This new product from Nature's Life, Garden Grove, Calif., says it contains 4g of branched chain amino acids per serving to obtain optimal muscle mass.
Amino acids and peptides, long popular in sports products, are gaining ground in energy drinks…and may have even more promising applications.

For example, branched chain amino acids (L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine) are found in products targeting body builders. Two approaches to incorporating these components exemplify the primary options in formulating with many “nutraceuticals.”

In the first case, the desired component itself can be added to a product. Solgar Vitamin and Herb, Leonia, N.J., recently introduced Whey To Go protein powder and notes that it contains free-forms of these amino acids. Similarly, the ingredient list of Life Services Supplements', Neptune, N.J., Muscle Research Labs branded Createc DS-3 separately identifies these components. NOW Foods, Bloomingdale, Ill., takes a second approach by formulating with less refined ingredients that contain the desired compounds. Its Lean Grow protein powder uses protein from “microfiltered whey concentrate, soy isolate, egg white, and milk casein.” These proteins, in turn, provide a “typical amino acid profile” with 1,556mg L-isoleucine, 3,860mg L-leucine and 1,742mg L-valine.

Taurine is another amino acid gaining recognition. It long has been used in the pet food industry—its deficiency in a cat's diet may result in blindness. It is, perhaps, essential for certain other pets, also. Eight In One Pet Products, New York, just introduced a taurine-containing banana- and raisin-flavored, squeezable paste treat for ferrets onto the Dutch market. Lucky ferrets.

Taurine is not essential for humans. However, some feel that during intense physical exertion, the body may require greater amounts. Claims, supported to various extents, include its ability to elevate energy, to increase the rate of protein synthesis and to assist with cell hydration.

Completia Diabetic Multivitamins from Nature's Way, Springville, Utah, and Zybol XP Anabolic Protein Complex from Scitrex, Santa Barbara, Calif., contain taurine and have been introduced within this last year. At 2 lbs. and retailing for about $43.95, Zybol XP is formulated to deliver an initial burst of protein peptides, followed by a controlled release of protein to the bloodstream.

Energy beverages increasingly have incorporated taurine. Big Star from Power Drinks North America (parent company Rivera Trading's, Hialeah, Fl.); Energy from Jones Soda, Seattle, Wash.; Pit Bull from North American Beverage, Anaheim, Calif.; and Arizona RX Extreme from Ferolito Vultaggio & Sons, Lake Success, N.Y., all have been introduced onto the North American market the last few months.

Even as amino acids are edging onto the main stage of the food industry, biologically active peptides are not left behind. Such peptides can be released during gastrointestinal digestion or food processing; processors also are adding them to their products.

For example, a search of Mintel's Global New Products Database produces eight listings of products and lines that contain glutamine peptides, launched or reformulated since January 2001 in North America. Atkins Nutritionals, Hauppauge, N.Y., introduced a new Cappuccino flavor, with these components, to its line of shake mixes for weight control.

Milk-derived peptide ingredients that preliminary research shows are able to reduce hypertension, have been on the U.S. market for several years. Mid-2001, Valio, Helsinki, Finland, introduced Evolus Maitojuoma, a fat-free, low-lactose, pineapple- and peach-flavored soured milk drink containing bioactive peptides that are “clinically proven to lower blood pressure.”

This category of “nutraceuticals” bears close watch.

Sidebar: Great Expectations

As interest in sports products grows, use of certain amino acids, such as arginine that makes muscle-glycogen replenishment more efficient, is also likely to grow.

—Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Colorado Springs,

(Peptides and amino acids)...are an untapped gold mine of opportunity. They can even address such things as hypertension.

—Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D., Sloan Trends & Solutions Inc. at Nutracon 2002,