogen.
Table 9 summarizes data by Ortega, Villegas and Vasal (1986) on the protein fractionation of a common maize (Tuxpeño-1) and a QPM (Blanco Dentado-1). Fractions II and III are zein I and zein II, of which zein I (Fraction II) is significantly higher in the Tuxpeño-1 variety than in the QPM. Similar results have been published by other researchers. Amounts of the alcohol-soluble proteins are low in immature maize. They increase as the grain matures. When these fractions were analysed for their amino acid content, the zein fraction was shown to be very low in lysine content and lacking in tryptophan. Since these zein fractions make up more than 50 percent of the kernel protein, it follows that the protein is also low in these two amino acids. The albumin, globulin and glutelin fractions, on the other hand, contain relatively high levels of lysine and tryptophan. Another important feature of the zein fractions is their very high content of leucine, an amino acid implicated in isoleucine deficiency (Patterson et al., 1980).
Quality protein maize differs from common maize in the weight distribution of the five protein fractions mentioned above, as shown in Table 9. The extent of the change is variable and affected by genotype and cultural conditions. It has been found, however, that the opaque-2 gene reduces the concentration of zein by some 30 percent. As a result, lysine and tryptophan content is higher in QPM varieties than in common maize.
TABLE 9 - Protein fraction distribution of Tuxpeño-1 and Blanco Dentado-1 QPM (whole grain)
Blanco Dentado-1 QPM
  Protein (mg) Percent protein Protein (mg) Percent total protein
I 6.65 31.5 3.21 16.0
II 1.25 5.9 6.18 30.8
III 1.98 9.4 2.74 13.7
IV 3.72 17.6 2.39 12.0
V 5.74 27.2 4.08 20.4
Residue 1.76 8.3 1.44 7.1
Source: Ortega, Villegas and Vasal, 1986
The nutritional quality of maize as a food is determined by the amino acid make-up of its protein. Representative amino acid values are shown in Table 10 for both common maize and QPM. To establish the adequacy of the essential amino acid content the table also includes the FAD/WHO essential amino acid pattern. In common maize, deficiencies in lysine and tryptophan are evident as compared with QPM. An additional important feature is the high leucine content in common maize and the lower value of this amino acid in QPM.
Oil and fatty acids
The oil content of the maize kernel comes mainly from the germ. Oil content is genetically controlled, with values ranging from 3 to 18 percent. The average fatty acid composition of the oil in selected varieties from Guatemala is shown in Table 11. These values differ to some extent; it may be expected that oils from different varieties have different compositions. Maize oil has a low level of saturated fatty acids, i.e. on average 11 percent palmitic and 2 percent stearic acid. On the other hand, it contains relatively high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, mainly linoleic acid with an average value of about 24 percent. Only very small amounts of linoleic and arachidonic acids have been reported. Furthermore, maize oil is relatively stable since it contains only small amounts of linoleic acid (0.7 percent) and high levels of natural antioxidants. Maize oil is highly regarded because of its fatty acid distribution, mainly oleic and linoleic acids. In this respect, populations that consume degermed maize benefit less in terms of oil and fatty acids than populations that consume whole-kernel products.
TABLE 11 - Fatty acid content of Guatemalan maize varieties and Nutricta QPM (%)
Maize variety C16:0 Palmitic C18:0 Stearic C18:1 Oleic C18:2 Linoleic C18:3 Linolenic
QPM Nutricta 15.71 3.12 36.45 43.83 0.42
Azotea 12.89 2.62 35.63 48.85 -
Xetzoc 11.75 3.54 40.07 44.65 -
Tropical White 15.49 2.40 34.64 47.47 -
Santa Apolonia 11.45 3.12 38.02 47.44 -
Source: Bressani et al., 1990
Dietary fibre
After carbohydrates, proteins and fats, dietary fibre is the chemical component found in the greatest amounts. The complex carbohydrate content of the maize kernel comes from the pericarp and the tip cap, although it is also provided by the endosperm cell walls and to a smaller extent the germ cell walls. The total soluble and insoluble dietary fibre content of maize kernels is shown in Table 12. Differences in soluble and insoluble dietary fibre are small between samples, even though QPM Nutricta has higher levels of total dietary fibre than common maize, mainly because of a higher level of insoluble fibre. Table 13 shows values of fibre expressed as acid and neutral detergent fibre, hemicellulose and lignin in whole maize. The values shown in the table are similar to those reported by Sandstead et al. (1978) and Van Soest, Fadel and Sniffen (1979). Sandstead et al. found that maize bran was composed of 75 percent hemicellulose, 25 percent cellulose and 0.1 percent lignin on a dry-weight basis. Dietary fibre content in dehulled kernels would obviously be lower than that of whole kernels.
TABLE 12 - Soluble and insoluble dietary fibre In common and quality protein maize (%)
Maize type
Dietary fibre
  Insoluble Soluble Total
Highland 10.94 ± 1.26 1.25 ± 0.41 12.19 ± 1.30
Lowland 11.15 ± 1.08 1.64 ± 0.73 12.80 ± 1.47
QPM Nutricta 13.77 1.14 14.91
Source: Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz, 1989
TABLE 13 - Neutral and acid detergent fibre, hemicellulose and lignin in five maize varieties (%)
Maize No. Neutral detergent fibre Acid detergent fibre Hemicellulose Lignin Cellular walls
1 8.21 3.23 4.98 0.14 9.1
2 10.84 2.79 8.05 0.12 10.8
3 9.33 3.08 6.25 0.13 12.0
4 11.40 2.17 9.23 0.12 13.1
5 14.17 2.68 11.44 0.14 14.2
Average 10.79 ± 2.27 2.79 ± 0.44 8.00 ± 2.54 0.13 ± 0.01 11.8 ± 2.0
Source: Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz, 1989
Other carbohydrates
When mature, the maize kernel contains carbohydrates other than starch in small amounts. Total sugars in the kernel range between I and 3 percent, with sucrose, the major component, found mostly in the germ. Higher levels of monosaccharides, disaccharides and trisaccharides are present in maturing kernels. At 12 days after pollination the sugar content is relatively high, while starch is low. As the kernel matures, the sugars decline and starch increases. For example, sugars were found to have reached a level of 9.4 percent of kernel dry weight in 16-day-old kernels, but the level decreased significantly with age. Sucrose concentration at 15 to 18 days after pollination was between 4 and 8 percent of kernel dry weight. These relatively high levels of reducing sugar and sucrose are possibly the reason why immature common maize and, even more, sweet maize are so well liked by people.
The concentration of ash in the maize kernel is about 1.3 percent, only slightly lower than the crude fibre content. The average mineral content of some samples from Guatemala is shown in Table 14. Environmental factors probably influence the mineral content. The germ is relatively rich in minerals, with an average value of 11 percent as compared with less than I percent in the endosperm. The germ provides about 78 percent of the whole kernel minerals. The most abundant mineral is phosphorus, found as phytate of potassium and magnesium. All of the phosphorus is found in the embryo, with values in common maize of about 0.90 percent and about 0.92 percent in opaque-2 maize. As with most cereal grains, maize is low in calcium content and also low in trace minerals.
Fat-soluble vitamins
The maize kernel contains two fat-soluble vitamins: provitamin A, or carotenoids, and vitamin E. Carotenoids are found mainly in yellow maize, in amounts that may be genetically controlled, while white maize has little or no carotenoid content. Most of the carotenoids are found in the hard endosperm of the kernel and only small amounts in the germ. The betacarotene content is an important source of vitamin A, but unfortunately yellow maize is not consumed by humans as much as white maize. Squibb, Bressani and Scrimshaw (1957) found beta-carotene to be about 22 percent of total carotenoids (6.4 to 11.3 µg per gram) in three yellow maize samples. Cryptoxanthin accounted for 51 percent of total carotenoids. Vitamin A activity varied from 1.5 to 2.6 µg per gram. The carotenoids in yellow maize are susceptible to destruction after storage. Watson (1962) reported values of 4.8 mg per kg in maize at harvest, which decreased to 1.0 mg per kg after 36 months of storage. The same loss took place with xanthophylls. Recent studies have shown that the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A is increased by improving the protein quality of maize.
TABLE 14 - Mineral content of maize (Average of five samples)
Mineral Concentration (mg/100 g)
P 299.6 ± 57.8
K 324.8 ± 33.9
Ca 48.3 ± 12.3
Mg 107.9 ± 9.4
Na 59.2 ± 4.1
Fe 4.8 ± 1.9
Cu 1.3 ± 0.2
Mn 1.0 ± 0.2
Zn 4.6 ± 1.2
Source: Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz, 1989
The other fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E, which is subject to some genetic control, is found mainly in the germ. The source of vitamin E is four tocopherols, of which alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active. Gamma-tocopherol is probably more active as an antioxidant than alphatocopherol, however.
Water-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins are found mainly in the aleurone layer of the maize kernel, followed by the germ and endosperm. This distribution is important in processing, which, as will be shown later, induces significant losses of the vitamins. Variable amounts of thiamine and riboflavin have been reported. The content is affected by the environment and cultural practices rather than by genetic make-up. Variability between varieties has, however, been reported for both vitamins. The water-soluble vitamin nicotinic acid has attracted much research because of its association with niacin deficiency or pellagra, which is prevalent in populations consuming high amounts of maize (Christianson et al., 1968). As with other vitamins, niacin content varies among varieties, with average values of about 20 µg per gram. A feature peculiar to niacin is that it is bound and therefore not available to the animal organism. Some processing techniques hydrolyze niacin, thereby making it available. The association of maize intake and pellagra is a result of the low levels of niacin in the grain, although experimental evidence has shown that amino acid imbalances, such as the ratio of leucine to isoleucine, and the availability of tryptophan are also important (Gopalan and Rao, 1975; Patterson et al., 1980).
Maize has no vitamin B12, and the mature kernel contains only small amounts of ascorbic acid, if any. Yen, Jensen and Baker (1976) reported a content of about 2.69 mg per kg of available pyridoxine. Other vitamins such as choline, folic acid and pantothenic acid are found in very low concentrations.
Changes in chemical composition and nutritive value during grain development
In many countries, immature maize is often used as a food, either cooked whole as corn on the cob or ground to remove the seed-coat, with the pulp used to make thick gruels or foods like tamalitos. The changes in chemical composition that take place upon maturation are important. All relevant studies have shown a decrease in nitrogen, crude fibre and ash on a dry-weight basis and an increase in starch and ether extract (e.g. Ingle, Bietz and Hageman, 1965). The alcohol-soluble proteins increase rapidly as the kernel matures, while acid- and alkali-soluble proteins decrease. During this biochemical process arginine, isoleucine, leucine and phenylalanine (expressed as mg per g N) increase, while lysine methionine and tryptophan decrease with maturation. Gómez-Brenes, Elías and Bressani (1968) further showed a decrease in protein quality (expressed as protein efficiency ratio). Thus, immature maize should be promoted during weaning or for infant nutrition.

Nutritional value of maize

The importance of cereal grains to the nutrition of millions of people around the world is widely recognized. Because they make up such a large part of diets in developing countries, cereal grains cannot be considered only as a source of energy, as they provide significant amounts of protein as well. It is also recognized that cereal grains have a low protein concentration and that protein quality is limited by deficiencies in some essential amino acids, mainly lysine Much less appreciated, however, is the fact that some cereal grains contain an excess of certain essential amino acids that influence the efficiency of protein utilization. The classic example is maize. Other cereal grains have the same constraints but less obviously.
A comparison of the nutritional value of maize protein with the protein quality of eight other cereals is given in Table 15, expressed as percentages of casein. The protein quality of common maize is similar to that of the other cereals except rice. Both opaque-2 maize and the hard-endosperm QPM (Nutricta) have a protein quality not only higher than that of common maize, but also significantly higher than that of other cereal grains.
The reasons for the low quality of maize proteins have been extensively studied by numerous investigators. Among the first were Mitchell and Smuts (1932) who obtained a definite improvement in human growth when 8 percent maize protein diets were supplemented with 0.25 percent lysine These results have been confirmed over the years by several authors (e.g. Howe, Janson and Gilfillan, 1965), while others (e.g. Bressani, Elías and graham, 1968) have shown that the addition of lysine to maize causes only a small improvement in protein quality. These differing results may be explained by variations in the lysine content of maize varieties. Work in this field led to the discovery by Mertz, Bates and Nelson (1964) of the highlysine maize called opaque-2.
TABLE 15 - Protein quality of maize and other cereal grains
Cereal Protein quality (% casein)
Common maize 32.1
Opaque-2 maize 96.8
QPM 82.1
Rice 79.3
Wheat 38.7
Oats 59.0
Sorghum 32.5
Barley 58.0
Pearl millet 46.4
Finger millet 35.7
Teff 56.2
Rye 64.8
Some researchers (Hogan et al., 1955) have reported that tryptophan rather than lysine is the first limiting amino acid in maize, which may be true for some varieties with a high lysine concentration or for maize products modified by some kind of processing. All researchers have agreed that the simultaneous addition of both lysine and tryptophan improves the protein quality of maize significantly; this has been demonstrated in experimental work with animals.
The improvement in quality obtained after the addition of lysine and tryptophan has been small in some studies and higher in others when other amino acids have been added. Apparently, the limiting amino acid after lysine and tryptophan is isoleucine, as detected from animal feeding studies (Benson, Harper and Elvehjem, 1955). Most researchers who reported such findings indicated that the effect of isoleucine addition resulted from an excess of leucine which interfered with the absorption and utilization of isoleucine (Harper, Benton and Elvehjem, 1955; Benton et al., 1956). It has been reported that high consumption of leucine along with the protein in maize increases niacin requirements, and this amino acid could be partly responsible for pellagra.
When a response to threonine addition has been observed, it has been attributed to this amino acid's correction of amino acid imbalances caused by the addition of methionine. A similar role can be ascribed to added isoleucine resulting in improved performance. Similarly, the addition of valine, which results in a decrease in protein quality, could be counteracted by the addition of either isoleucine or threonine.
In any case, isoleucine seems to be more effective than threonine, producing more consistent results. A possible explanation for these findings is that maize is not deficient in either isoleucine or threonine. However, some samples of maize may contain larger amounts of leucine, methionine and valine, end these require the addition of isoleucine and threonine besides lysine and tryptophan to improve protein quality. In any case, the addition of 0.30 percent L-lysine and 0.10 percent L-tryptophan easily increases the protein quality of maize by 150 percent (Bressani, Elías and graham, 1968). Many of the results of the limiting amino acids in maize protein are influenced by the level of protein in the maize. As was indicated previously, protein content in maize is a genetic trait that is affected by nitrogen fertilization. The observed increase in protein content is highly correlated with zein, or the alcohol-soluble protein, which is low in lysine and tryptophan and contains excessive amounts of leucine. Frey (1951) found a high correlation between protein content and zein in maize, a finding that has been confirmed by others. Using different animal species, various authors have concluded that the protein quality of low-protein maize is higher than that of high-protein maize when the protein in the diets used is the same. However, weight for weight, high-protein maize is slightly higher in quality than low-protein maize. The levels of dietary protein, then, affect the response observed upon amino acid supplementation with lysine and tryptophan in particular but with other amino acids as well, such as isoleucine and threonine.
The chemical components and nutritive value of maize do not lose their susceptibility to change when the grain is harvested. Subsequent links in the food chain, such as storage and processing, may also cause the nutritional quality of maize to decrease significantly or, even worse, make it unfit for either human and animal consumption or industrial use.


