Pick a Protein
"It is really quite a phenomenon, how much soy research has been conducted," says Mark Messina, PhD, soy expert and president of Nutrition Matters, a nutrition consulting company. Thirteen years ago, when soy research was in its infancy, the first journal to which Messina submitted his cancer/soy research was hesitant to allocate that much space to soy. "Now, when you look at certain nutrition journals, it is not unusual for one fifth of the articles published in any given issue to be about soy or isoflavones," surmises Messina. "Between soy and isoflavone research, there are about 600 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles published annually. Whey or rice protein does not compare to soy in terms of the sheer amount of research conducted. Right now, soy has a health claim, and that differentiates it from the other two."
However, as this article goes to print, the American Heart Association (AHA) committee published findings in the January 2006 edition of the journal Circulation (http://circ.ahajournals.org/) that cast a shadow on previously proven benefits of soy consumption. This may cause the FDA to reconsider soy's heart health claim.
Soy Protein's Claim to FameIt was once believed that the benefits of soy protein included a small reduction in total and LDL blood cholesterol and a slight increase in HDL ("good"?) cholesterol. Even decreasing LDL cholesterol by 4% can reduce coronary heart disease risk over a period of years by as much as 10%. This may still be true, but the AHA committee now suggests that soy may not positively affect HDL in the way previously thought. "For quite some time, soy was definitely the hottest functional food out there," says Messina.
"Soy's relationship to heart disease has had an FDA-approved health claim for several years, but consumer awareness for it is relatively low compared to relationships like calcium for strong bones, "observes Kapsak. "There is a lot more we can be doing to communicate the benefits of soy to consumers. The health claim is a tool for getting the message out there."
In a recent International Food Information Council survey of top 10 food components thought to benefit certain health conditions, consumers did not mention soy in relation to heart disease (when unaided). When aided, 41% and 54% were aware of soy/soy protein for reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, correspondingly.
Soy proteins with isoflavones have also been known to help maintain bone mass, and other evidence suggests a reduction in the number and severity of "hot flashes" ? in some post-menopausal women. The AHA panel also concluded that soy-based foods do not reduce symptoms of menopause.
Last autumn, Walgreens launched EstroNatural Extra Strength Dietary Supplement, shown to reduce hot flashes and night sweats. The product, formulated specifically for women, contains 80mg of purified isoflavones.
To derive many of the benefits of soy likely requires consumption of between 15g to 25g of soy protein per day, which is about two to three servings. The average adult needs approximately 50g of total protein each day to maintain a healthy body, but the average intake is closer to 80g.
Also new in 2005, Zone Perfect All-Natural Nutrition Shakes provide 19g of protein from milk protein isolate and soy protein concentrate. They are available in chocolate royale, mixed berry and creamy vanilla flavors.
Whey Protein: HOOAH!Measuring the ratio of amino acids in protein sources is useful when differentiating between the nutritional qualities of various proteins. Because of its content of essential amino acids, the biological value of whey protein is high compared to that of other dietary proteins.
Whey protein is high in branched-chain amino acids, which the body requires for muscle protein synthesis. As such, whey is useful in energy drinks and bars that provide fuel for exercising. Whey is considered the most easily digested of all the major food proteins, and some studies suggest that whey protein promotes fat loss.
In 2005, several dairy companies emphasized emerging research indicating that diets containing high-quality protein, such as dairy protein, may improve body composition when combined with strength training exercises.
If that is not enough evidence, consider that the U.S. military created the HOOAH! (Army-speak derived from "heard, understood and acknowledged"?) Energy Bar in an effort to "improve the physical and mental performance of U.S. soldiers during sustained operations and under all climatic conditions, "states the D'Andrea Brothers company website. The bars contain soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and rice bran, which altogether allot 10g of proteins for a 65g bar. It is available in apple cinnamon and chocolate crisp flavors.
Researchers from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine found the HOOAH! bar "helps delay the onset of fatigue in a dynamic war game for experiments and in pull-up tests (pre- and post-marching) in the range of 14%-19%. "In addition, the HOOAH! Chocolate Crisp bar was listed on Amazon.com's "Best of 2005" list under "Most Loved Product"? in the health and personal care store, which has 300,000 products.
Throwing Both Rice andâ€¦Rice, a staple nutrition source for 50% of the world's population, has a protein content of 5%-7%, a much lower protein count than other cereals. "Rice protein is interesting because the endosperm protein is hypoallergenic and the bran has low allogenicity," says Gil Bakal, managing director of a leading supplier of rice-based ingredients.
Rice protein is deficient in lysine. "But what is interesting is that rice is high in cysteine and methionine. Therefore, rice proteins contrast really well with bean-based proteins like soy or pea proteins, which tend to be abundant in the lysine, but deficient in the sulfur-containing amino acids," explains Bakal. "For us, it has never been either/or, it's both/and. Rice and beans, together, make a more complete protein. If you balance your proteins, you can deliver more to your customer "more nutritional value and higher amino acid values based on what they want in the product."
Rice proteins typically are used in bars and baked goods. "In terms of functionality, the limiting factor of rice protein is its insolubility in beverages,"? he says. However, it is cost competitive to other protein sources. "Most of the advances will come in making rice protein soluble. Solubility is a big hurdle."
