by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Protein

Jun 23 2014

Annals of marketing: Protein cereals

Hoping to cash in on the current protein craze, General Mills has come up with this (thanks to Kasandra Griffin of  Upstream Public Health in Portland, OR,  for sending):

Cheerios1

 

Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein per serving.  But it also has 17 grams of sugars.

I use sugars, plural, for good reason.  Here’s the ingredient list:

Cheerios3

In case you can’t read this: Whole grain oats, cluster (whole grain oats, brown sugarsoy protein, lentils, sugar, corn syrupnatural flavor, molassesrice starch, caramel (sugar, caramelized sugar syrup), salt, calcium carbonate, baking soda, color added, BHT added to preserve freshness), sugarcorn starch, honeysalt, refiner’s syruptripotassium phosphate, rice bran and/or canola oil, color added, natural flabor, brown sugarvitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and BHT added to preserve freshness.

A trip to the supermarket also turned up these:

This one has 16 grams of sugars.

And here’s another.  This one only has 7 grams of sugar per serving.  How come?  Sucralose!

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

And just a reminder about protein: American consume roughly twice as much as needed.  Protein is not an issue in U.S. diets.

This is about marketing, not health.

I guess Cheerios SUGARS, Fiber One SUGARS, or Special K SUGARS PLUS ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS wouldn’t go over nearly as well.

Apr 5 2013

What’s new in food marketing? Protein!

Protein, a nutrient consumed by Americans at levels greatly in excess of requirements, is the latest fad in food marketing.

Protein is the buzzword that is helping sell many kinds of foods. Food companies are placing more prominent protein labels on packaging and adding protein to such products as drinks, bars and cereals…A label that says protein has what researchers call a “health halo effect” that goes beyond just the promise of protein. When people see the word, they also believe the product will make them feel more full or give them energy.

FoodNavigator-USA, a newsletter for the food industry, did a special edition on marketing innovations in protein-rich foods:

Once the preserve of sweaty men pumping iron, protein has emerged from an image overhaul as the ingredient of choice for product developers targeting men and women of all ages keen to battle the bulge and stay strong, lean and active as they age. In this FoodNavigator-USA special edition we explore consumer attitudes to protein, the latest market research, and how protein can fit into new product concepts in health and wellness, weight management, sports nutrition and more mass market products targeting women, boomers, and other groups.We also look at what protein options are available for formulators, from new algal-based proteins to pea, soy and milk proteins.

Learn to Pack a Protein Punch Customers Love (registration required for this one)

From Chobani to Special K: Are we on the cusp of a protein renaissance?

Selling protein to boomers (without talking about muscle wastage…) As any self-respecting baby boomer will tell you, getting old is something that happens to other people, and being told you’re not as sprightly as you once were is not the best way to get you to part with your hard-earned cash… 

Could algae be the next big thing in the protein market? Part one: Solazyme Roquette NutritionalsMuch has been written about the potential of proteins such as pea and canola as firms seek alternatives to dairy and other carbon-intensive – and increasingly pricey – animal proteins. But what about microalgae?.. 

Could algae be the next big thing in the protein market? Part two: Aurora AlgaeProtein has never been hotter – at least that’s what the market researchers tell us – and vegetarian proteins in particular are top of the pops right now… 

US pea protein market ‘ready to explode’For a long time in the shadow of soy as a plant protein source, pea protein is establishing itself in food and beverage applications, with the US market set to explode, say industry experts… 

Cost and supply benefits are ‘icing on the cake’ for soy proteinsAfter a few years of difficult market conditions, the soy protein market is enjoying ‘dynamic growth’, but what does the future hold for this ingredient, and what kind of impact will the GMO issue have?.. 

Functional improvements drive demand for milk proteinsContinued development of new functional properties of casein and whey proteins will drive growth in their use and innovation in their applications in the coming year, said dairy experts… 

Fonterra consumer research reveals ‘fantastic opportunity’ to educate boomers on proteinIf manufacturers can present them in a more appealing way, there is a huge untapped market in the US for higher protein products appealing to baby boomers looking to stay active, according to consumer research from dairy giant Fonterra Nutrition…

Have you had your P.L.A.Y. today? PepsiCo targets women with new protein product launchPepsiCo is developing a novel protein-based product designed to appeal to women that “won’t show up on a shelf the way you envision it”, revealed bosses at its Nutrition Ventures arm at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) this week… 

And this just in, also from FoodNavigator-USA:   PepsiCo seeks to patent novel high-protein nutrition beverages in 4floz ‘hydration units’ as protein craze gathers pace 

Jan 31 2012

Want to lose weight? Eat less.

A new diet study just out from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition went to a lot of trouble to prove the obvious.  When it comes to weight loss, how much you eat matters more than the proportion of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in your foods.

Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center got volunteers to eat diets that were supposed to differ in proportions of fat (40% vs 20%), carbohydrates (35% vs. 65%), and protein (25% vs. 15%).