Maize harvesting is highly mechanized in developed countries of the world, while it is still done manually in developing countries. The mechanized system removes not only the ear from the plant but also the grain from the cob, while manual harvesting requires initial removal of the ear, which is shelled at a later stage. In both situations, maize is usually harvested when its moisture content is in the range of 18 to 24 percent. Damage to the kernel (usually during the shelling operation) is related to moisture content at harvest; the lower the moisture content, the less the damage.
Changes in the physical quality of the grain are often a result of mechanical harvesting, shelling and drying. The first two processes sometimes result in external damage, such as the breaking of the pericarp and parts around the germ, facilitating attack by insects and fungi. Drying, on the other hand, does not cause marked physical damage. However, if it is carried out too rapidly and at high temperatures, it will induce the formation of stress cracks, puffiness and discoloration, which will affect the efficiency of dry milling and other processes (Paulsen and Hill, 1985).
In tropical countries, drying is sped up by bending down the upper part of the plant holding the ear, a practice that also prevents the kernels from becoming soaked when it rains. In either mechanical or manual harvesting, the shelled kernels contain too much moisture for safe storage, and they must be dried to safe moisture levels of about 12 percent at 30°C and about 14 percent at 10°C (Herum,1987). Storage stability depends on the relative humidity of the interstitial gases, which is a function of both moisture content in the kernel and temperature. Low moisture content and low storage temperatures reduce the opportunity for deterioration and microbial growth. Aeration therefore becomes an important operation in maize storage as a means of keeping down the relative humidity of interstitial gases.
Significant maize losses have been reported in tropical countries. Losses of up to 10 percent have been found, not including those losses caused by fungi, insects or rodents. If these were included, losses could go up to 30 percent in tropical humid areas or 10 to 15 percent in temperate areas. Schneider (1987) reported post-production losses in Honduras of 6.5 to 8.7 percent in the field and of 7.4 to 13.9 percent in storage. Losses due to fungi (mainly aspergillus and penicillium) are important for both economic and health reasons because of aflatoxins and mycotoxins (de Campos, Crespo-Santos and Olszyna-Marzys, 1980).
In a survey on maize sold in rural markets in Guatemala, Martinez-Herrera (1968) found considerable contamination by several fungi. Among these, some Aspergillus species, well known as aflatoxin producers, were frequently present. There is evidence that maximum aflatoxin contamination of maize in Guatemala is during the rainy season. Samples analysed 20 days after maize was harvested had levels of 130 µg aflatoxin per kg of total maize. The same samples analysed 60 days later showed a great increase of up to 1 680 µg per kg. These data as well as data from several other studies strongly indicate the need to dry maize before storage. Diverse drying systems and equipment are available, using various sources of energy including solar energy (Herum, 1987). A number of factors must be considered such as temperature and air velocity, rate of drying, drying efficiencies, kernel quality, air power, fuel source, fixed costs and management. Drying is an important step in ensuring good quality grain that is free of fungi and micro-organisms and that has desirable quality characteristics for marketing and final use.
Drying Methods
Layer drying. In this method, the harvested grain is placed in a bin one layer at a time. Each layer of grain is partially dried, before the next is added, by forcing air through a perforated floor or through a duct in the bottom of the bin. To improve efficiency, the partially dried grain is stirred and mixed with the new layer. An alternative is to remove the partially dried grain and dry it completely in batches. One of the problems with this and other methods of drying is in finding a way to mix low-moisture grain with high-moisture grain to get the desired equilibrium in the final product. Spoilage often occurs in this attempt. Sauer and Burroughs (1980) reported that equilibrium was more than 80 percent complete in 24 hours. Methods have been developed to detect highmoisture maize in mixtures with artificially dried maize.
Portable batch dryers. Since drying installations are costly, few maize producers, particularly small farmers, can afford to have their own. Portable batch dryers are useful since they can be moved from farm to farm. These dryers operate with air heated to 140 to 180°F (60 to 82°C).
Continuous flow dryers. The principle behind these dryers is the continuous flow of grain through heated and unheated sections so that it is discharged dry and cool. The equipment is the central point in grain storage depots.


Biotic and non-biotic factors
The efficient conservation of maize, like that of other cereal grains and food legumes, depends basically on the ecological conditions of storage; the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the grain; the storage period; and the type and functional characteristics of the storage facility. Two important categories of factors have been identified. First are those of biotic origin, which include all elements or living agents that, under conditions favourable for their development, will use the grain as a source of nutrients and so induce its deterioration. These are mainly insects, microorganisms, rodents and birds. Second are non-biotic factors, which include relative humidity, temperature and time. The effects of both biotic and nonbiotic factors are influenced by the physical and biochemical characteristics of the grain. Changes during storage are influenced by the low thermal conductivity of the grain, its water absorption capacity, its structure, its chemical composition, its rate of respiration and spontaneous heating, the texture and consistency of the pericarp and the method and conditions of drying.
Nutrient losses have been reported in maize stored under unfavourable conditions. Quackenbush (1963) showed carotene losses in maize stored under different temperature and moisture conditions. In other studies common and QPM maize were stored in different types of containers with and without chemicals. After six months samples were examined for damage by insects and fungi and for changes in protein quality. In both types there was some damage to the unprotected maize but not to that stored with chemicals. Protein quality was not affected (Bressani et al., 1982). Other changes subsequent to drying and storage included a decreased solubility of proteins; changes in nutritive value for pigs; changes in sensory properties (Abramson, Sinka and Mills, 1980); and changes in in vitro digestibility resulting from heat damage (Onigbinde and Akinyele, 1989).
Although damage caused by insects and birds is of importance, a great deal of attention has been paid to the problems caused by micro-organisms, not only because of the losses they induce in the grain, but more importantly, because of the toxic effects of their metabolic by-products on human and animal health.
Studies on the nutritional effects of insect infestation of maize are not readily available. Daniel et al. (1977) and Rajan et al. (1975) have reported losses in threonine and in protein quality of maize infested with Sitophilus oryzae. In the first study, protein efficiency ratio (PER) decreased after three months from an initial value of 1.30 to 0.91. In the second study, threonine decreased from 3.5 to 2.9 g per 16 g N and PER decreased from I .49 to I .16. These researchers also reported that the damaged maize was less efficient in complementing food legumes.
Also of nutritional significance was an increase in uric acid from 3.5 to 90.6 mg per 100 g after three months. Thiamine losses were detected as well.
Bressani et al. (1982) evaluated five chemicals and three types of containers for their effectiveness in protecting QPM's nutritional quality against insect damage. About 38 percent of the untreated grain (control) was damaged by insects. This did not, however, affect its protein quality.
Several research studies have identified an association between insect damage and toxin contamination (e.g. Fennellet al., 1978; Perez, Tuite and Baker, 1982).
Christensen (1967) measured selected changes in United States No. 2 maize stored for two years with moisture contents of 14.5 and 15.2 percent and at temperatures of 12, 20 and 25°C. Changes in condition were evaluated by appearance, fungal invasion, germination percentage and final fat acidity value. Samples stored at 25°C deteriorated rapidly at both levels of moisture content. The samples with 15.2 percent moisture changed slightly after six months at 12°C but appreciably after two years. The maize stored with 14.5 percent moisture content retained its original condition when kept at 12°C for the twoyear period and changed only slightly in 18 months at 20°C. However, large variability in the insect-fungi interaction was observed. Some maize-growing regions have experienced extensive insect damage to maturing ears with no occurrence of aflatoxin, while other areas with equivalent insect damage have exhibited relatively broad incidences of the toxin in kernels at harvest.
Many studies have been conducted to assess the nutritional value of mouldy maize. Although some increase in B-vitamin content has been reported, possibly as a result of the metabolites of the micro-organisms, the damage to animal health far exceeds any beneficial change in chemical composition. Several researchers have studied the impairment in nutritive value of mould-damaged maize. For example, Martínez et al. (1970a) found significant negative effects in poultry and laboratory rats fed mouldy maize. It is difficult, however, to decide whether these effects were caused by fungi-produced toxins or by a loss in nutrients in the substrate because of their utilization by the micro-organisms.
Christensen and Sauer (1982) reviewed the effects of fungal invasion on cereal grains. They found that it reduced both the quality and grade of the grains through loss of dry matter, discoloration, heating, cooking, mushiness and contamination by mycotoxins. Microbial indices of fungal invasion and seed deterioration include visible damage, seed infection, number of fungal propagules, evolved carbon dioxide and decrease in seed germination and ergosterol content.
Inhibition of atlatoxin contamination
Two ways of preserving maize from being destroyed by aflatoxin contamination have been under investigation. One is to inhibit growth of Aspergillus flavus or Aspergillus parasiticus and the other is to remove the aflatoxins after they have been produced by the Aspergillus infection. Most researchers have concentrated on the inhibition of fungal growth, and some chemicals have already been found effective in storage conditions. This, however, does not solve the problem of field contamination by moulds, since the airborne spores of the organisms are readily available in the environment. The spores can germinate on the cob and infect the inner tissues under optimum temperature and moisture conditions. Therefore, other researchers have pursued the possibility of detoxification.
Roasting has been shown to be effective in reducing aflatoxin levels, depending on the initial level of the toxin as well as on roasting temperatures (Conway and Anderson, 1978). Higher temperatures may cause up to 77 percent aflatoxin destruction; however, it is well known that heat also destroys the nutritive value of the material. Tempering aflatoxincontaminated maize with aqua ammonia and then roasting it may be a simple and effective way to decontaminate it. Valuable results using ammonia have been reported. It is difficult, however, to remove the smell of ammonia from the treated grain. Other more complex methods have been tried. For example, Chakrabarti (1981) showed that aflatoxin levels could be reduced to less than 20 ppb using separate treatments with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 75 percent methanol, 5 percent dimethylamine hydrochloride or 3 percent perchloric acid. These treatments, however, induced losses in weight and also in protein and lipids. Other methods include the use of carbon dioxide plus potassium sorbate and the use of sulphur oxide.
A process that has received some attention is the use of calcium hydroxide, a chemical used for lime-cooking of maize (Bressani, 1990). Studies have shown a significant reduction in aflatoxin levels, although the extent of reduction is related to the initial levels. Feeding tests with mouldy maize treated with calcium hydroxide have shown a partial restoration of its nutritional value.
Appropriate harvesting and handling can do much to reduce fungal contamination of maize and can thus prevent the need for chemical decontamination measures, which not only increase the cost of the grain but cannot completely restore its original nutritional value. In this respect, Siriacha et al. (1989) found that if shelled grain was immediately sun-dried the chance of contamination was reduced as compared with that of undried maize shelled mechanically or by hand. Shelling encourages fungal contamination as it causes damage to the kernel base, which is rough compared with the rest of the grain. Corn on the cob, even with its high levels of moisture, resists fungal contamination relatively well.

Classification of grain quality

To facilitate marketing and to identify the best uses for the various types of maize produced throughout the world, measures of grain quality have been identified, although they may not be accepted by all maize-producing countries. In the United States maize is classified into five different grades, based on several factors. Minimum test weight is expressed in pounds per bushel, pounds per cubic foot or kilograms per cubic metre. The higher the test weight the higher the grade. The maximum permitted amount of broken maize and foreign material (BCFM) varies from 2 percent for Grade I to 7 percent for Grade 5. There is a classification for damaged kernels that includes heat-damaged kernels. Maize is also classified as yellow, white or mixed maize. Yellow maize must have no more than 5 percent white kernels and white maize must not have more than 2 percent yellow grain. The mixed class contains more than 10 percent of the other grain.
Although the moisture content of maize, an important part of its chemical composition, is not considered a quality factor, it has much influence on composition, quality changes during storage and processing and economics. High-moisture maize with a soft texture is easily damaged in storage, while maize with low levels of moisture becomes brittle. The most commonly accepted moisture level for marketing purposes is 15.5 percent. Density of maize - weight per unit volume - is important in storage and transportation since it establishes the size of container for either purpose. Moisture content and density or test weight are related; the higher the moisture level the lower the specific density test weight. This characteristic of maize is also important for milling.
Another important quality characteristic of maize is its hardness, since this influences grinding power requirements, dust formation, nutritional properties, processing for food products and the yield of products from dry and wet milling operations. Hardness of maize is genetically controlled, but it can be modified by both cultural practices and post-harvest handling conditions. Many investigators have proposed methodologies for measuring hardness for a number of different applications (Pomeranz et al., 1984, 1985, 1986). Maize varieties with a horny endosperm such as flint and popcorn types, have hard kernels, while starchy and opaque maize varieties are soft. Some flint types are intermediate.
Finally, freedom of the kernel from fungi is recognized as a quality characteristic.