Made with organic rice protein, the chocolate tangerine flavored variety of Betty Lou's All Organic Vegan Bars contains 10g of protein and is low in sodium and free of cholesterol. The new product, which has a gluten-free Nutty Delight flavor, was launched in the summer of 2005.
A Gluten-free TestimonyBy formulating natural unsalted peanut butter, organic pinto beans and whey protein concentrate, Nutballz sweet biscuit cookies (by the company of the same name), has provided a gluten-free bakery product that supplies 8g of protein per 42g serving. Launched in the spring of 2005, Nutballz is available in peanut butter and cinnamon flavors.
"Gluten-free products are one of the fastest-growing segments of demand,"? observes Mary Schluckebier, executive director of the Celiac Sprue Association. Gluten intolerance” known as celiac disease, celiac sprue or celiac entheropathy" is a lifelong sensitivity to different protein fractions in cereal grains. Specific proteins from wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats can instigate this immune-regulated illness.
According to SPINS, an information and service provider for the natural products industry, total U.S. sales of gluten-free products during the previous 52 weeks ending November 5, 2005, increased by $77 million to $683 million, representing a growth rate of 13%.
Last year, David Browne, director of content services at SPINS, made a statement during the FDA's public hearing on gluten-free food labeling by informing the group that U.S. sales of over 2,000 gluten-free products had reached $600 million ($400 million, conventional supermarkets; $200 million, natural supermarkets). Chips and snacks, puddings and desserts, entrées and mixes, cookies, soup, baking mixes and supplies, bread and baked goods, frozen entrées and candy are nine categories that showed activity in volume and quantity, he reported. "In the natural channel, sales are growing for these gluten-free products at 12%. In the conventional channel, they are growing at 17.8%,"? said Browne at the hearing. "Gluten-free products have long been available in natural product supermarkets and over the last several years they [have been] migrating into the conventional channel."
He pointed out that, in most cases, the gluten-free products far exceed the growth of the category as a whole.
Allergy and Infant NutritionToddler Health by SimplyToddler LLC, formulated for children ages 13 months to five years, contains hypoallergenic proteins consisting of pea protein concentrate. Launched in July 2005, the product has 3g of protein and is available as rice-based or oat-based, in chocolate and vanilla flavors.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology lists milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy and tree nuts as the top six foods that account for 90% of food allergy reactions in children.
According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, with the exception of peanuts, nuts, fish and shellfish (often considered lifelong allergies), most people outgrow their food allergies by the age of three.
The essential amino acids of innovative, solubilized and hypoallergenic rice proteins are almost 96% of human mothers' milk proteins, reports the literature of one rice protein supplier.
Canada's CanolaAccording to Mintel's Global New Products Database, only one product, a Canadian store-brand beef vegetable pot pie, was launched with canola protein in 2005. However, in 2004, Organic Milling's Nutritious Living brand released both Honey Almond 40-30-30 and Lean On Me breakfast cereals to create a breakfast that provides sustained energy for peak performance. A 3/4 cup serving provides 13g of protein, which includes canola protein isolate, soy protein concentrate and wheat gluten.
Like rice protein, canola proteins are complementary to soy in that soybean is limited in the essential amino acids methionine and cysteine. Canola is rich in those two amino acids but is limited in lysine, which is abundant in soy. "My expectation is that canola will excel as a stand-alone protein," predicts Johann Tergesen, president and COO of a canola protein company. "It will be used in different applications than soy because it acts differently than soy."?
There are two naturally occurring distinct proteins that can be extracted out of canola or rapeseed meal: cruciferin and napin. They are as different as egg yolk is from egg white. One canola protein can be used to emulsify like egg yolk, and the other will foam like egg white. "The cruciferin canola protein is a strong emulsifier and can act as a gelling agent. It is surprisingly similar to egg yolk, but different in terms of color," says Tergesen. The napin protein can be whipped and foamed similar to egg white, and its amino acid profile has been compared to egg white protein.
Unfortunately, there has not been enough scientific research done to speculate about its nutritional benefits. "The single most exciting opportunity for one of the canola proteins is that it is 100% soluble in acidic beverages," says Tergesen, adding, "Soy, milk and egg proteins have a tendency to precipitate out of acidic beverages, whereas, with one of our canola proteins, a beverage processor could make a clear, non-viscous beverage like Gatorade that has the same weight and volume protein content as milk."
Choosing a protein is dependent on the reputation the manufacturer plans to build for the product. Whether the product is for heart health, bodybuilding or weight loss and/or low-allergenicity, there is a protein out there for every application. NS
Sidebar: Going GlobalIn London, The Food Doctor snacks offer six 100g varieties, which range in protein content, such as 8.5g for Pineapple & Banana to 16.5g for Apple & Walnut. Rice protein is listed as an ingredient. Ades Light low-calorie, lactose-free Soy Beverage is now available in Morelos, Mexico with 6.4g of protein and in a chocolate flavor. In Taiwan, Jia Ge Food recently released Quaker Pro-Care Baby Food, a baby cereal powder with 12.4g of protein. It claims to contain several Chinese herbs that stimulate the appetite with DHA and hydrolyzed amino-peptide technology. Quaker Pro-Care has a chicken and spinach flavor, and is suitable for toddlers over six months.