25-26 SEPTEMBER 2024

Product protein-enrichment is important for the over-65s and top athletes


Product protein-enrichment is important for the over-65s and top athletes


Protein-enriched food products offer convenience for those who should or would like to consume more protein. Generally, it is not necessary to consume these products.


The condition is that the consumer adheres to the health recommendations inferred from the Food Pyramid. “This is an important aspect that we need to keep in mind”, emphasises Professor Christophe Matthys of KU Leuven. Therefore a market for protein-enriched products does exist. “Protein enrichment in products for the over-65s stems not so much from a change in need, but a change in eating pattern. By eating less, not only do they consume less energy but they take in fewer of the necessary amino acids from proteins. To get more protein, they need to eat more nutrient-dense foods in this way", says Christophe Matthys, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven and head of the Human Nutrition subdivision. Top athletes who need to exert themselves physically require protein-enriched products. Amateur athletes with a healthy diet get sufficient amounts of protein. “A glass of milk after physical effort, for example, is more than enough to maintain the body's muscles and bones.




The latest food consumption survey from Belgium, and one from the Netherlands, reveals that on the whole the population consumes more than enough protein. “There is a big difference between what the body needs and what we think: that more protein is needed. This leads to the development of protein-enriched products. Thus far, we have mostly had a variety bars and shakes or yoghurts." Matthys is also referring to the recent protein-enriched beer for sports cyclists. More products are set to follow, as we saw recently at an international confectionery fair in Cologne. The food industry has developed innovative products aimed at a variety of target groups. More about that in this newsletter.



Protein quality

An important factor in consumer health is the quality of the protein. Plant and animal proteins differ in their composition of essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The essential amino acids are those which our body cannot produce itself and has to take in through our diet. These amino acids are vital for various body functions.



“The implication is that we cannot replace animal proteins one-by-one when developing alternative products", says Matthys. “This is not to say that a plant-based alternative with the same amino acids cannot be developed. The solution lies in combining different plant sources, so that the alternative product can contain the same essential amino acids.


Peas and corn

He gives the example of peas and corn, which are complementary. But that is not enough. “As plant proteins are harder to digest than animal proteins, the proportion of plant proteins must be higher than in animal products”, says Matthys on the lower nutritional value of plant proteins. “It's about 20% to 30% more". This is also reflected in the recommendations of the various health councils.



Unlike animal proteins, plant proteins are also poorer in vitamin B12. “It's not a dramatic difference, but it does require attention", explains Matthys. This vitamin is vital to our bodies. It plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, energy metabolism and the nervous system. Plant sources of vitamin B12 are scarce. This is why it is important for people with a (more) plant-based diet to use supplements to boost their B12 intake.



Related news


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At the Tavola gastronomic trade fair, from 17-19 March, Maisonie will launch four flavours of dessert with extra protein. In nutritional terms, two are sources of protein and two are rich in protein, Nathalie Van der Straeten tells us. She also reveals which plant proteins have been added.


“Nutritional supplements are safe products with an established legal framework. Before they enter the market, a notification file must be submitted to the Federal Public Service for Health", stresses Valerie Vercammen of the professional Federation be-sup.

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