Special Edition: Amino acids and protein

Specialty peptides, enzymes and probiotics: Options abound for formulators to make the ‘protein we have even better than it is already’


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Protein enriched products are growing rapidly - and not just for hard-core athletes, but for the general population, as well
Protein enriched products are growing rapidly - and not just for hard-core athletes, but for the general population, as well

Related tags Protein Amino acid

While much has been said and written about different protein sources, complimentary ingredients like enzymes and probiotics allow consumers to make the ‘protein we have even better than it is already’.

As part of our special edition on amino acids and protein special edition, we look at the options available to formulators looking to offer consumers something extra in the protein space.


Several companies are offering ‘unique’ peptide ingredients with improved protein availability. Tonja Lipp, Sr. Manager Business Development - Health & Nutrition for Gelita, explained that the two main aspects of protein availability are the speed of absorption and the digestibility rate.

The company’s Peptiplus collagen peptides are rapidly absorbed, she said, with a 2005 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ​(Vol. 53, pp. 6531-6536) showing that the marker hydroxyproline (an amino acid unique to collagen protein) increased significantly in the blood stream minutes after consumption and reached maximum levels within 1 hour after ingestion.

The ingredient also has a high digestibility rate, she added, with studies showing a digestibility rate of the collagen peptides to be 98.45%, compared with 92% for whey isolate and 90.5% for caseinate.

“Oesser et al, [1999, J. Nutr​., Vol. 129, pp. 1891-1895​] demonstrated that collagen peptides are partially absorbed in intact form and reach the blood stream in peptide form (up to 10kDa),” ​said Lipp. “Depending on the specific composition of optimized collagen peptides, specific stimulatory effects can be seen in the human body. Several clinical and pre-clinical trials confirmed the stimulatory effect on cartilage tissue [Osteoarthritis and Cartilage​, 2011, Vol.19, pp.399-405]

“Moreover, specific collagen peptides seem to strengthen tendons and ligaments and support muscle building.”

‘Support both athletic performance and recovery’

DSM Nutritional Products’ PeptoPro ingredient is different again. Chuck Rutkowski, Sr. Marketing Manager, explained that the ingredient is a casein protein that is already enzymatically hydrolyzed into these components, allowing for faster absorption of amino acids.

“The existing clinical data demonstrates that feeding PeptoPro hydrolyzed casein to human subject’s results in a significantly faster rate of absorption of the individual amino acids in the blood – up to roughly 30% higher than intact casein [Koopman et al., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 2009, Vol. 90, pp. 106-115],”​ Rutkowski said.

“When comparing PeptoPro to other protein sources such as whey, data using preclinical protein absorption models shows that amino acid absorption of PeptoPro is more than twice that of intact casein or whey protein isolate [Awati et al., J. Sci. Food Agric. 2009, Vol. 89, pp. 1857-1861]. The faster absorption of these amino acids is a critical feature of PeptoPro and its ability to support both athletic performance and recovery.”

The ingredient is performing well, he said, “as this is a unique protein source in the marketplace.  Most products are powder and beverage (RTD) applications.”

Rapid growth for protein enrichment

Rutkowski noted the specialty protein market has grown over the last few years due to the increased interest in protein by consumers from a multitude of different segments. 

“It’s not just the bodybuilding population anymore that’s driving the interest in protein consumption,” ​he said.

Gelita’s Lipp echoed these comments, saying that protein enriched products are growing rapidly- and not just for hard-core athletes, but for the general population, as well.

“Health-aware consumers are interested in increasing their daily intake of protein - and can find numerous products in the marketplace - generally in the form of protein bars and/or protein beverages.

Both ingredients offer their own unique benefits, they said, and enhancing the toolbox available to formulators for numerous products including protein, cereal and snack bars to beverages.

The enzymes

Another option to boost protein absorption is to use enzymes, like Aminogen by Trairco (InnoPhos) or Digest-All by MRM, which can increase the amount of leucine in the blood.

Mark Olson, CEO of Chemi-Source/MRM, told us that the company has studied the effects of Digest-All on amino acid absorption of animal and plant proteins in cooperation with the University of Tampa.

“Digest-All changes the amount of amino acids being absorbed and the absorption kinetics,”​ he explained. “The addition of digestive enzymes speeds up the absorption of animal proteins like whey. 30 minutes after ingestion, Digest-All increases for example the absorption of Glutamine from whey protein concentrate by 51%, Arginine by 44%, Citrulline by 39% and the absorption of Ornithine even by 184%. Whey protein is a fast protein, and Digest-All's benefit are most prominent in the early hours after ingestion.

