At Food ingredients Europe (FiE) 2013 in Frankfurt, one of the big trends predicted for 2014 was protein. That was until, of course, sugar hit the headlines in January! However, these two aspects of formulation can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. There are a number of issues with the very well-publicised, and confrontational, sugar debate; namely, […]
At Food ingredients Europe (FiE) 2013 in Frankfurt, one of the big trends predicted for 2014 was protein. That was until, of course, sugar hit the headlines in January!
However, these two aspects of formulation can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. There are a number of issues with the very well-publicised, and confrontational, sugar debate; namely, it is questionable to demonise a single ingredient, since dietary-related health issues are more likely rooted in more multi-dimensional factors such as calorie intake as a whole and lifestyle choice. With this in mind, it is fair to suggest that sugar intake – and fat, for that matter – may indeed be too high. However, it is quite possibly more useful and constructive to suggest that protein and fibre intake are, in fact, too low and need to be increased.
The focus on sugar is in danger of making the same mistake that the fat lobby made 30 years ago. Demonisation of a single ingredient encourages a direct replacement of that single ingredient. Before, fat content and calories were the issue, and in some cases sugar was deemed a suitable alternative as it maintained a high level of palatability; provided adequate structural alternatives; and reduced the calorie content (1g sugar delivers 3.75Kcal compared to the 9Kcal/g gained from fat).
The object of the exercise was therefore successfully met: lower fat, lower calories. However, some years later as science understood more about the role of sugar on health, and obesity increasingly became an issue, the success of the reformulation activity was, and has been, rightly questioned.
The future of dietary-led health and wellbeing must be driven by a more holistic approach to reformulation and development, and protein is an essential building block within that landscape. There has been a lot of work on protein in recent years – hence the rise of many new functional food and drink offerings – and it is these very ingredients that are providing innovative solutions to the headline-grabbing agendas.
A particularly interesting branch of research into proteins centres on their modification into micro-particles in such a way that they behave in a similar way to fats in a food matrix (Chung et al., 2014). The research into micro-particulated proteins by Herriot Watt University is being commercialised by Nandi Proteins, and products are not far from the shelves. With protein being 4Kcal/g, it will provide a suitable fat and calorie reducing option that isn’t sugar, and can contribute to a more holistic and balanced approach to reformulation. Whilst this technology is not strictly new, with Simplesse (also a micro-particulated whey protein) having been available for some years, this continued focus and innovation in protein technology is a positive step.
A particular functionality where protein – namely whey protein – could become an exciting part of the reformulation strategy relates to its purported impact on satiety. However, the nutrition and health claims submission for satiety and weight management was rejected (EFSA ,2010) and more recent studies by Leatherhead Food Research (2013) found that there was still insufficient data available to consider a successful resubmission of this dossier. Despite this, studies are ongoing as it is widely believed that protein has a fundamental role in the feeling of fullness. Leidy et al., (2013) found that a protein-rich breakfast increased satiation and helped control food intake in a population of overweight girls. So, to make intelligent reformulation changes that not only reduce calories, potentially replace fat and sugar, re-balance protein, and in doing so you will reduce the desire to overindulge; this has to be a choice worth considering.