Chapter 4 - Post-harvest technology: processing

Forms of maize consumption

Maize is consumed in many forms in different parts of the world, from maize grits, polenta and corn bread to popcorn and products such as maize flakes (Rooney and Serna-Saldivar, 1987). The grain is fermented to give ogi in Nigeria (Oke, 1967) and other countries in Africa (Hesseltine, 1979) and is decorticated, degermed and precooked to be made into arepas in Colombia and Venezuela (Instituto de Investigaciones Tecnológicas, 1971; Rodriguez, 1972).
In Egypt a maize flat bread, aish merahra, is widely produced. Maize flour is used to make a soft dough spiced with 5 percent ground fenugreek seeds, which is believed to increase the protein content, improve digestibility and extend the storage life of the bread. The dough is fermented all night with a sourdough starter. In the morning the dough is shaped into small, soft, round loaves, which are left for 30 minutes to "prove". Before baking the loaves are made into wide, flat discs. Aish merahra keeps fresh for seven to ten days if it is stored in airtight containers. A similar product called markouk is eaten in Lebanon.
Maize is also widely used to make beer. In Benin, for example, malt is obtained by germinating the grain for about five days. The malt is then exposed to the sun to stop germination. The grains are lightly crushed in a mortar or on a grinding stone. The malt is cooked and the extract is strained off, cooled and allowed to stand. After three days of fermentation it is ready to be drunk as beer (FAO, 1989).
The lime-cooking process for maize is particular to Mexico and Central America (Bressani, 1990), although today the technology has been exported to other countries such as the United States. A dough prepared from limecooked maize is the main ingredient for many popular dishes such as atole, a beverage with a great variety of flavours, and tamalitos, made by wrapping the dough in maize husks and steam-cooking it for 20 to 30 minutes to gelatinize the starch. This form is usually prepared with young chipilín leaves (Crotalaria longirostrata), the flowers of loroco (Fernaldia pandurata) or cooked beans mixed with the dough, thus improving the nutritional quality of the product and its flavour (Bressani, 1983). The dough is also used for tamales, a more complex preparation because of the number of ingredients it contains, in most cases with chicken or pork meat added to the gelatinized dough. It is also used to provide support for enchiladas, tacos (folded tortillas containing meat, etc.) and pupusas, the latter made with fresh cheese placed between two layers of dough and baked like tortillas. When the dough is fried and flavoured, it yields foods such as chips and chilaquiles. If the dough is allowed to ferment for two days, wrapped in banana or plantain leaves, it provides a food named pozol from which a number of drinks can be made. It has been claimed that this preparation is of high nutritional quality.
There are many ways to convert maize into interesting and acceptable forms which, if presented in attractive and easily prepared products, could to some extent counteract the trend toward greater consumption of wheat derived foods in arepa- and tortilla-eating countries and elsewhere.
Lime-cooking in rural areas
A number of researchers have described how maize is cooked in rural areas of countries where tortillas are eaten. Illescas (1943) first described the process as carried out in Mexico. It involves the addition of one part whole maize to two parts of approximately I percent lime solution. The mixture is heated to 80°C for 20 to 45 minutes and then allowed to stand overnight. The following day the cooking liquor is decanted and the maize, now referred to as nixtamal, is washed two or three times with water to remove the seed-coats, the tip caps, excess lime and any impurities in the grain. The addition of lime at the cooking and steeping stages helps to remove the seed-coats.
The by-products are either thrown away or fed to pigs. Originally, the maize was converted into dough by grinding it a number of times with a flat stone until the coarse particles were fine enough. Today the initial grinding is done with a meat grinder or disc mills and the dough is then refined with the stone. A portion of about 50 g of the dough is patted flat and cooked on both sides on a hot iron or clay plate.
In Guatemala a similar process (described by Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw, 1958) uses either white or yellow maize, but the lime concentration varies from 0.17 to 0.58 percent based on the weight of maize, with a grain-to-water ratio of 1:1.2, and the maize cooking time varies from 46 to 67 minutes at a temperature of 94°C. The rest of the process is essentially the same, except that the dough is prepared with a disc mill and is cooked for about 5 minutes at a temperature of about 170°C at the edges and 212°C in the centre.
Tamalitos, for which the dough is steamed, are softer and keep longer. For recently harvested maize less lime is used and cooking time is decreased; the procedure is modified conversely when the grain is old and dry. The dry matter losses are about 15 percent, but they can vary between 8.9 and 21.3 percent.
Industrial lime-cooking
Factors such as the migration of people from rural to urban areas created a demand for ready-cooked or pre-cooked tortillas. Equipment for processing raw maize into lime-treated maize and then into a dough and tortillas was developed and industrial production of tortilla flour began in Mexico and other countries. Mechanized production in Mexico became important soon after the Second World War. Two types of industry are found in urban areas. One is the small family-owned home tortilla industry, where the process is as described above but with larger and mechanical equipment used to supply a larger market. This development became possible through the introduction of rotary mills and the tortilla maker designed by Romero in 1908. This equipment was later replaced by a more efficient type in which the dough is passed through a rotating metal drum where it is cut into tortilla shapes. These fall onto a moving belt or continuous cooking griddle, dropping into a receptacle at the end of the belt. This small industry may use whole maize, in which case the dough is cooked in large receptacles, or it may start with industrial tortilla flour.
The second type of industry is the large industrial conversion of maize into an instant precooked tortilla flour. The process has been described by various workers (e.g. Deschamps, 1985). It is based for all practical purposes on the traditional method used in rural areas. More recently, the process of producing the flour has been expanded to produce tortillas.
Maize is bought after the buyer has inspected its quality and sampled it. Batches of maize with a high percentage of defective grains are rejected. Those that are accepted are paid for according to the defects found in the raw material. Maize is also selected according to its moisture content, since very high moisture will result in storage problems. During the cleaning stage, all impurities such as dirt, cobs and leaves are removed. The cleaned maize is sent to silos and warehouses for storage.
From there it is conveyed to treatment units for lime-cooking. There it is converted into nixtamal, using either a batch or a continuous process. After cooking and steeping, the lime-treated maize is washed with pressurized water or by spraying. It is ground into a dough (masa) which is then transferred to a dryer and made into a rough flour. This flour, consisting of particles of all sizes, is forced through a sifter where the coarse particles are separated from the fine ones. The coarse particles are returned to the mill for regrinding and the fine ones, which constitute the final product, are sent to the packing units. Here the flour is packed into lined paper bags.
One complete unit must have equipment for lime treatment, milling, drying and sifting and a daily production capacity of 30 to 80 tonnes of flour. These figures are the minimum and the maximum; to increase its production capacity, a commercial enterprise must install several parallel units. The use of such units seems to be more a tradition than a technical necessity, since it would be perfectly feasible to design plants with a capacity lower than 30 tonnes or higher than 80 tonnes per day. Plants that are very large or very small are apparently not considered viable.
The industrial yield of alkali-cooked maize flour fluctuates between 86 and 95 percent depending on the type of maize, the quality of the whole kernels and the lime-treatment conditions. Industrial yields have been reported to be higher than those at the rural and semi-industrial levels, possibly because of the quality of the grain processed.
Tortilla flour is a fine, dry, white or yellowish powder with the characteristic odour of maize dough. This flour when mixed with water gives a suitable dough for the preparation of tortillas, tamales, atoles (thick gruels) and other foods. All maize flours made in Mexico must conform to the specifications of the government's Department of Standards and Regulations.
When the flour has a moisture content of 10 to 12 percent it is stable against microbial contamination. If the moisture content is over 12 percent it is easily attacked by moulds and yeast. The problem of bacterial attack is almost nonexistent since the minimum of moisture required for bacterial growth is so high that flour with this moisture content would already be transformed into masa. Another matter related to the stability of flour is rancidity, which is normally not a problem unless the flour is packed at high temperatures. The minimum time required for the flour to spoil in Mexico is four to six months during the winter and three months during the summer. Nevertheless, it is usually sold to the consumer within 15 days of being sold to retailers and wholesalers, while its shelf-life is one month (Delvalle, 1972).
Tortillas made from lime-treated maize flour can be made at home or in factories. Such flour has been a great advantage for households and for factories both large and small, although its use in rural areas is not widespread.
In Guatemala, about 3 000 metric tons of maize are produced yearly for tortilla flour production. This amount is significantly lower than that in Mexico; the population is smaller and there are few small tortilla factories. About 90 percent of the production is sold in urban areas and 75 percent goes into tortilla making. Other countries where lime-treated maize flour is produced are Costa Rica and the United States. In Costa Rica tortilla consumption per person is about 25.6 kg per annum. Approximately 62 percent of the production is commercial, 30.6 percent is home-made from commercial flour and 7.4 percent is home-made from grain.
Modifications of lime-cooking
The traditional method of cooking maize with lime to make tortillas at the rural level is both time-consuming (about 14 to 15 hours) and hard work. The cooking and soaking operations take up 70 to 80 percent of the time, which in a sense may be acceptable to the rural housewife. Nevertheless, the availability of an instant tortilla flour offers many advantages such as convenience, less labour and lower use of energy, for a safe, stable and nutritious product. At the industrial or commercial level, grinding and dehydration are large factors in the cost. Lime-cooked maize contains about 56 percent moisture, which must be decreased to 10 to 12 percent in the flour. Therefore, any method that would decrease both time and cost and still yield acceptable tortillas would be advantageous.
Efforts in this respect have been made by a number of workers. Bressani, Castillo and Guzmán (1962) evaluated a process based on pressure cooking at 5 and 15 lb pressure per square inch (0.35 and 1.05 kg per cm²) under dry and moist conditions for 15, 30 and 60 minutes, without the use of lime. None of the treatments had any effect on chemical composition and true protein digestibility, but all reduced the solubility of the nitrogen. Pressure cooking at 15 lb per square inch (1.05 kg per cm²) under dry conditions reduced the nutritional quality of the product, particularly when carried out for 60 minutes. The pressure cooking method without lime did not reduce crude fibre content, which is one of the particular effects of lime, and the calcium content was significantly lower than in dry dough (masa) prepared by the traditional method.
Khan et al. (1982) conducted a comparative study of three lime-cooking methods: the traditional way, a commercial method and a laboratory pressurecooking procedure. For each process maize was undercooked, optimally cooked and overcooked to measure some of the physical and chemical changes that might occur. Although the traditional method caused the greatest loss of dry matter from the grain, it gave the best tortillas in terms of texture, colour and acceptability. The pressure-cooking procedure yielded a sticky dough and undesirable tortillas. The commercial method was the least desirable. This study allowed the authors to propose a method to evaluate the completeness of cooking.
Bedolla et al. (1983) tested various methods of cooking maize and sorghum as well as mixtures of the two grains. The methods tested included the traditional one, steam cooking as tested by Khan et al. (1982) and a method using a reflux (condensing) system. They found that the methods of cooking affected the total dry matter lost during processing into tortillas.
Variation of cooking conditions can result in lower processing times. For example, Norad et al. (1986) found that a 40 percent reduction in cooking time could be achieved by pre-soaking the grain before alkali cooking. In these studies dry matter losses, water uptake, calcium content and enzyme susceptible starch increased, whereas amylograph maximum viscosity decreased in both presoaked and raw maize upon cooking. The decrease in viscosity and increase in the other parameters was faster in the pre-soaked maize.
Dry-heat processes have also been studied. Johnson, Rooney and Khan (1980) tested the micronizing process to produce sorghum and maize flours. Micronizing is a dry-heat process using gas-fired infrared generators. Rapid internal heating takes place, cooking the product from the inside out. The authors used this process to produce tortilla flour, claiming that it would be quicker and more economical than the traditional method.
Molina, Letona and Bressani (1977) tested production of instant tortilla flour by drum drying at the pilot plant level. Maize flour was mixed with water at a ratio of 3: I with 0.3 percent lime added on the basis of maize weight. After mixing, the dough was passed through a double-drum dryer heated with steam at 15, 20 or 25 lb per square inch (1.05, 1.40 or 1.75 kg per cm2), 93, 99 and 104°C surface temperature and 2, 3 or 4 rpm. The process produced an instant tortilla flour with physico-chemical and organoleptic characteristics identical to those of the reference sample prepared by the traditional method but different from those of a commercial product.
Extrusion cooking has also been evaluated as an additional technology for producing tortilla flour. Bazua, Guerra and Sterner (1979), using a Wenger X-5 extruder, processed ground maize mixed with various lime concentrations (0.1 to 1.0 percent). The dough and tortillas made by extrusion were compared with those made by the traditional process for their organoleptic properties as well as lysine tryptophan and protein content. No appreciable differences were noted at comparable use levels of calcium hydroxide. Both the traditional process and the extrusion modification induced losses of tryptophan related to the amount of lime added. With a 0.2 percent addition 8 percent of the tryptophan was lost, while with 1 percent lime more than 25 percent was lost. Some lysine losses were also observed. The organoleptic results suggested that it is possible to make culturally acceptable tortillas using extrusion as an alternative to the lime-heat treatment.
Maize for tortillas
Grain quality is a concept now growing in importance in breeding programmes aimed at increasing acceptance of genetically improved seeds by farmers as well as by consumers and food processors. The grain quality characteristics include yield, technological properties and, when possible, nutritional elements as well. Technological properties include stability during storage, efficiency of conversion into products under given processing conditions and acceptability to the consumer. The technological aspect of maize quality for tortilla preparation is of little importance to small farmers in the least developed countries, who seldom use seed other than that kept from harvest to harvest. Furthermore, the rural housewife knows how to adjust cooking conditions to the type of maize she will process for consumption. But maize is now being converted into a tortilla flour using industrial processes, where the grain being used may be of different varieties from various producers and different environments. It may have a variety of structures or may have been poorly handled after harvest, factors which influence the yield and physico-chemical and organoleptic as well as culinary properties of the product. This would appear to be of growing importance in countries such as the United States where the maize tortilla is becoming a very popular food.
That physical characteristics of maize are important became clear some time ago, when Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw (1958) showed that the yield of dry matter in the form of dried-maize dough or flour was affected by the maize cultivar. In their rural home studies dry matter losses from white maize averaged 17.2 percent with a variability of 9.5 to 21.3 percent. Dry matter losses from yellow maize averaged 14.1 percent, with a range from 8.9 to 16.7 percent.
Cortez and Wild-Altamirano (1972) conducted a series of measurements on 18 cultivars of maize produced in Mexico. These included kernel weight, colour and lime-cooking time using a standard cooking procedure with 1.5 percent lime at 80°C and a steeping time of 12 hours. Cooking efficiency and time were measured by the ease with which the seed coat could be removed. Evaluations of the cooked maize included measurement of the volume of I kg of maize, the yield of dough from I kg of grain and the moisture content of the dough. The dough was further evaluated by measuring its strength and water absorption. The dehydrated dough was then ground to 60-mesh size and evaluated for moisture, colour, specific volume and other physical characteristics using a mixograph. The tortillas made from the dough of each maize sample were further evaluated for extensibility, volume, plasticity, softness and roughness of the surface.
From this extensive study, the authors reached several conclusions. Maize varieties or cultivars of higher weight per volume, a harder endosperm, more moisture and a high protein content produced the best tortillas. Two cultivars of popcorn maize were among the best types for tortillas. The Swanson mixograph was useful in establishing differences in maize types. The time required to cook the samples ranged from 30 to 75 minutes, and dry matter losses ranged from 10 to 34 percent. Rooney and Serna-Saldivar (1987) found that maize with hard or corneous endosperm required a longer cooking time. Bedolla and Rooney (1984) stated that the texture of the dough was affected by the endosperm texture and type, drying, storage and soundness of the maize kernel. MartínezHerrera and Lachance (1979) established a relationship between kernel hardness and the time needed for cooking. They reported that within a maize variety, higher calcium hydroxide concentration slightly decreased cooking time. Furthermore, knowing the initial hardness of a variety made it possible to predict the time required to cook it. Khan et al. (1982) and Bedolla and Rooney (1982) measured a parameter termed nixtamal shear force (NSF), an indication of kernel hardness. The measurement was related to both cooking time and processing method. These authors showed that the NSF measurement could reveal small differences in maize with similar endosperm texture and could be used to predict optimum cooking time.
Dry matter losses resulting from lime-cooking constitute a good index of maize quality for tortilla preparation. Jackson et al. (1988) reported that greater losses resulted from stress-cracked and broken kernels than from sound kernels. Therefore they concluded that any system for assessing maize for alkaline cooking should include measures of broken kernels, the potential for breakage and ease of pericarp removal. Specific studies on the effects of drying and storage on quality of maize for tortilla making are not readily available. Bressani et al. (1982) reported on QPM storage as related to tortilla quality. The Nutricta QPM variety was stored under a number of field or rural conditions. Containers made of cloth not treated with insecticides allowed insect infestation and therefore higher dry-matter losses during cooking; but the protein quality was not affected.
Possibly the most interesting feature of the process of converting maize into tortillas is the use of an alkaline medium, and particularly calcium hydroxide. The most obvious effect of adding lime is the facilitation of seed coat removal during cooking and steeping. According to Trejo-González, Feria-Morales and Wild-Altamirano (1982), added lime maintains an alkaline pH, which is needed to hydrolyse the hemicelluloses of the pericarp. Lime uptake by the kernel follows that of water, but the rate is lower than that of water. Norad et al. (1986) showed that soaking the kernels before cooking led to a higher calcium content in the grain. Calcium content of masa was affected by lime levels and also by cooking-steeping temperatures. Several other authors (e.g. Pflugfelder, Rooney and Waniska, 1988a) have shown in one way or another that lime uptake during alkaline cooking is affected by physical and chemical characteristics of maize dough.
Martínez-Herrera and Lachance (1979) found that higher calcium hydroxide concentrations slightly decreased cooking time, but the differences were not statistically significant. These authors also reported an interaction between maize variety and calcium hydroxide concentration. However, the coefficient of variation was high (29.1 percent); this was attributed to inherent variability in the kernels of the different varieties.
Bedolla and Rooney (1982) reported that increases in cooking time, cooking temperature, lime concentration and steeping time produced lower viscoamylograph peak viscosities at both 95 and 50°C, which was interpreted to mean a greater degree of starch gelatinization. Trejo-Gonzalez, Feria-Morales and Wild-Altamirano (1982) showed that calcium was fixed or was bound in some way to the starch of the maize kernel. Other effects included greater solid losses with increasing amounts of lime; changes in colour, aroma and flavour; and a delay in the development of acidity, which extends shelf-life. If added in exceedingly large amounts, lime affects organoleptic properties of the food; this effect is often observed when maize has been stored for a long time.