“Plant proteins like pea are slower absorbed (intermittent protein) and Digest-All's benefits are more prominent after 1-2 hours.”

The most prominent purchaser of MRM is the 25-40 year old women buying for self and family, added Olson. The company is also getting stronger in the in the ‘professional’ weekend athlete (runners, triatheletes, etc) as well as X game sports. 

“Remember people are also taking supplemental protein to feed “low carb” diets, HIV and cancer patients and vegetarians or pseudo vegetarians that are trying to eat less animal meats but need to meet their essential amino acid requirements,”​ he added.

One demographic that is not on MRM’s radar is bodybuilders. “The 18-25 year old is more apt to buy products containing verbiage like ‘mind-blowing pumps’ or ‘insane vascularity’ in ‘aggressive’ packaging,”​ he said. “We are science not smoke and mirrors and outrageous claims.”

Triple protein absorption

Aminogen​ from Triarco, which was acquired by Innophos in January 2013, is described as a patented blend of digestive proteases from Aspergillus niger​ and Aspergillus oryzae​. The ingredient is Certified Kosher, Halal, and is self-affirmed GRAS.

The ingredient's efficacy was reported in a paper published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​ (2008, 5​:10 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-10) which concluded that the patented blend of digestive proteases could triple the rate of protein absorption, increase free amino acid levels by 100%, key amino acid levels by 250%, and nitrogen retention by 32%.

Beyond sports nutrition, opportunities are developing to counter the increase in issues like muscle wasting. The ingredient is being used in medical foods for use in institutions and hospitals.

“It’s taken us 15 to 20 years to be an overnight success,”​ Triarco’s Rodger Rohde Jr. told us last year​.


Another potential area where probiotics could benefit sports nutrition is in improving protein utilization resulting in strength and lean body increases, said Dr. Ralf Jaeger, FISSN, President of Milwaukee-based consultancy Increnovo LLC.

“A recent study indicated that a specific probiotic strain, Ganeden's BC30 increased protein utilization, particular absorption of leucine by 23%,”​ he said.

“Leucine is the most important amino acid to increase post-workout effects on muscle protein synthesis. Combining probiotics with protein might allow athletes to use lower amounts of whey protein without losing the physiological benefit or it will allow athletes with allergies against lactose or who are cautious about cholesterol to use protein sources with naturally lower leucine concentration such as soy and rice.”

Dr Jaeger noted that the initial mechanistic studies need to be followed by corresponding efficacy studies, showing the benefits of the probiotic/protein combination on lean body mass and gains in strength.

A fast growing consumer brand that combines probiotics and protein is Gaspari Nutrition’s Myofusion Probiotic Series. Daniel Pierce, VP of Brand Strategy & Product Development at Gaspari Nutrition told NutraIngredients-USA: “Some key areas where more research is being focused on with probiotics is efficient macronutrient absorption such as protein and carbohydrates. Since so many athletes utilize a high protein diet, anything which benefits this can be a great utility.

“Unlike digestive enzyme which have more acute benefits, probiotics such as the Ganeden BC30 strain have been shown to increase uptake of protein in general as well as athlete friendly amino acids such as leucine by a substantial amount. For this reason, I do believe you’ll see more and more probiotics appearing in various protein powders.”

Qualified synbiotics

MRM’s Olson said that the company has studied the utilization of qualified synbiotics to ensure maximal growth and implantation in the lower GI (NutraIngredients-USA’s report of this can be found here​).

“This will offer additional bacterial digestion and fermentation of protein containing food,” he said. “While digestive enzymes work immediately, pro- and prebiotcs need to be used daily for a certain amount of time (weeks) in order to improve the gut flora and thereby increasing absorption of nutrients such as protein.

“Our Intestinal Bowel Support product (www.mrm-usa.com/products#!/~/product/id=17794190) would be great combination product for people that supplement their diets with protein on a regular basis. MRM currently does not market a specific protein-probiotic product.

“We would like to see a clinical study first comparing the effects of digestive enzymes on protein absorption head-to-head with probiotics, showing either bioequivalence or even superiority of probiotics, before adding a probiotic-protein product to our line.”



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