There is a need for global harmonization of protein recommendations: IPB chief

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Scientific and technology advances, coupled with the increased consumer interest, means that there is a need to update and harmonize the recommendations for protein intakes around the globe, says the head of the International Protein Board.

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at Expo West recently, Dr Rob Wildman, chief science officer for Post Active Nutrition which includes Dymatize, PowerBar and Premier Protein, and the head of the International Protein Board, explained that a lot of information around protein, and consumer understanding of protein, is based on old science that really needs to be updated.

“It’s not just the RDAs in North America, it’s also our understanding of protein and dispelling some of the common myths that can often pop up in articles that we find on the internet, like, “Is protein safe?”; “What happens if I get a little bit more?”, “Do I need more? Is it right for me?”, “I’m an older person, do I need more protein?”,” ​he said.

Many countries have their own recommendations for protein, and they are all set on minimum levels for the general population to prevent the development of signs and symptoms of deficiency over time, and also to promote general good status and good growth and development, explained Dr Wildman.

“A lot of these were based on nitrogen balance, and these nitrogen balance studies were done long ago,” ​he said. “In some circumstances, these studies were done a century ago. So, it’s very old information. There are newer techniques that we can apply to better understand how much protein somebody will utilize and how much is optimum over the course of the day, especially in certain populations like older individuals, people trying to manage their weight, and sports performance.”

Dr Wildman thinks there should be global harmonization of the recommendations. One of the things that he has been involved in is the formation of the International Protein Board, which was founded by 20 global protein experts on four continents. The combined expertise represents over 300 years of research into protein, he said, plus over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications.

“Collectively, they are the global authority on all matters related to protein,” ​he said. “The IPB communicates in a couple of ways. One, it creates consensus statements, they do a survey once a year on very simple protein topics, and there’s links to interviews, videos, and articles to really help the media as well, because sometimes they don’t have the right information.”

Accurate labeling

Dr Wildman also discussed the role that industry has to play in order to be transparent with consumers.

“We all have to be on the same page,”​ he said. “Especially in the world of sports nutrition, there is sometimes an opportunity to label non-protein ingredients as protein, and it’s all in how it’s tested. Protein is different from carbohydrates and fat in that in contains nitrogen, so if we send protein out to a lab they will test for nitrogen content and then they’ll apply a factor, and then they’ll say, “it has this amount of protein’.

“There is the possibility that other nitrogen-containing ingredients will count as protein on the label, unless brands at least call it out. In the US, I work with the American Herbal Products Association and we have a guidance for industry​ that basically states that only protein counts as protein. If you’re going to label protein on a product it should be intact protein: Amino acids linked by peptide bonds.

“Elsewhere in the world we see a lot of the same things, especially in sports nutrition: We see the addition of amino acids and creatine, which contain nitrogen and would test as protein, and we see it being counted as protein.”

Dr Wildman added: “In some places in the world there is some guidance that suggests that if you are counting this as protein then you should communicate to the consumer that even though this product labels as 25 grams of protein, 3 grams are coming from non-protein sources. I find that incredibly confusing to the consumer and we’re forcing the consumer to actually do the work.

“Always start with the consumer and work backwards. It has to be as simple as possible. If they’re buying a product based on its protein content, then the labeling of protein should actually be intact protein itself.”

For more information about the International Protein Board, please click HERE​.

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