Ogi and other fermented maize products

Acid porridges prepared from cereals are eaten in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, where they may form part of the basic diet. Some examples of acid porridges include pozol in Mexico and Guatemala, ogi in Nigeria, uji in Kenya and kenkey in Ghana. These porridges are usually made from fermented raw or heat-treated maize, although sorghum and millet are often used.
Ogi manufacture
The traditional process of making ogi has a number of slight variations described by several authors. Ogi is traditionally prepared in batches on a small scale two or three times a week, depending on demand. The clean grain is steeped in water for one to three days to soften. Once soft, it is ground with a grinding stone, pounded in a mortar or ground with a power mill. The bran is sieved and washed away from the endosperm with plenty of water. Part of the germ is also separated in this operation. The filtrate is allowed to ferment for 24 to 72 hours to produce a slurry which when boiled gives the ogi porridge. Ogi is usually marketed as a wet cake wrapped in leaves, or it may be diluted to 8 to 10 percent solids in water and boiled into a pap or cooked to a stiff gel.
Akinrele (1970) reported that the souring of the maize took place spontaneously without the addition of inoculants or enzymes. He identified the organisms involved in this unaided fermentation and investigated their effects on the nutritive value of the food. He identified the moulds as Epholosporium, Fusarium, Aspergillus and Penicillium species and the aerobic bacteria as Corynebacterium and Aerobacter species, while the main lactic acid bacterium he found was Lactobacillus plantarum. There were also yeasts: Candida mycoderma, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Rhodotorula sp.
Although ogi is supposed to have an improved B-vitamin content, the results observed are quite variable, at least for thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Banigo and Muller (1972) identified the carboxylic acids of ogi fermentation. They found 11 acids, with lactic, acetic and butyric acids being the most important.
The ogi-making process is quite complex, and the porridge can also be prepared from sorghum, rice, millet and maize. Therefore, laboratory procedures have been developed to learn more about the process and introduce changes to convert the grains to food more efficiently. These have been described by Akingbala, Rooney and Faubion (1981) and Akingbala et al. (1987), whose studies have been useful also in evaluating varieties of cereal grains for their efficiency in making ogi. The authors also reported on the yields of ogi from whole maize kernels (79.1 percent) and dry milled flour (79.8 percent).
The commercial manufacture of ogi does not differ substantially from the traditional method. Modifications have been introduced, such as the dry milling of maize into a fine meal or flour and subsequent inoculation of the flour-water mixture with a culture of lactobacilli and yeast. In view of the importance of ogi in the Nigerian diet, large-scale production is indicated. The material could be dried and packaged in polythene bags for a good shelf life. There is some problem in achieving a controlled fermentation with pure cultures. Some modifications include spray-drying the slurry or drum drying.
Other fermented maize products
Ogi has a number of other names such as akamu or ekogbona, agidi and eko tutu. These, with the Kenyan uji and Ghanaian koko, are substantially the same preparation with changes in the grain used or some modification of the basic process. For the Mexican pozol, maize is processed with lime as for tortillas. The nixtamal, or cooked maize without the seed-coat, is ground to a coarse dough which is shaped into balls by hand. The balls are then wrapped in banana leaves to avoid drying and are allowed to ferment for two to three days, or more if necessary. The micro-organisms involved are many.


Another major food made from maize, used daily in Colombia and Venezuela, is arepa. Mosqueda Suarez (1954) and Cuevas, Figueroa and Racca (1985) described the traditional preparation method as practiced in Venezuela. De Buckle et al. (1972) defined the Colombian arepa as roasted maize bread without yeast, round in shape, prepared from maize that has been degermed. Whole maize is dehulled and degermed using a wooden bowl called a pilon and a double-headed wooden mallet. The moistened maize is pounded until the hulls and part of the germ are released from the endosperm. The hulls and germs are removed by adding water to the mixture containing the endosperm. The endosperm is cooked and then stone-milled to prepare a dough. Small portions of this dough are made into balls, then pressed into flat discs which are cooked rapidly on both sides.
The traditional method of preparing arepas has been substantially modified by the introduction of precooked maize flour, which reduces the time from 7 to 12 hours to 30 minutes (Cuevas, Figueroa and Racca, 1985). There are two stages in the industrial process. The first is the preparation of maize grits by cleaning, dehulling and degerming the maize; the second is the processing of the grits to produce precooked flour. Efforts have been made to modify the process even further by extrusion cooking.

Other maize preparations

In Latin America there are many maize-based foods besides tortillas and arepas. Some of these are drinks like colados, pinol and macho, basically suspensions of cooked maize flour. These three products have a very low protein quality. The production of humitas, a tamale-like food consumed in Bolivia and Chile, was described by Camacho, Bañados and Fernandez (1989). Made from immature common or opaque-2 maize to which is added a number of other ingredients, humitas is produced from precooked maize flour which resembles the lime-treated masa. Other products include mote, made from cooked maize and cheese, pupusas, made from lime-treated maize and cheese, and patasca, which is like a lime-treated maize kernel. From immature maize a sweet, tasty atole of high nutritive value is made; Khan and Bressani (1987) described the process, which consists of grinding the maize in water followed by filtration and cooking. Immature maize, either common or opaque2, and sweet maize are also extensively consumed. Chavez and Obregon (1986) reported on the incorporation of the opaque-2 gene into sweet maize to provide a food of high nutritional quality.
Maize has also been used as a substrate for fermented beverages called chicha. Cox et al. (1987) have reported on the microflora of these fermented products, which are made by basically the same process but using a variety of additives.


