Glanbia says new wheat protein has powerful sports, functional food possibilities

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of Glanbia
Photo courtesy of Glanbia

Related tags: Nutrition

Glanbia Nutritionals is going all in on glutamine (and gluten) with a new wheat protein ingredient line it is bringing to the US market. Called HarvestPro, the new ingredient is anticipated to have a big future in sports nutrition and functional foods.

The ingredient is manufactured by partner MGP Ingredients, a Kansas-based company whose core business is specialty wheat-based food ingredients and high quality distillery products.  The wheat protein comes from a wet processing and mechanical separation of wheat flour into wheat starch and the wheat protein.  The wheat protein is then lightly hydrolyzed with a proprietary enzymatic process to yield a more water soluble 85% protein.

Importance of glutamine

The ingredient is rich in glutamine, which is in concord with its parent source, said Jeremy Bartos, PhD, scientific and regulatory affairs manager for Glanbia. This fact will be especially important for the product’s application into sports nutrition formulations, he said.

“Wheat is high in glutamine as it is. When you compare this ingredient to whey or soy it has almost twice as much glutamine. Glutamine is one of the major building blocks for muscle protein synthesis. And there is evidence to show that glutamine acts to stimulate the transport of leucine into the cells. Leucine is one of the parts of the mTOR pathway that activates skeletal muscle synthesis,”​ Dr Bartos told NutraIngredients-USA.

While the component parts of the amino acid transport pathway are still not entirely understood, it has been shown that muscle cells starved of glutamine don’t take up leucine as efficiently, thus leading to sub-optimal muscle growth in the face of stimuli such as vigorous workouts, or so the theory goes.

“It’s almost like a positive feedback mechanism,”​ Dr Bartos said.

“So glutamine is important for sports nutrition people particularly. When you look at sports products you often see that there is extra glutamine in there offered as a standalone amino acid.  Plant proteins generally have a negative connotation in the sports markets because they have fewer branched chain amino acids than whey,” ​Dr Bartos said.

Burgeoning market for plant proteins

But plant proteins recently have been riding a wave of popularity. Dr Bartos give some of the credit or this to the brand Vega, which pioneered sports products for vegetarians. Some sports products have had a halo of high efficacy in terms of energy support or muscle growth, but have not necessarily been thought of as “health promoting” otherwise. Vega helped change that, Dr Bartos said.

“You are seeing such a large explosion of veggie-based products in the market,” Dr Bartos said. “I think a lot of people are riding the coattails of Vega’s products.”

“But there are some problems with some vegan products. First of all most of the vegan products don’t taste very good and that’s based on their amino acid content. It took a while for people to accept the first soy, pea and rice protein products that came about because they were horrible tasting​.

“That’s one advantage with wheat. It’s a familiar taste,”​ he said.

Gluten present. In quantity

Now to the gluten. HarvestPro will never appear in a gluten free product because it is in fact all gluten. Dr Bartos said Glanbia believes that there are enough consumers in the market who understand that “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean better or healthier, it just means that an allergen of concern for a minority of the population is absent.

“There are specific peptides within gluten that cause they reaction and of course they will be present in this product,”​ Dr Bartos said.

Combination, fortification possibilities

Dr Bartos said Glanbia believes that HarvestPro will be a valuable addition to sports formulations to help round out amino acid profiles, and can be added to baked goods and functional foods to boost protein content.

“One of the nice things about wheat is that it is such a familiar a flavor that it will allow a formulator to delve into the fortifying really quick.  And there’s the fact that it’s a clean label ingredient. It will be able to complement the wheat flour that’s in these baked good anyway,”​ he said.

“In sports protein products, you often see a pea protein or a sprouted rice protein of some sort in there to round out the amino acid profiles. We expect HarvestPro can be used in the same way.”

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