Finding the 'whey' to weight loss

by Jeff Gelski
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Studies show consuming whey protein may lead to weight loss and muscle tone. At least one survey, however, shows many consumers could learn something from those studies. An on-line survey conducted by Dairy Management, Inc., Rosemont, Ill., in April revealed 27% of consumers had a high familiarity rating for whey protein, according to Tula Foods, Inc., Evanston, Ill.

"The number isn’t shabby for a nutrient that is just kind of gaining ground," said Daphne Mazarakis, founder and president of Tula Foods. "To be honest, we were surprised that number was as high as it was."

The survey also showed 47% of consumers said adding whey protein to a food product would have a positive effect on their purchase interest while 48% said it would have a neutral effect.

Tula Foods seeks to increase awareness of whey. Founded last year, the company recently launched whey protein-enhanced yogurt under its Better Whey of Life brand. Tula Foods plans to launch a second Better Whey of Life product, which is yet to be named, in the second half of 2009, Ms. Mazarakis said.

Tula Foods is taking a three-pronged approach to enlighten consumers on whey protein. The company is providing samples of the yogurt product at events such as marathons. The company also is offering education materials and coupons at the point of purchase in retail stores and is featuring whey protein information on its web site.

"Whey protein has been well established as the preferred protein for many years for athletes," said Ms. Mazarakis, who previously managed such product lines as Kraft Singles, Kraft Salad Dressings and Velveeta while working for Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill. "However, whey protein’s role in building leaner bodies for all people is emerging and even more exciting.

"Recent studies are suggesting that whey protein may help people lose inches around the waist and improve overall body composition — that is, losing the fat and keeping the muscle. As the body of science builds and more people become increasingly aware of these benefits, they will quickly look for ways to incorporate it into their diets."

Adding meaningful levels of whey protein to products may prove challenging, said Brian Sambor, vice-president of operations and product development for Tula Foods. For example, whey protein, like most proteins, is heat sensitive. Better Whey of Life yogurts contain 10 to 12 grams of added whey protein and 15 to 17 grams of total protein.

Consumers also are interested in satiety, a key benefit of whey protein. Consumer research conducted by DMI found 67% of consumers strongly/somewhat agreed satiety is important if trying to lose weight, which was significantly important to help them avoid cravings for unhealthy snacks. Also, 72% of consumers strongly or somewhat agreed that the best way to control hunger is through a nutritionally balanced diet.

Consuming protein may have an effect on satiety.

"Research shows that calorie for calorie, consuming more protein can increase the feeling of fullness more than carbohydrate or fat," said Dr. Matt Pikosky, Ph.D., director of research transfer for DMI/National Dairy Council. "This has been shown both following a single meal, as well as following the consumption of an overall diet higher in protein. This feeling of fullness may lead to a subsequent decrease in calorie intake that over time can help with weight management."

Two recent studies focused on how dairy proteins may affect satiety.

A study involving the whey protein supplement Prolibra appeared March 27 in Nutrition & Metabolism. The randomized, double-blind, parallel-arm, 12-week study involved 158 people who were between 25 and 50 years old and obese, or had a body mass index (B.M.I.) of 30 to 42. Caloric intake was reduced 500 calories per day in two groups: a control group and another group taking Prolibra.

"Subjects taking Prolibra lost significantly more body fat and showed a greater preservation of lean muscle compared to subjects consuming the control beverages," the researchers said. "Because subjects taking Prolibra lost 6.1% of their body fat mass, and because a 5% reduction of body fat mass has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity-related disease, the results have practical significance."

The researchers came from the Minnesota Applied Research Center in Edina, Minn.; the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical

Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis; and the Glanbia Research and Development Center in Twin Falls, Idaho. Glanbia Nutritionals offers Prolibra.

"This study, in conjunction with two earlier studies, demonstrates the efficacy of Prolibra as a multi-faceted approach to healthy and sustainable weight loss," said Sharon Rokosh, business development manager at Glanbia Nutritionals. "Prolibra significantly reduces postprandial glycemia, accelerates fat breakdown, reduces fat deposition, retains lean muscle and delays the onset of hunger."

Another study examined how a supplement containing a mix of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, calcium caseinate and milk protein isolate may affect weight loss and body composition such as muscle and fat when combined with exercise. It appeared April 21 in Nutrition & Metabolism and involved researchers from the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. The 10-week study included 38 overweight, previously sedentary people who had a B.M.I. greater than 25. The people were divided into a control group, a group that exercised and a group that exercised and took the supplement.

The supplement group saw total calorie intake decrease 14%, carbohydrate intake decrease 27% and fat intake decrease 27%. Protein intake increased 52% and fiber intake increased 21%. Increased muscle mass reached significance only in the supplement group.

The researchers concluded, "Absent energy restriction or other dietary controls, provisions of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate and –fat, nutrient-dense food supplement significantly, 1) modified ad libitum macronutrient and energy intake (behavior effect), 2) improved physiological adaptations to exercise (metabolic advantage), and 3) reduced the variability of individual response for fat mass, muscle mass and time-to-exhaustion."

Dairy proteins such as whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate may work in several food and beverage applications, said Kimberlee (K.J.) Burrington, dairy ingredients applications coordinator for the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin.

"Typically the flavor of milk proteins and whey proteins is mild and easy to incorporate with the flavor of the particular food application," she said. "Dairy proteins will not bind an excessive amount of water so the behavior or rheology of the mix will not be modified a lot by adding additional protein.

"As with all changes to a food system, adding protein to a food that doesn’t normally contain 5 or 10 grams per serving does have an impact on the texture and mouthfeel of the food, but there are ways to counteract those changes. Each food system has different challenges for incorporating protein but most of the challenges can be overcome."

Formulators easily may add 10 grams of whey protein to a beverage, Ms. Burrington said. The Special K20 Protein Waters from The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., contain whey protein isolate and offer 5 grams of protein per 16-oz bottle. The WheyUp protein drink from WheyUp, Gilbert, Ariz., contains 20 grams of whey protein. Protein bars may contain 15 to 30 grams of whey protein per bar, Ms. Burrington said.

"We are seeing products with added whey protein show up in new products like oatmeal, yogurt and salty snacks," she added.

Whey may save on costs, too

Functional whey protein may allow manufacturers to save on costs if they use it to replace some amount of more expensive ingredients like cream and cream cheese in their products, according to Grande Custom Ingredients Group, Lomira, Wis. The company offers Grande Bravo functional whey protein, which may be used in such product applications as cheese sauces, soups, gravies, dressings, dips, meats, puddings, sauces and baked foods.

"Many of our clients are very focused today on ingredient costs," said Steve Dott, director of sales for Grande Custom Ingredients Group. "They’re also looking more than ever to high-quality products to differentiate themselves. Whey protein can be added to formulations while maintaining the products’ flavor, texture and quality."

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