The maize kernel is transformed into valuable foods and industrial products by two processes, dry milling and wet milling. The first yields grits, meal and flours as primary products. The second yields starch and valuable derived products.
Dry milling
The dry milling of maize as practiced today has its origins in the technologies used by the native populations who domesticated the plant. The best example is the method used to make arepa flour or hominy grits. The old technology was soon replaced by a grinding stone or stone mill, followed by the grits mill and finally by sophisticated tempering-degerming methods. The products derived are numerous, with their variety depending to a large extent on particle size. They are classified into flaking grits, coarse grits, regular grits, corn meal, cones and corn flour by means of meshes ranging from 3.5 to 60. Their chemical composition has been well established and their uses are extensive, including brewing, manufacturing of snack foods and breakfast cereals and many others.
Wet milling
The largest volume of maize in developed countries such as the United States is processed by wet milling to yield starch and other valuable byproducts such as maize gluten meal and feed. The starch is used as a raw material for a wide range of food and non-food products. In this process clean maize is soaked in water under carefully controlled conditions to soften the kernels. This is followed by milling and separation of the components by screening, centrifugation and washing to produce starch from the endosperm, oil from the germ and food products from the residues. The starch has industrial applications as such and is also used to produce alcohol and food sweeteners by either acid or enzymatic hydrolysis. The latter is done with bacterial and fungal alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, beta-amylase and pullulanase. Saccharides of various molecular weights are liberated yielding sweeteners of different functional properties. These include liquid or crystalline dextrose, high-fructose maize syrups, regular maize syrups and maltodextrins, which have many applications in foods.
Chemical changes
The conversion of maize into tortillas involves a process in which water, heat and calcium hydroxide are used. All three influence the chemical composition of processed maize, causing changes in nutrient content. The changes that take place are caused by both physical losses of the kernel and chemical losses. The latter may result from destruction of some nutrients and chemical transformation of others.
The proximate composition of maize and of home-made and industrially prepared tortillas is shown in Table 16. Changes in fat and crude fibre content are shown, and in some cases an increase in ash content. The values for homemade and industrially produced tortillas are similar for most major chemical components with the exception of fat, which is higher in industrially produced tortillas.
Dry matter losses
From studies on maize cooking by rural housewives using their own traditional method, Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw (1958) reported a loss of solids (17.1 percent for white maize and 15.4 percent for yellow maize) when maize was made into dough. Bedolla and Rooney (1982) have reported losses of 13.9 and 10 percent respectively for white and yellow maize using the traditional process and losses of 7 and 5.7 percent in steam cooking. In other studies where variations in the processing technique were evaluated, Khan et al. (1982) found losses of 7 to 9 percent in commercial processing, 9 to I I percent in pressure cooking and 11 to 13 percent using the traditional method. These workers also reported that dry matter loss increased as cooking time increased.
TABLE 16 - Proximate composition of raw maize and home-made and industrially produced tortillas
Product Moisture (%) Protein (%) Fat (%) Ash (%) Crude fibre (%) Carbohydrates (%) Calories per 100 g
White 15.9 8.1 4.8 1.3 1.1 70.0 356
Yellow 12.2 8.4 4.5 1.1 1.3 73.9 370
White 13.8 8.3 - 1.2      
While 47.8 5.4 1.0 0.8 0.7 44.5 204
Yellow 47.8 5.6 1.3 0.8 0.6 44.4 212
White 41.9 5.8 - 0.9 - - -
Industrial 40.5 5.8 0.9 1.1 1.4 50.3 226
Industrial 44.0 5.3 3.4 1.2 0.7 42.8 215
Industrial 45.2 5.2 3.1 1.4 1.1 41.1 206
Sources: Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw, 1958; Cravioto et al., 1945; Ranhotra, 1985; Saldana and Brown, 1984.
Likewise, the integrity of the maize kernel influences losses. Jackson et a/. (1988) reported that dry matter losses in the traditional cooking procedure were higher (10.8 to 12.1 percent) with broken kernels then with undamaged ones (6.3 to 8.9 percent). Besides the integrity of the kernel and the heating process used, other factors such as length of steeping influence dry matter losses. Long steeping caused larger losses than a short steeping time. Dry matter losses of QPM with a hard endosperm are similar to those of common maize. Recently, Bressani et al. (1990) reported losses of 17.1 percent for the Nutricta QPM variety as compared with 17.6 percent from a white tropical maize. Sproule e! al. (1988) found a 9.6 percent dry matter loss from QPM as compared with a 10.4 percent loss in common maize.
Dry matter losses depend, then, on a number of variables such as the type of maize (hard or soft endosperm), kernel integrity (whole or broken kernels), cooking procedure (traditional, steam cooking, pressure cooking, commercial), the levels of lime used, cooking time and steeping time, as well as other operations such as rubbing to eliminate the seed-coat during washing of the kernels. This process also eliminates other parts of the kernel: the tip cap and possibly the aleurone layer and small amounts of germ. Paredes-López and Saharopulus-Paredes (1983) used scanning electron microscopy to show that the outside surface of lime-treated maize had important structural deterioration. They indicated that the aleurone layer was retained as well as some pericarp layers and that the germ remained attached to the endosperm. Gómez et al. (1989) noted that important structural changes took place in maize during "nixtamalization". The alkali weakened the cell walls, facilitating the removal of the pericarp. It solubilized the cell wall in the peripheral endosperm, caused swelling and partial destruction of starch granules and modified the appearance of the protein bodies. The dough contained fragments of germ, pericarp, the aleurone and endosperm, as well as free starch and dissolved lipids. Thus some of the chemical changes that have been observed can be accounted for by the chemical compounds present in these three or four parts of the kernel. The dry matter content has been analysed by Pflugfelder, Rooney and Waniska (1988a), who reported 64 percent non-starch polysaccharides (fibre), 20 percent starch and 1.4 percent protein.
Nutrient losses
Studies on the losses of nutrients during the transformation of maize into tortillas are not abundant, even though significant changes due to processing do take place (Cravioto et al., 1945; Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw, 1958). Ether-extractable substances are lost, 33 percent in yellow maize and 43 percent in white maize. This is difficult to explain, although it could be partially accounted for by the loss of the pericarp, the aleurone layer, the tip cap and some of the germ, parts of the kernel containing ether-extractable substances. Losses in crude fibre were reported to be about 46 percent in white maize and 31 percent in yellow maize. Lime treatment at 96°C for about 55 minutes hydrolyses the pericarp, which is removed during washing, pulling the tip cap with it, and this would account to a large extent for fibre loss. Nitrogen losses amount to about 10 and 5 percent for white and yellow maize, respectively. Again, this may be partly due to the physical loss of the pericarp and tip cap. Even though tortillas may have a slightly higher protein content than the original maize on an equal moisture basis, as has been reported by various workers, this may be caused by a concentration effect, since soluble sugars from the kernel are lost. Ash content increases because of the absorption of lime, which significantly increases calcium content (Saldana & Brown, 1984; Ranhotra, 1985). Significant losses take place in thiamine (52 to 72 percent), riboflavin (28 to 54 percent) and niacin (28 to 36 percent). In yellow maize 15 to 28 percent of the carotene was lost (Cravioto et al., 1945; Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw, 1958).
Fat and fatty acids. Ether-extractable substances of 33 and 43 percent were reported by Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw (1958) from yellow and white maize respectively, as processed in Guatemalan rural homes. Pflugfelder, Rooney and Waniska (1988b) found losses of 11.8 to 18.1 percent and suggested that these could be partly due to the vigorous handling of cooked maize at the industrial plant. Of the total masa lipid, 25 to 50 percent was free and partially emulsified. Bedolla et al. (1983) found ether extract values of 5.0, 3.1 and 3.6 percent in raw maize, cooked maize and tortillas respectively, or about a 28 percent change. This loss has not been fully explained; however, it may result from the loss of the seed-coat, the tip cap, the aleurone layer and possibly part of the germ, and also from ether soluble substances, not necessarily fat. Even though ether-extractable substances are lost in the process of converting maize into tortillas, the fatty acid make-up of the fat does not change in common maize or QPM, as shown in Table 17. Differences between maize samples, either raw or processed, are larger than those between raw maize and tortillas, suggesting that the alkaline cooking method does not alter the fatty acid make-up of the fat.
TABLE 17 - Fatty acid content of common and quality protein maize and tortillas (%)
Product C16:0 C18:0 C18:1 C18:2
Common maize 12.89 2.92 37.08 47.10
Opaque-2 maize 15.71 3.12 36.45 43.83
Common maize tortilla 13.63 2.95 37.14 45.76
Opaque-2 tortilla 15.46 3.25 35.84 43.03
Source: Bressani et al., 1990
Fibre content. The crude fibre content of maize - as determined by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) methodology decreases as the kernel is converted into tortillas. Various investigators (e.g. Saldana and Brown, 1984) have explained how and why such a loss takes place. With newer methodology to determine fibre, Reinhold and Garcia (1979), using the Van Soest method, reported that the neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and acid detergent fibre (ADF) in tortillas (6.60 and 3.75 percent, respectively, on a dry weight basis) were significantly higher than those found in the dough (an average of 5.97 and 2.98 percent, respectively). No difference was reported in hemicellulose, with dough containing 3.18 percent and the tortillas 2.89 percent. Using the same method, Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz (1989) found 10.8 percent NDF in maize and 9 percent in tortillas, as well as ADF of 2.79 and 3 percent respectively. Hemicellulose averaged 8 percent in maize and 6 percent in tortillas, while the values for lignin were 0.13 and 0.15 percent. These values and others are shown in Table 18. Using the method of Asp et al. (1983), Acevedo and Bressani (1990) detected a decrease in insoluble fibre from raw maize (13 percent) to the dough (6 percent) and an increase in tortillas (7 percent). Soluble fibre increased from 0.88 percent in raw maize to 1.31 percent in the dough, and further increased to 1.74 percent in tortillas. Fibre decreases from raw maize to dough are due to the losses in seed-coat described previously. Increases from dough to tortillas, however, may be due to the browning reaction, as has been reported in baked wheat products (Ranhotra and Gelroth, 1988).
TABLE 18 - Dietary fibre in common and quality protein make and tortillas (%)
Product Insoluble dietary fibre Soluble dietary fibre Total dietary fibre Neutral detergent fibre Acid detergent fibre Hemicellulose Lignin
Raw common maize 11.0 1.4 12.4 10.8 2.8 8.0 0.13
Common maize tortilla 9.5 1.4 10.9 9.0 3.0 6.0 0.15
Raw QPM 13.8 1.1 14.9 - - - -
QPM tortilla 10.3 1.9 12.2 - - - -
Other tortilla 3.4 - - 6.6 3.7 2.9 -
Other tortilla 4.1 - - - 3.8-5.0 - -
Sources: Acevedo and Bressani, 1990; Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz, 1989; Bressani et al., 1990; Krause, 1988; Ranhotra, 1985; Reinhold and Garcia 1979.
Ash. Changes in ash content have not received much attention from researchers. Most findings, however, have shown an increase in total ash content from maize to tortillas, which may be expected because of the lime used for cooking. Along with this increase in ash there is a significant increase in calcium content. According to Pflugfelder, Rooney and Waniska (1988b), calcium content in the dough is influenced by lime levels, cooking and steeping temperatures and maize characteristics. The changes in other minerals are variable and may depend on the purity of the lime used as well as on the type of grinding equipment. In one study (Bressani, Breuner and Ortiz, 1989; Bressani et al., 1990) the magnesium content increased from 8 to 35 percent from maize to tortilla; there was no change in sodium and a small decrease in potassium. Iron content also increased; however, the increases may have resulted from contamination. Phosphorus content also increases from maize to tortilla (Table 19). One aspect of nutritional interest is that the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, which is about 1:20 in maize, changes to approximately 1:1 in the tortilla.
TABLE 19 - Mineral content of raw maize and home and industrial samples of tortillas (mg/100 9)
Product P K Ca Mg Na Fe Cu Mn Zn
Maize 300 325 48 108 54 4.8 1.3 1.0 4.6
Home-made tortilla 1 309 273 217 123 71 7.0 2.0 1.0 5.4
Home-made tortilla 2 - - 202 - - 2.7 0.3 - 3.4
Home-made tortilla 3 294 - 104 72 - 3.5 1.3 - 4.6
Industrial tortilla 1 315 - 182 106 - 4.0 2.5 - 3,2
Industrial tortilla 2 240 142 198 60 2 1.2 0.17 0.41 1.2
Industrial tortilla 3 269 185 205 63 9 1.5 0.19 0.40 1.1
Sources: Bressani et al., 1990; Krause, 1988; Ranhotra, 1985; Vargas, Munoz and Gómez 1986
Carbohydrates. Maize and tortillas contain significant amounts of soluble carbohydrates, but very little is known on how they change during alkaline processing. Starch losses of about 5 percent have been reported; these are recovered in the solids lost. A decrease in sugar from 2.4 percent in maize to 0.34 percent in tortillas was also found. Robles, Murray and Paredes-Lopez (1988) found that alkali-cooking and soaking of maize caused large increases in viscosity and that cooking time had a significant effect on pasting properties, although there was no extensive gelatinization of the starch. Differential scanning calorimetric studies yielded similar gelatinization endotherms for untreated maize and nixtamal flours. In the process enzyme-susceptible starch increases as cooking time lengthens.
Protein and amino acids. Most researchers report a small increase in N content which is attributed to a concentration effect. The solubility of all protein fractions is decreased from raw maize to tortillas, with an increase in the insoluble fraction.
Bressani and Scrimshaw (1958) extracted the nitrogen from raw maize and tortillas using water, sodium chloride, 70 percent alcohol and sodium hydroxide. The solubility of the water, salt and alcohol protein fractions was significantly lower in tortillas, with the alcohol-soluble proteins affected most. Only a small decrease of about 13 percent in the solubility of the alkali-soluble fraction was detected. Because of this, the insoluble nitrogen fraction increased from 9.4 percent in maize to 61.7 percent in tortillas.
Ortega, Villegas and Vasal (1986) observed similar changes in both common and QPM maize using the Landry-Moureaux (1970) protein fractionation technique. The solubility of true zeins decreased 58 percent in the tortillas prepared from common maize and 52 percent in QPM tortillas. The authors indicated that hydrophobic interactions may have been involved in the change in protein solubility observed. Sproule et al. (1988) noted a decrease in the albumin plus globulin-nitrogen, expressed as percentage of total nitrogen, from maize to tortillas.
The changes in amino acid content from maize to tortillas are summarized in Table 20. In vitro enzymatic studies of amino acids indicated that total nitrogen and alpha-amino nitrogen were released faster from maize than from tortillas. Values for alpha-amino nitrogen released, expressed as a percentage of the total nitrogen release, were higher for tortillas than for raw maize after 12 hours of hydrolysis with pepsin. The percentage of alpha-amino N from the total was similar for maize and tortillas at 60 hours of hydrolysis with trypsin and pancreatic. After 60 hours of hydrolysis with pepsin, trypsin and pancreatin, the percentage of enzymatically released amino acids with respect to the acidhydrolysed amino acids suggested a faster release from tortillas than from maize. This information was recorded up to 36 hours for most of the amino acids except leucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and valine, which were released at about the same rate. At 60 hours of hydrolysis the amino acid concentrations of the maize and tortilla hydrolysates reached comparable levels, except for methionine (Bressani and Scrimshaw, 1958). These authors reported losses of arginine (18.7 percent), histidine (11.7 percent), lysine (5.3 percent), leucine (21 percent), cystine (12.5 percent) and small amounts of glutamic acid, proline and serine.
Sanderson et al. (1978) found small losses of arginine and cystine from alkaline treatment of common and high-lysine maize. These same authors found 0.059 and 0.049 g of Iysino-alanine per 100 g protein from common and high-lysine maize respectively, but none was found in raw maize. In commercial masa, they found 0.020 g Iysino-alanine per 100 g protein, while in tortillas the level found was 0.081 g per 100 g protein.
TABLE 20 - Amino acid changes during the alkaline cooking of maize (9/16 g N)
Amino acid Maize Tortilla Maize Dough Tortilla QPM Dough
Arginine 5.1 4.2 5.4 4.6 5.5 8.3 7.9
Histidine 2.7 2.4 2.9 2.8 3.5 3.9 3.8
Isoleucine 4.2 4.5 3.7 3.8 3.5 3.4 3.3
Leucine 12.2 9.6 12.6 13.4 12.1 8.3 8.3
Lysine 3.0 2.9 3.0 2.7 2.9 5.1 5.2
Methionine 1.9 1.9 2.8 2.9 2.3 1.9 1.9
Cystine 1.0 0.9 - - - - -
Cysteine - - 2.0 1.7 1.9 2.5 2.2
Phenylalanine 3.7 3.8 5.0 5.2 4.7 4.3 4.2
Tyrosine 3.8 3.8 4.5 4.6 4.4 3.8 3.7
Threonine 3.0 3.0 3.8 3.8 3.4 3.6 3.6
Tryptophan 0.5 0.5 - - - - -
Valine 4.5 4.8 4.8 5.3 4.9 5.1 5.0
Glutamic acid 20.3 19.0 18.8 19.5 18.9 15.4 15.7
Aspartic acid 6.2 6.2 7.2 6.9 5.8 8.4 8.4
Glycine 4.8 4.8 4.0 4.3 3.5 4.7 4.6
Alanine 8.8 8.8 7.7 8.1 7.6 6.1 6.1
Serine 4.5 4.2 5.0 5.0 4.7 4.4 4.5
Proline 11.0 10.1 9.2 10.7 8.7 7.0 7.6
Sources: Bressani and Scrimshaw, 1458; Sanderson el al., 1978
Lunven (1968), using his own amino acid column chromatography technique, observed significant losses in both lysine and tryptophan during the alkaline treatment of common maize. Ortega, Villegas and Vasal (1986) found small losses in tryptophan in tortillas of both common maize (about 1 1 percent) and QPM (15 percent). On the other hand, they reported minimal losses in lysine from both types of maize, similar to those previously noted. Higher losses for both amino acids have recently been reported by Bressani et al. (1990) from common maize and QPM (Nutricta) maize converted into tortillas by rural processing. Ortega, Villegas and Vasal (1986) also indicated that on the basis of the very small loss of lysine in the alkaline product, minimal amounts of lysino-alanine were probably present in the tortillas of common maize and QPM used in their study.
TABLE 21 - Vitamin content of raw maize and tortillas (mg/100 9)
Product Thiamine Riboflavin Niacin Folic acid Panthothenic acid Vitamin H. Carotene Total carotenoids
Raw maize                
White 0.38 0.19 2.00 - - - - -
Yellow 0.48 0.10 1.85 - - - 0.30 1.32
White 0.34 0.08 1.64 - - - 0.15 -
White 0.10 0.04 1.01 - - - - -
Yellow 0.11 0.05 1.01 - - - 0.12 0.41
White 0.19 0.08 0.96 - - - 0.06 -
Industrial 0.13 0.08 1.11 - - - - -
Industrial 0.07 0.04 1.61 0.014 0.24 0.12 - -
Industrial 0.08 0.05 2.11 0.015 0.16 0.27 - -
Sources: Bressani, Paz y Paz and Scrimshaw, 1958; Cravioto e, al., 1945; Ranhotra, 1984; Saldana and Brown, 1984.
Vitamins. Losses in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and carotene occurred during processing of maize into tortillas by lime-cooking. A summary of some data is shown in Table 21. The vitamin that has attracted the attention of a number of researchers has been niacin because of its relationship to pellagra. The biological implications of the lime-cooking process on niacin availability and pellagra is discussed in the next section. This section discusses the changes in concentration of niacin resulting from limecooking. Bressani, Gómez-Brenes and Scrimshaw (1961) reported that the seed-coat of maize contained 4.2 mg niacin per 100 g, while the germ and endosperm contained about 2 mg niacin per 100 g. About 79.5 percent of the kernel niacin was provided by the endosperm, and 10 percent each by the germ and seed-coat. After lime-cooking, the endosperm contributed about 68 percent of the total niacin and the germ about 5.5 percent. After cooking, 26 percent of the total was found in the cooking water. The percentage of niacin extracted in water was 68.5 percent of the total with raw grain and 76 percent with lime-cooked maize. Furthermore, enzymatic hydrolysis with pepsin yielded 69 percent of the niacin of all the samples, and after trypsin and pancreatin hydrolysis niacin yields were 78 and 100 percent respectively. This information was interpreted to mean that niacin is slightly more available from lime-treated maize than from raw maize.
Nutrient availability
Although the lime-cooking process to convert maize into tortillas induces some important losses in nutrients, the process also causes important changes in nutrient availability.
Calcium. Because of the use of calcium hydroxide in converting maize into tortillas, the calcium content of the product increases significantly, up to about 400 percent. Bioavailability studies conducted by Braham and Bressani (1966) with animals showed that somewhat less of the calcium was available in lime-treated maize (85.4 percent) than in skim milk (97 percent). Calcium bioavailability increased when lime-treated maize was supplemented with its limiting amino acids, lysine and tryptophan. Recently, Poneros and Erdman (1988) confirmed the high bioavailability of calcium from tortillas with or without the addition of ascorbic acid. As pointed out in a previous section, the use of calcium hydroxide improves the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in tortillas, which possibly favours the utilization of the calcium ion by the animal. This is an important finding for populations who do not consume diets high in this essential mineral. Furthermore, the finding that better quality in maize protein favours calcium big-utilization is of nutritional significance and provides an additional reason for the commercial production of QPM for people who depend on maize for their nutrition.
Amino acids. Bressani and Scrimshaw (1958) carried out studies using in vitro enzymatic digestions with pepsin, trypsin and pancreatic. At the end of the pepsin digestion, the amount of alpha-amino nitrogen as a percentage of total digested nitrogen was twice as high from tortilla (43.1 percent) as from maize (21.4 percent) and levels of histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan were higher from the tortilla hydrolysate than from maize, suggesting a faster release from the proteins. These authors proposed that the difference in rate of release could derive from the significant decrease in the solubility of the prolamine protein fraction in tortillas, as compared with maize. Serna-Saldivar et al. (1987), however, working with ileum-cannulated pigs, found that at this level in the intestinal tract the digestibility of most of the essential amino acids was somewhat higher from water-cooked maize than from limecooked maize. Digestibility of the protein decreased slightly, possibly because of the heat treatment involved (Bressani et al., 1990). Other researchers have suggested that during maize processing, hydrophobic interactions, protein denaturation and cross-linking of proteins are probably responsible for changes in the solubility of these components, which could affect amino acid release during enzymatic digestion.
