Functional food and supplement manufacturers urged to get creative with whey protein offerings

Whey protein is available in powder form in Southeast Asia. ©iStock

South East Asia functional food and supplement firms need to help educate consumers that whey protein isn’t just for body builders, and formulate new products that can help treat the rising number of sarcopenia cases among the elderly in the region.

That’s the view of Dr Douglas Paddon-Jones, professor at the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical Branch who highlighted the increase in Sarcopenia - a condition that cause muscle and strength loss due to ageing – at a recent seminar in Singapore organised by the American Dairy Council.

Dr Paddon-Jones, who published a research paper on dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia, talked about his evolving research around the benefits of protein and how the distribution of protein intake throughout the day, compared to a skewed intake, can maximize muscle protein synthesis, improve functional outcomes in in ageing adults, and influence appetite and satiety. 

There has been much debate that current dietary guidance for protein, which is based on minimum protein requirements, may not optimize health benefits for aging adults and seniors. Thus, as research advances and consumer demands for added protein increases, there is a need for versatile proteins that offer nutritional and functional benefits to the food industry.

Whey protein from dairy products is one example, Dr Paddon-Jones said, because dairy enjoys a positive image in South East Asia.

“Whey protein products are an opportunity to meet the health and nutritional needs of consumers across life stages, making it a good opportunity for manufacturers,” he added.

Muscle mass

But while whey protein is available in powder form in Southeast Asia, awareness of whey protein’s health and nutritional benefits are mostly known only by gym-goers and body-builders who take whey protein to increase muscle mass, and for the nutritional ingredient’s ability to repair muscle after exercise.

“Awareness is still growing for the general population, who are currently learning the benefits [of whey protein] for older demographics as well as for weight management and satiety,” said Dr Paddon-Jones.

He believes there is ample innovation and growth opportunities for consumer packaged products using whey protein in the region.

“Choices that are convenient to eat and coincide with the wants and needs during different parts of the day are especially important,” he said. “It is important to keep in mind that not all proteins are equal in terms of nutritional quality. Notably, whey protein contains all essential and non-essential amino acids and are high in branched-chain amino acids such as leucine which is essential to kick-start muscle protein synthesis.”

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