The results of the study are consistent with the findings from many previous studies:

  • The major predictor for weight loss was adherence to the diet.
  • People on all of the diets lost weight by six months, but regained some of it by two years.
  • The study had a high drop-out rate (hence the importance of adherence).
  • It was hard for people to stick to the diets, especially those at the extremes of one dietary component or another.

In my book with Malden Nesheim coming out on April 1, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, we review the previous studies of whether what you eat matters more to weight loss than how much you eat.

Some people find it easier to stick to diets that are higher in protein and fat.  I’m guessing that proponents of low-carbohydrate diets will argue that none of the diets in this particular study was really low in carbohydrate.

But studies show that people have a hard time adhering to diets that are very low in carbohydrate.  The low range in this study—35%—is at the lower end of acceptability for many people.

The bottom line: all diets work if you stick to them.

Jan 5 2012

The new study of protein and weight gain: calories count!

I was intrigued by the new study from the Pennington Research Center concluding that weight gain depends on calories, not how much protein you eat.

The idea that the protein, fat, or carbohydrate content of your diet matters more to weight than how many calories you eat persists despite much evidence to the contrary.

This study did something impressive.  It measured what people ate, how much they ate, and how much energy they expended under tightly controlled conditions.

This is unusual.  Most studies of weight gain and loss depend on participants’ self reports.

Measuring is much more accurate, as I discuss in my forthcoming book with Malden Nesheim, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (out April 1).  If you want calorie balance studies to be accurate, you have to measure and control what goes in and out.  The Pennington is one of the few laboratories in the country that can do this.

Pennington researchers got 25 brave people to agree to be imprisoned in a metabolic ward for the 12 weeks of the study.  The volunteers had to eat nearly 1,000 extra calories a day over and above what they needed to maintain weight.  Their diets contained either 5%, 15%, or 25% of calories from protein.

All of the volunteers gained weight (no surprise), although the low-protein group gained the least.  Most of the weight ended up as body fat.  The medium- and high-protein groups also gained muscle mass.  The low-protein group lost muscle mass.

All of the differences in weight gain among individuals could be accounted for by energy expenditure, either as activity or heat (protein causes higher heat losses).

The Wall Street Journal (January 4) did a terrific summary of the results:

This tells you that low-protein diets cause losses in muscle mass (not a good idea), and that there isn’t much difference between diets containing 15% protein (the usual percentage) and higher levels.

The study also suggests that higher protein diets won’t help you lose weight—unless they also help you cut calories.  That calories matter most in weight gain and loss is consistent with other studies based on measurements, not estimations.

Of course the quality of the diet also matters: it’s easier to cut calories if you are eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and a varied diet based largely on relatively unprocessed foods—and it’s harder to gain weight on such diets.

Jan 4 2012

Peevish about “protein”

Reading the New York Times dining section this morning kicked up my annoyance at use of the term “protein” to refer to meat.  A story about what to do with holiday leftovers says “…repurposing top-quality proteins into dinner is easier than it seems.”

Another on Simon Doonan’s new book, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, quotes him as pointing out that “straight food…tends to be leaden, full of protein, thick with fat.” Now you know.

But protein is a nutrientFoods are sources of nutrients.

Nutritionists like me consider protein a “macronutrient,” meaning that foods contain many grams of protein and also that protein is a source of calories (4 per gram as opposed to 9 for fat and 4 or so for carbohydrate).

Diets contain about 15% of calories from protein on average, an amount much greater than most people need—about twice the minimum required for maintenance and growth.

“Protein” is most definitely not a synonym for meat or even tofu (see table).  I’ve listed the plant sources of protein in Italics.

FOOD SOURCES OF PROTEIN IN U.S. DIETS

PROTEIN SOURCE % TOTAL PROTEIN
Poultry 17
Dairy 16
Refined grains 15
Beef 11
Seafood  7
Pork  6
Vegetables  6
Whole grains  4
Eggs  4
Fruit  2
Nuts and seeds  2
Sweets  2
Legumes (beans, peas)  1

Source: J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 February ; 110(2): 291–295.

Grains, vegetables, and fruits are not the biggest sources, but they are important contributors.  Vegans, who consume no animal products at all, do not lack for protein.

And while proteins from meat resemble our own proteins more than do proteins from vegetables, their constituent amino acids are the same in all foods.  Varying food intake and eating enough food takes care of amino acid balance.

Hence, my peevishness at the use of “Protein” as a separate category in USDA’s MyPlate (see previous post).

Grains and dairy, each with its own sector, are important sources of protein in American diets.

Why protein?  USDA used to call the group “meat” even though it contained beans, poultry, and fish.  The meat industry ought to be happy about “protein.”  Meat producers have spent years trying to convince Americans to equate meat with protein.

A plea: let’s keep terms clear and talk about nutrients when we mean nutrients and foods when we mean foods.  Protein is not food.

NOTE: More about protein tomorrow when I discuss the new JAMA study on whether high-protein diets help you lose weight (spoiler alert: they don’t).