Niacin. The alkaline treatment of maize has been reported to destroy its pellagragenic factor. Evidence from a large number of researchers has suggested that pellagra results from an imbalance of the essential amino acids, increasing the niacin requirement of the animal. This point has been extensively debated between those who claim that niacin in maize is bound and not available to the animal and those who favour the theory of improved amino acid balance induced by the alkaline-cooking process, as lime treatment results in release of the bound niacin. Pearson et al. (1957) have shown that boiling maize in water has the same effect (that is, it increases niacin availability). Bressani, Gómez-Brenes and Scrimshaw (1961) found that in vitro enzymatic digestion liberated all the niacin from raw maize as from tortillas and reached the conclusion that differences in amino acid balance rather than in bound niacin were responsible for the differences between raw and lime-processed maize in biological activity and pellagragenic action. Lime treatment of maize improves amino acid balance, as demonstrated by Cravioto et al. (1952) and Bressani and Scrimshaw (1958). Other workers have shown that experimental animals grow better when fed lime-treated rather than raw maize. Using cats which cannot convert tryptophan into niacin - Braham, Villareal and Bressani (1962) showed that niacin from raw and lime-treated maize was utilized to an equal extent, suggesting its availability is not affected by processing.
Dietary Fibre. It has been shown above that when maize was processed into tortillas by lime-cooking, total dietary fibre (TDF) decreased at the dough stage and increased in the tortilla to levels only slightly below those found in raw maize. In these studies the levels of TDF in tortillas averaged 10 percent on a dry weight basis. If a person consumed about 400 g of tortilla (dry-weight), the TDF intake would be 40 g, a value significantly higher than the recommended intake. Even small children can consume relatively large amounts of dietary fibre, which can affect the availability of iron. Hazell and Johnson (1989), however, indicated that maize-based snack foods prepared by extrusion cooking have a higher iron availability than raw maize. These authors indicated that refining of raw maize, product formulation, extrusion cooking and addition of flavourings were responsible to different degrees. Likewise zinc intake could be affected. The other mineral that could be affected would be calcium; however, Braham and Bressani (1966) and Poneros and Erdman (1988) showed that calcium is relatively well available from tortillas and that its availability is increased when the protein quality is improved through addition of the limiting amino acids. An excess of calcium rather than dietary fibre could be responsible for zinc availability, as has been indicated in a number of studies.
Protein quality of maize and nutrient bioavailability
Growing rats retained calcium from tortillas better when it was supplemented with lysine its limiting amino acid, and with a mixture of amino acids. Protein quality is an important factor in bioavailability of nutrients from maize and its lime-treated products. As already stated, niacin availability also improves when protein quality is improved, and studies with QPM have shown better utilization of niacin. The same observation has been made on the utilization of carotene, which is higher in Iysine-supplemented yellow maize than in the unsupplemented product.
Changes in quality. Changes in nutritional value, particularly that of protein, during the transition from raw maize to tortillas have been studied mainly in animals. Even though chemical losses in some nutrients take place upon limecooking of maize, protein quality is slightly but consistently better in tortillas than in raw maize. Table 22 summarizes the results of various studies where raw maize and the tortillas made from it have been evaluated. The protein efficiency ratio of the tortillas is in general somewhat higher than that of the raw maize, although some studies have reported otherwise. The difference may be attributed to processing conditions, particularly the concentration of lime added, which is lower in rural home cooking than at the industrial level. The chemically determined amino acid pattern of the tortillas is no better than the pattern in raw maize. The only explanation is that the process increases the availability of key amino acids. This is indicated by the results of feeding studies with young rats (Bressani, Elías and graham, 1968). Both raw maize and the lime-cooked dough were supplemented with increasing levels of lysine alone (from 0 to 0.47 percent of the diet). Maximum PER for maize was obtained with an addition of 0.31 percent and for the lime-cooked dough with 0.16 percent. At all levels of supplemental lysine the dough gave higher PER values than the raw maize.
Tryptophan supplementation alone was also tested, and in this case 0.025 percent addition gave the highest PER for maize, with no response for the dough. The addition of the two amino acids at the level of 0.41 percent lysine with tryptophan varying from 0.05 to 0.15 percent improved the quality of both materials, although it was higher for the dough.
TABLE 22 - Protein quality of maize and tortillas
Type of maize
Protein quality (PER)
  Raw maize Tortillas Casein
Common 1.13 ± 0.26 1.27 ± 0.27  
Common 1.49 ± 0.23 1.55 ± 0.23 2.88 ± 0.20
QPM (Opaque-2) 2.79 ± 0.24 2.66 ± 0.14 2.88 ± 0.20
Common 1.38 1.13 2.50
Common Tropical 0.99 ± 0.25 1.41 ± 0.11 2.63 ± 0.17
Common Highland Xetzoc 0.96 ± 0.19 1.41 ± 0.20 2.63 ± 0.17
Common Highland Azotea 1.02 ± 0.19 1.41 ± 0.17 2.63 ± 0.17
Common Highland Sta. Apolonia 0.71 ± 0.20 0.98 ± 0.17 2.63 ± 0.17
QPM Nutricta 1.91 ± 0.23 2.12 ± 0.12 2.63 ± 0.17
Biological value of common maize 59.5 59.1 69.4
Net protein utilization of common maize 51.2 49.4 64.5
These results were interpreted to mean that the quality of lime-treated maize is superior to that of raw maize. This explanation is supported by in vitro studies showing a greater release of essential amino acids (EAA) from tortillas than from maize, even though Ortega, Villegas and Vasal (1986) reported in vitro protein digestibility in maize, dough and tortillas to be 88, 91 and 79 percent respectively. For QPM the respective values were 82, 80 and 68 percent. Recently, Serna-Saldivar et al. (1987) reported on dry matter, gross energy and nitrogen digestibilities of maize cooked with and without lime. No differences in dry matter or gross energy digestibility values were found between the different processing treatments. Cooking maize with lime, however, reduced nitrogen digestibility from 76.5 to 72.8 percent. These values were measured near the end of the small intestine in pigs. Values for dry matter, gross energy and nitrogen digestibility increased when measured over the pigs' total digestive tract. From nitrogen balance studies, the same authors reported a retention of intake nitrogen of 45.8 percent for maize cooked without lime and 41.2 percent for lime-cooked maize. Retention of absorbed nitrogen was 48.2 percent for the lime-cooked maize and 52.9 percent for the maize cooked with water alone. Digestible and metabolizable energy were similar in maize processed with and without lime. The authors concluded that the lime-cooking process decreased the nutritive value of maize.
In another study by Serna-Saldivar et al. (1988b), this time conducted with rats, the authors noted an increase in percentage of dry matter and gross energy digestibilities from maize to nixtamal (dough) and to tortillas; however, protein digestibility decreased. In vitro studies correlated with in vivo values. graham, Bressani and Guzmán (1966) showed better weight gain in DurocJersey pigs fed lime-treated maize than in those fed raw maize, with better feed efficiency. In studies with dogs, lysine and tryptophan added to lime-cooked maize improved nitrogen balance to the value obtained with skim milk (Bressani and de Villareal, 1963; Bressani and Marenco, 1963). It was further shown that after these two amino acids, isoleucine, threonine, methionine and valine increased nitrogen retention above values measured with lysine and tryptophan. Lime-treated maize has also been evaluated in children (see Chapter 6). Nitrogen balance results have shown a high response to lysine and tryptophan addition, which in turn is dependent on the level of protein intake. At low levels, only lysine improved quality, but as nitrogen intake increased, the addition of tryptophan with lysine became important. All studies suggest that in limetreated maize, lysine is slightly more deficient than tryptophan, and the contrary seems to be the case for raw maize. Nevertheless, for a significant improvement in protein nutritional quality of lime-treated maize, both of these amino acids are required.
Use of QPM. Nutritionally improved (QPM) maize shows the same changes in protein quality and bioavailability after lime-cooking and conversion to tortillas as observed in normal maize. The difference is that QPM tortillas and products are nutritionally superior to those made from common maize. They are as acceptable to consumers.
Other effects of lime-cooking
Lysinoalanine formation. In 1969, De Groot and Slump demonstrated that alkali treatment of proteins gave rise to peptides such as Iysinoalanine (LAL), lanthionine and ornithine which had negative effects on animals. They were not biologically available and had detrimental effects on protein quality. Consequently, the effect of the alkaline-cooking process to convert maize into tortillas has received attention from various researchers. Sternberg, Kim and Schwende (1975) reported that commercial samples of masa flour, tortillas and taco shells contained 480,200 and 170 µg LAL per gram. Sanderson et al. (1978) also found that lanthionine and omithine were formed during alkaline cooking of maize. These authors found no LAL in common or in high-lysine raw maize; however, these products contained 0.059 and 0.049 g percent protein respectively after alkali treatment. A commercial masa contained 0.020 percent, and tortillas 0.081 percent protein. These authors also reported lanthionine and ornithine values in the masa prepared from the two types of maize. Chu, Pellet and Nawar (1976) reported values of 133.2 µg of LAL per gram protein when maize was processed with 4.1 mol per kg of lime for 30 minutes at 170°F (76.6°C). The use of sodium hydroxide under equal conditions yielded higher levels of LAL. Since higher levels of LAL were obtained with NaOH and KOH, the authors suggested that calcium ions may in some way interfere with the mechanism of LAL formation. It is difficult to evaluate the significance of LAL formation during tortilla-making for people who eat relatively large amounts of this food daily. Since this has been practiced for a long time, the small amounts may not interfere with nutritive value or cause any pathological effects. Studies on the effect of lime level on the protein quality of maize have shown, however, that levels above 0.5 percent of grain weight reduce protein quality. The type of maize used and its size are of importance in this respect. Softer types of grains are more affected than hard grains cooked under similar conditions (Bressani et al., unpublished data).
Mycotoxins and alkaline-cooking of maize. The presence of mycotoxins in a variety of cereal grains and other foods and foodstuffs widely recognized, and maize is no exception. In Central America, where maize is such an important food, the grain is harvested twice a year in the tropical areas. One harvest is in August, when rain and temperature conditions are ideal for the growth of fungi. Martínez et al. (1970b) reported the presence of six different fungi in maize samples obtained from different markets throughout Guatemala. The frequency of Aspergillus versicolor was 57.1 percent; of Aspergillus wentii, 32.1 percent; of Aspergillus ruber, 26.8 percent; of Aspergillus echinulatus, 25.0 percent; of Aspergillus flavus, 25.0 percent; and of Chaedosporium spp., 26.8 percent.
Because of the significance of the presence of mycotoxins in cereal grains, a number of studies have been conducted to assess the degree of retention of mycotoxins during grain processing. The effect of calcium hydroxide cooking of maize has received some attention. Martínez-Herrera (1968) fed infected maize, raw and alkali-processed, to chickens and rats. The maize was infected with Fusarium sp., Penicillium spp., Aspergillus niger and A. flavus. The author found high mortality among birds fed on the raw infected maize, but none in the group of chickens fed the same maize processed with calcium hydroxide. In young rats, the raw and infected grain reduced weight gain and caused some mortality. Infected grain processed with lime induced no mortality, however, and weight gain as well as feed efficiency were like those in the control. Adult rats were also affected by the infected maize, but not by infected maize processed with lime. The study did not report levels of mycotoxins before and after processing.
Martinez (1979) reported on studies of tortilla samples collected in Mexico City in different seasons. He found that 15 to 20 percent of the samples collected in spring 1978 and in the rainy season of 1977-1978 contained aflatoxins. Furthermore, he found that concentrations of aflatoxins B1 varied from 50 to 200 ppb. He also indicated that lime-cooking of maize reduced aflatoxin concentrations by 50 to 75 percent. Martínez and also de Campos, Crespo-Santos and Olszyna-Marzys (1980) reported that lime concentrations of up to 10 percent were no more effective in reducing aflatoxins than a 2 percent concentration.
Ulloa-Sosa and Schroeder (1969) reported that the tortilla-making process was not effective in removing aflatoxins from contaminated maize. Nevertheless, others have obtained different results. For example, SolorzanoMendizabal (1985) found that maize inoculated with A. flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus produced high levels of aflatoxins which were reduced by lime-cooking, completely in some cases, but most often by up to 80 percent. Lime concentration varied from 0.6 to 8 percent, and analyses were done on maize, masa, tortillas and cooking waters. In another study, de Arriola et al. (1987, 1988), using QPM Nutricta, found that the lime levels at which nixtamal is normally prepared in Guatemala do not reduce aflatoxin in contaminated grain sufficiently to make it safe for human consumption.
Lime levels of 2 percent and above gave high aflatoxin reduction, but the tortillas were not acceptable. Aflatoxin B1 was reported to be reduced the most. Torreblanca, Bourges and Morales (1987) found relatively high aflatoxin levels in both maize and tortillas in a study conducted in Mexico City. Aflatoxin B1 was found in 72 percent of the maize tortilla samples tested; furthermore, 24 percent of the samples gave positive reactions for zearalenone. Carvajal et al. (1987) found mycotoxins in maize and tortillas in Mexican samples and indicated that aflatoxins, zearalenone and deoxynivalenol (DON) were not destroyed by the lime treatment or by temperatures of 110°C.
Price and Jorgensen (1985) found that the alkaline cooking process reduced aflatoxin levels from 127 µg per kg in raw maize to 68.6 µg per kg in tortillas. The authors concluded that the process was poorly effective, since the lower value obtained was still much above the value established as acceptable (about 20 mg per kg). These authors found that acidification - as it occurs in the intestinal tract - increased aflatoxin levels. Abbas et al. (1988) reported on the effect of 2 percent lime-cooking of maize on the decomposition of zearalenone and DON. They found significant reductions, i.e. 58 to 100 percent for zearalenone and 72 to 82 percent for DON. Furthermore, 15-acetyl-DON was completely destroyed.
Results obtained by various authors are somewhat conflicting, since some of them report partial reduction in some mycotoxins while others note total reduction. In many studies the mycotoxin levels were relatively high, necessitating stronger processing conditions in terms of lime concentration and cooking time. The problem warrants further study. Grain quality is probably the best means of ensuring the absence of mycotoxins rather than dependence on lime to reduce them partly or eliminate them in the final product.
Microbiological aspects of tortillas and tortilla flour. Studies on the microflora in lime-cooked maize tortillas are very limited. Capparelli and Mata (1975) showed that the main contaminants of tortillas as made in the highlands of Guatemala were coliforms, Bacillus cereus, two Staphylococcus species and many types of yeasts. When tortillas are first cooked, bacterial counts are about 103 or fewer organisms per gram, which is a safe level for consumption. After they are cooked for about five minutes on a hotplate they are placed hot in a basket, often covered with a cloth. This captures the vapour from the tortillas, creating an environment appropriate for microbial growth. After some ten hours under these conditions the surfaces of stacked tortillas become slimy and they are not acceptable for consumption.
Although there are many opportunities in rural areas for contamination during processing from maize to tortillas, the factors that possibly contribute the most are the water used during conversion of cooked maize to dough and the mill used to grind the cooked maize. Molina, Baten and Bressani (1978) reported a greater increase in bacteria counts in tortillas fortified with soybean flour and vitamins than in unfortified tortillas. In this case the mill used to grind the cooked maize to make the dough was chlorinated, which helped in lowering the bacteria count in the soy-supplemented maize. The tortillas made from it also had a lower bacteria count. The rate of increase in bacterial number decreased as well. Higher bacteria counts were reported by Valverde et al. (1983) in the cough and tortillas made from QPM Nutricta than in those from common maize, showing the effect of nutritional quality on bacterial growth.
The relatively high moisture content which is responsible for a very short shelf-life has limited marketing of tortillas. Nevertheless, there is a demand for them in urban areas, where they are marketed under refrigerated conditions. A number of attempts have been made to lengthen their shelf life. Rubio (1972a, 1972b, 1973, 1974a, 1974b, 1975) patented a number of methods which included various additives: epichlorohydrin and polycarboxylic acid and their anhydrides; hydrophilic inorganic gels; sorbic acid and its salts as well as the methyl, ethyl, butyl and propyl esters of para-hydroxy benzoic acid; and acetic and propionic acids. Pelaez and Karel (1980) developed an intermediatemoisture tortilla with a stable shelf-life. It was free from microbial growth, including Staphylococcus aureus, yeasts, moulds and enterotoxin. This was achieved through the use of glycerol, corn solids DE-42 and salt, as well as the mycostatic agent potassium sorbate. Protection with appropriate packaging was claimed for at least 30 days and the appearance, texture and other characteristics were similar to those of regular tortillas with a water activity of 0.97. Hickey, Stephens and Flowers (1982) reported relatively good protection of tortillas with low levels of sorbates or propionates added to the dough, and with a spray of sorbate on the surface (both sides) after cooking on the hot plate. More recently, Islam, Lirio and Delvalle (1984) claimed that using calcium propionate extended the shelf-life of tortillas at room temperature to 2 to 5 days; with dimethyl fumarate shelf-life was 2 to 11 days under the same storage conditions and using polythene bags. Although advances have been made in extending shelf-life, it still constitutes a problem for people who buy food in supermarkets.
Reports on the microbiology of tortilla flour and the tortillas made from it are not available. Lower total bacteria counts would be expected, however, because of the process employed to prepare the flour and use it at home.
Chemical changes
The process of fermenting maize, sorghum, millet or rice to produce ogi not only removes parts of the maize kernel such as the seed-coat and the germ, but also involves washing, sieving and decanting, all of which induce changes in the chemical composition and nutritive value of the final product. Akinrele (1970) reported on specific nutrients of a number of ogi samples produced in different ways: unfermented and fermented with Aerobacter cloacae, Lactobacillus plantarum and a mixture of the two bacteria. He compared the values found with those from the traditionally fermented product. Judging from the ratio of amino nitrogen to total nitrogen, the author reported that protein was degraded to a very small amount by any bacterial species. When compared with the unfermented ogi, A. cloacae appeared to synthesize more riboflavin and niacin, which did not take place with L. plantarum. Traditionally produced ogi had more thiamine and slightly lower values of riboflavin and niacin than that made with maize and A. cloacae. In any case the changes were small, and smaller if compared with whole maize, whereas in comparison with degermed maize, the ogi products contained more riboflavin and niacin. Akinrele (1970) and Banigo and Muller (1972) reported on the carboxylic acids in ogi and found lactic acid in greatest concentration (0.55 percent) followed by acetic acid (0.09 percent) and smaller amounts of butyric acid. The latter investigators suggested levels of 0.65 percent for lactic acid and 0.11 percent for acetic acid, responsible for the sour taste, as goals for flavour evaluations. Banigo, de Man and Duitschaever (1974) reported on the proximate composition of ogi made from common whole maize which was uncooked and freeze-dried or cooked and freeze-dried after fermentation. Changes were relatively small in all major nutrients, with a slight increase in fibre and a decrease in ash content when compared with whole maize.
These authors also reported on amino acid content; they found no differences between maize flour and ogi for all amino acids including the essential ones. The ogi samples, however, had about twice the amount of serine and somewhat higher values for glutamic acid. Adeniji and Potter (1978) reported that ogi processing did not decrease the protein content of maize, but total and available lysine were significantly reduced. On the other hand, tryptophan levels were more stable and in two samples increased, probably because of fermentation. These authors also found an increase in neutral detergent fibre and ash but no change in lignin. Akingbala et al. (1987) found a decrease in protein, ether extract, ash and crude fibre in ogi as compared with maize that was processed as a whole grain or dry milled.
Nutritional changes
Nutritional evaluations of ogi and other maize-fermented products are not readily available. Adeniji and Potter (1978) found a substantial decrease in protein quality of drum-dried common maize ogi, which they ascribed to the drying process. These same authors reported significant losses in lysine Several authors have more recently tested maize and sorghum and reported that fermentation improved the nutritional quality of the product. Akinrele and Bassir (1967) found net protein utilization, protein efficiency ratio and biological value of ogi inferior to those values in whole maize, even though some increase in thiamine and niacin was obtained. It has been indicated that some of the micro-organisms responsible for ogi fermentation, such as Enterobacter cloacae and L. plantarum, use some of the amino acids for growth. This together with the elimination of the germ from kernels explains the very low protein quality of ogi and similarly produced maize products. However, there are some exceptions, such as kenkey and pozol, both products in which the maize is fermented with the germ. Although protein quality values are not available for kenkey, Cravioto et al. (1955) found higher levels of tryptophan and available lysine which suggested higher protein quality than in raw maize or lime-treated maize. More recently, Bressani (unpublished) found the fermented product to be higher in protein quality than raw maize, but not different in quality from lime-cooked dough.
Use of QPM
Adeniji and Potter (1978) used high quality protein maize to make ogi and found similar results to those from common maize, except that the protein quality was higher (although lower than that of the original raw maize). Pozol made from QPM has significantly higher protein quality than raw QPM (Bressani, unpublished data).


Chemical changes
Arepa flour is made in a dry milling process which removes the pericarp and the germ from maize. Therefore, arepa flour may be expected to differ from whole maize flour, and this was in fact reported by Cuevas et al. (1985). The protein, ether extract, fibre and ash content of arepa flour from both white and yellow maize were lower than in whole maize. The same is true for thiamine, riboflavin and niacin as well as for calcium, phosphorus and iron. These changes evidently result from the removal of the germ and seed-coat.
Nutritive value
Arepa flour has been subjected to biological assay for protein quality by Chavez (1972a). He reported a decrease of about 50 percent in protein quality from maize (0.74) to arepa (0.33), although there was some increase in protein digestibility.
Use of QPM
High protein quality maize has been used to make arepas. Chavez (1972b) found the process to reduce nitrogen, lysine and tryptophan, thiamine and niacin and attributed this to germ removal. Protein quality was also significantly less than in whole maize, but was nonetheless superior to that of maize and arepas from normal maize. All products - tortillas, ogi, pozol, kenkey and arepas made from QPM are of better protein quality and energy value than the products made from common maize.

Other dry milling products

Chemical changes
The main maize products for food use derived from dry milling include flaking grits, coarse or fine grits, maize cones and maize flour. They are products from which the pericarp and germ have been eliminated and they differ from each other in granulation, with flaking grits having the largest particle size and flour the smallest. Basically, their chemical compositions based on food composition data are very similar.
Nutritive value
The protein quality of these products, as with most dry-milled maize products, is inferior to that of the original whole grain. If there are any changes, these come about from the processes used to turn such products into the different forms in which they are consumed. For example, the protein digestibility of maize meal was reported by Wolzak, Bressani and Gómez-Brenes (1981) to be 86.5 percent and that of corn flakes 72.0 percent. A significant diminution of protein quality also takes place since available lysine decreases.
QPM products
Studies on dry milling of QPM, particularly the hard-endosperm types, are not readily available. Wichser (1966) found yields of 8.8 percent grits from milled QPM, while the yield of grits from maize hybrids was about 17 percent. The yields of meal and flour were essentially the same from QPM and hybrid maize. However, the fat, protein, fibre and ash contents in QPM grits, breakfast cereal and flour were higher than those in similar products from hybrid maize.
Not much information on the nutritional value of QPM dry-milled products is available; however, Wichser (1966) showed the endosperm of QPM to have a net protein ratio (NPR) of 76 percent of the value of casein (100 percent), while the endosperm from hybrid maize had an NPR of 47 percent of the value of casein. These results are very similar to those for maize flour made for arepa production from QPM and common maize as shown by Chavez (1972a).

Chapter 6 - Comparison of nutritive value of common maize and quality protein maize

Consumption of maize

Maize in its different processed forms is an important food for large numbers of people in the developing world, providing significant amounts of nutrients, in particular calories and protein. Its nutritional quality is particularly important for small children. Table 23 shows the consumption of maize as tortillas or lime-treated maize by children in Guatemala. Amounts varied from 64 to 120 g per day, providing about 30 percent of the daily protein intake and close to 40 percent of the daily energy intake. Garcia and Urrutia (1978) reported an intake of 226 g of tortillas by weaned three-year-old children, providing about 47 percent of their calories.
Although these findings are not basically bad, adequate supplementary foods are often not provided or are given only in insignificant amounts. Food legumes are the most readily available supplementary food in developing countries; however, the amounts are generally very small (Flores, Bressani and Elías, 1973). The average intake of beans per age group for the six countries in Central America was 7, 12, 21 and 27 g per child per day at 1, 2, 3 and 4/5 years, respectively. On the basis of 22 percent crude protein in beans, the amounts of protein provided by this food were 1.5, 2.6, 4.6 and 5.9 g, respectively; however, amounts of digestible protein on the basis of a true digestibility of 70 percent were only 1.0,1.8,3.2 and 4.1 g. Thus beans provided about 14, 18, 22 and 30 percent of the dietary protein in the total intake from maize and beans. These amounts and their supplementary effects were very small, particularly for the one- and two-year-old children.
TABLE 23 - Maize consumption and its contribution to daily calorie and protein intake of children in a rural area of Guatemala
Age (years) Maize intake (g/day)
Protein intake
Calorie intake
    Maize (g/day) Total (g/day) Percent of total from maize Maize (cal/day) Total (cal/day) Percent of total from maize
1-2 64 5.4 20.0 27 231 699 33
2-3 86 7.3 21.7 34 310 787 39
34 120 10.2 27.9 36 433 981 44
4-5 89 7.6 23.3 33 321 819 39
Source: M. Flores (cited in Bressani. 1972)
Data for 1979-1981 from FAO (1984) showed that 22 of 145 countries had a maize consumption of more than 100 g per person per day as indicated in Table 24, which also gives the calories and protein that maize provides. It should be pointed out, however, that 1960-1962 figures from FAO food balance sheets (FAO, 1966) were higher for some countries than the 19791981 figures. The figures confirm the importance of maize as a staple food in some Latin American countries, particularly Mexico and Central America, as well as in some African countries. It follows that if the maize intake is high, maize contributes significant amounts of calories and protein to the daily intake of people in these countries.
Table 25 summarizes maize intake, calories per day and protein per day among the rural and urban populations of the six countries of Central America. Two general trends are evident. The first is that maize intake decreases from north to south. The cereal grain that replaces it is rice. The second trend is that intake of maize is higher in rural than in urban areas. In at least three countries maize makes up the greatest proportion of all the ingested food in the rural sector and is therefore an important source of nutrients in the diet. The table shows that maize provides up to 45 and 59 percent of the daily intake of calories and protein respectively.
TABLE 24 - Maize intake and its calorie and protein contribution to the daily diet
Country Intake (g/person/day) Calories (per person/day) Protein (g/person/day)
Benin 160.5 481 12.7
Botswana 209.3 665 17.5
Cape Verde 334.1 1 052 28.0
Egypt 149.7 508 13.4
El Salvador* 245.0 871 23.3
Guatemala 276.2 977 15.4
Honduras 255.9 878 22.8
Kenya 286.1 808 21.3
Lesotho 315.4 1002 26.4
Malawi 468.8 1422 37.6
Mexico 328.9 1061 27.1
Nepal 116.4 379 9.4
Nicaragua' 131.0 472 11.1
Paraguay 131.2 445 11.6
Philippines 152.1 399 8.7
Romania 128.6 373 8.6
Singapore 122.2 345 8.6
South Atrica, Rep. 314.7 961 24.6
Swaziland 381.4 1279 33.7
Tanzania, United Rep. 129.1 421 10.0
Togo 136.9 411 10.8
Venezuela 118.3 339 7.4
Zambia 418.6 1226 31.3
Zimbabwe 330.9 958 25.2
Sources: FAO, 1984; *FAO, 1966
TABLE 25 - Importance of maize consumption in rural areas
Country Urban maize intake (g/day) Rural maize intake (g/day)
Rural calorie intake (per day)
Rural protein intake (g/day)
      From maize Total From maize Total
Guatemala 102 318 1 148 1 994 27.0 60
Et Salvador 166 352 1 271 2 146 29.9 68
Honduras 135 225 812 1 832 19.1 58
Nicaragua 56 131 472 1 986 11.1 64
Costa Rica 14 41 148 1 894 3.5 54
Panama 4 4 14 2 089 0.3 60
Source: INCAP, Guatemala, 1969
Although this information was compiled from dietary surveys conducted in 1969, figures have not changed significantly in recent years. For example, in 1976 average consumption in El Salvador varied from 146 to 321 g per person per day; in Honduras in 1983 consumption in different regions varied from 1 1 1 to 246 g per person per day; and in Costa Rica in 1986, intake varied from 14 to 31 g per person per day. Chavez (1973) indicated that about 45 percent of the national calorie intake is provided by maize in Mexico. In poor rural areas men may consume about 600 g of maize and women about 400 g. On this basis the importance of the nutritional quality of maize is obviously great. Although all nutrients are of interest, the quality of protein has received more attention from researchers.

Common maize

Protein quality for children
The protein quality of maize evaluated for children recovering from protein energy malnutrition has been reported by various researchers. Table 26 shows the results when lime-cooked maize was supplemented with maize gluten to obtain a product with higher protein content and to facilitate higher protein intakes with lower intakes of solids. The amino acid deficiencies in maize protein were thus magnified and this facilitated their detection using the nitrogen balance technique (Scrimshaw et al., 1958; Bressani et al., 1958, 1963). The results showed decreasing nitrogen retention as nitrogen intake decreased, which was to be expected; however, even at a high nitrogen intake of 469 mg per kg body weight per day, retention was significantly lower than nitrogen retention from milk given in amounts providing the same level of protein. Apparent protein digestibility indicated as nitrogen availability was fairly similar for different nitrogen intakes, varying from 72 to 78 percent. Table 27 refers to nitrogen balance studies in children fed water-cooked maize. Nitrogen retention from maize was significantly lower than from milk at the same level of protein intake. Protein digestibility was 80 percent for milk and 75 percent for maize (Viteri, Martínez and Bressani, 1972). Similar data were obtained with cooked maize endosperm and whole normal maize (Graham, Placko and MacLean, 1980), as shown in Table 28. In this case nitrogen balance was lower for common maize endosperm than for the whole kernel and lower than the results from the reference protein, casein. Graham et al. (1980) calculated that in order to match nitrogen retention from casein, the children would have to obtain 203.9 percent of their energy requirements from maize, which is obviously impossible.
TABLE 26 - Nitrogen balance in children ted lime-treated maize as the sole protein source
Protein intake (g/kg/day)
Nitrogen (mg/kg/day)
% of intake
  Intake Absorbed Retained Absorbed Retained
3 470 339 9 72 2
  (435 to 479) (327 to 369) (-8 to 174) (61 to 77) (-2 to 36)
2 331 260 22 78 7
  (308 to 367) (207 to 284) (-41 to 59) (65 to 82) (-13 to 17)
1.5 238 180 -11 76 -4
  (235 to 241) (168 to 193) (-22 to -2) (70 to 82) (-9 to -1)
Note: Diet consisted of 95% lime-treated maize and 5% maize gluten
Source: Viteri, Martínez and Bressani, 1972
TABLE 27 - Nitrogen balance In children fed common maize and milk
Food Intake (g/kg/day) Protein intake (g/kg/day) Nitrogen absorbed (mg/kg/day) Nitrogen retained (mg/kg/day) % N intake absorbed % N intake retained
Milk 195 1.25 157 75 80 38
  (175-210)   (114-181) (40-106) (61-47) (22-50)
Common maize 192 1.25 144 30 75 16
  (183-198)   (129-157) (10-59) (66-20) (5-30)
Note: Average values. with dispersion in parentheses
Source: Viteri, Martinez and Bressani, 1972
TABLE 28 - Nitrogen balance in children fed whole common maize kernels and maize endosperm flour
Food fed Nitrogen absorbed (% of intake) Nitrogen retained (% of intake)
Endosperm 64.1 ± 11.4 15.1 ± 8.9
Casein 81.8 ± 5.2 37.0 ± 14.2
Whole kernel 73.1 ± 1.9 26.8 ± 4.6
Casein 83.5 ± 2.5 39.6 ± 9.1
Source: Graham. Placko and MacLean, 1980
As was discussed earlier, germ proteins do contribute significantly to essential amino acids (EAA), so maize food products without the germ, including QPM endosperm, are always lower in protein quality than the whole kernel. Similarly, maize with a high zein content is of a lower quality than maize with lower prolamine content, because of a higher relative lysine deficiency and a higher imbalance of essential amino acids such as leucine relative to isoleucine.
TABLE 29 - Effects on nitrogen retention of additions of lysine tryptophan and methionine to lime-treated maize (nitrogen values in mg/kg/day)
Diet Nitrogen intake Faecal nitrogen Urinary nitrogen Nitrogen absorbed Nitrogen retained
Basal (B) 461 117 334 344 10
B + tryptophan 457 115 289 342 53
B + tryptophan + lysine 464 135 243 329 86
B + tryptophan + lysine + methionine 459 135 272 324 52
Note: Amino acids used: DL-tryptophan: 0.34%, L-lysine/HCl: 0.56%, DL-methionine: 0.34%
Source: Scrimshaw et al., 1958
Amino acid supplementation
It is widely accepted that maize proteins are deficient in both lysine and tryptophan, as documented from studies with animals. In tests with children, however, the EAA contents of lime-treated maize supplemented with 5 percent maize gluten to raise the protein content (Scrimshaw et al., 1958; Bressani et al., 1958, 1963) were compared with the amino acid contents of the 1957 FAO reference protein. This comparison suggested the following order of amino acid deficiency: tryptophan, lysine methionine, valine, isoleucine and threonine. It also suggested the amounts of amino acids needed to reach the reference level. Representative results from two children fed 3 g of protein per kg body weight per day are shown in Table 29. There was an apparent response to the addition of 148 mg DL-tryptophan per g N which was much improved by the simultaneous addition of tryptophan and lysine the latter in the amount of 243 mg per g N. Addition of methionine decreased nitrogen retention.
TABLE 30 - Response to lysine and tryptophan added alone (nitrogen values in mg/kg/day)
Diet Nitrogen intake Faecal nitrogen Urinary nitrogen Nitrogen absorbed Nitrogen retained
Subject No.1          
Milk 586 93 320 393 73
Basal (B) 474 185 349 289 -60
B + tryptophan 474 108 352 366 14
B 479 111 346 368 22
B + lysine 482 120 324 362 38
Subject No. 2          
Milk 392 45 295 347 52
Basal (B) 320 56 273 264 -9
B + lysine 335 54 257 285 24
8 346 63 287 283 -4
B + tryptophan 337 52 308 285 -23
Note: Levels added to give 75-90 mg tryptophan/g N and 180-270 mg L-lysine HCl/g N
Source: Bressani et al., 1958
In other studies, nitrogen balance tests were carried out to learn about the response previously obtained by tryptophan addition alone. The results from two subjects (Table 30) clearly show that tryptophan had no effect on improving protein quality. The addition of lysine on the contrary, appeared to give a response, suggesting lysine to be more limiting than tryptophan.
Similar studies were carried out by feeding children 2 g of protein per kg body weight per day. The results in two children are summarized in Table 31. Tryptophan addition did not induce a positive nitrogen retention, but the addition of tryptophan and lysine with and without isoleucine improved nitrogen balance. Methionine addition decreased retention of nitrogen, as previously demonstrated.
TABLE 31 - Effects on nitrogen retention of additions of lysine tryptophan, isoleucine and methionine to lime-treated maize (nitrogen values in mg/kg/day)
Diet Nitrogen intake Faecal nitrogen Urinary nitrogen Nitrogen absorbed Nitrogen retained
Basal (B) 320 68 270 252 -18
B + tryptophan 320 91 241 229 ·12
B + tryptophan + lysine 321 105 201 216 15
B + tryptophan + lysine + isoleucine 321 90 207 231 24
B + tryptophan + lysine + isoleucine + methionine 314 84 217 230 13
B 319 98 242 221 -21
Note: Amino acid levels added: DL-isoleucine 0.45%; other amino acids added in amounts shown in Table 29
Source: Bressani et al., 1958
Nitrogen balance tests were performed with protein intake of 1.5 g per kg body weight per day. The results for one child are shown in Table 32. Although lysine addition did not induce a positive balance, it did tend to cause a decrease in nitrogen losses. The improvement from lysine and tryptophan, with and without isoleucine, is evident. The addition of methionine, even at this level of protein intake, decreased the nitrogen balance as previously indicated for higher intakes of protein.
Because of the consistency of the results, the data obtained for different protein levels under the various dietary treatments were pooled. The results are shown in Table 33. There was a response to tryptophan addition only at the highest level of dietary protein, but the response to lysine was consistent at all protein intake levels, suggesting that this amino acid is more deficient than tryptophan. The response to addition of lysine alone, however, was small and without much nutritional significance, which implies the need to add both amino acids at the same time, as can be done with supplementary foods.
TABLE 32 - Effects of amino acid supplementation of maize at intakes of 1.5 9 protein per kg body weight per day (nitrogen values in mg/kg/day)
Treatment Nitrogen intake Faecal nitrogen Urinary nitrogen Nitrogen absorbed Nitrogen retained
Basal (B) 241 71 187 170 -17
B + lysinea 239 59 184 180 -4
B + lysineb 239 48 193 191 -2
B + lysine + tryptophan 239 47 162 192 -30
B + lysine + tryptophan + isoleucine 240 44 150 196 46
N + lysine + tryptophan + isoleucine + methionine 240 55 162 185 23
B 235 45 193 190 -3
a0.56% L-lysine HCl
b0.30% L-lysine HCl
Other amino acids added in the amounts shown in Table 29
Source: Bressani et al., 1958
A nitrogen intake level of 239 mg per kg body weight per day is equivalent to 20 g of maize per kg per day, or about the 200 g of maize normally ingested by children. Supplementation with lysine alone would have little effect. When tryptophan is also added, however, the nitrogen retention is significantly higher and even surpasses that of milk at the highest level of dietary protein. The overall conclusion that can be reached from the results obtained by amino acid supplementation of maize is that both lysine and tryptophan must be added to obtain a significant response in protein quality as measured by nitrogen retention. It also appears that the two amino acids are equally limiting in spite of the fact that the addition of lysine alone tended to improve protein quality slightly, while the results from the addition of tryptophan were inconsistent.
The effect of methionine deserves further comment. It was attributed to an amino acid imbalance, because maize already contains enough of this amino acid to meet nutritional requirements.
TABLE 33 - Nitrogen balance in children fed lime-treated maize at various levels of protein intake with and without amino acid supplementation
The results shown in Table 34 indicate that valine also decreases nitrogen retention and that its effect can be reversed by the addition of isoleucine and threonine. A more detailed study in dogs led to the conclusion that there is also a close interrelationship among all four of these amino acids methionine, valine, isoleucine and threonine - as supplements to maize proteins (Bressani, 1962,1963).
It is a point of major importance that children are so sensitive to small changes in amino acid proportions that they are readily detectable in a short period by testing the nitrogen balance. The data presented here emphasize the importance of establishing a proper balance among the essential amino acids if a maximum retention of nitrogen is to be obtained. This is the principle of amino acid supplementation. The results obtained on the amino acid supplementation of maize confirm data derived from studies with rats, pigs and other animals. Results of studies on adult human subjects are shown in the next section.
TABLE 34 - Effect of multiple amino acid supplementation of maize (nitrogen values in mg/kg/day)
Diet Nitrogen intake Faecal nitrogen Urinary nitrogen Nitrogen absorbed Nitrogen retained
Basal (B) 471 117 315 354 39
B + lysine + tryptophan + methionine 451 223 244 228 -16
B + lysine + tryptophan + methionine + valine 454 241 242 213 -29
B + lysine + tryptophan + methionine + valine + isoleucine 460 128 265 332 67
B + lysine + tryptophan + methionine + valine + isoleucine + threonine 447 190 218 257 39
B + lysine + tryptophan + methioninea + valine + isoleucine + threonine 450 129 238 321 83
a0.14% DL-methionine in this diet only, all others 0.34% DL-methionine. DL-valine: 0.90%, DL-threonine: 0.22%.
Other amino acids added in amounts shown in Table 29
Source: Scrimshaw e, al., 1958

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