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FAO-recommended measurement method demonstrates dairy protein 'superiority' - IDF

By Mark Astley+

06-Mar-2013
Last updated on 07-Mar-2013 at 13:09 GMT

FAO-recommended method demonstrates dairy protein 'superiority' - IDF

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) has given its backing to a new Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)-recommended method of protein quality measurement that “clearly demonstrates the superiority” of dairy proteins over plant proteins.

In a recently published report, Dietary protein quality evaluation in human nutrition, the FAO recommended the implementation of a new method of protein quality measurement called Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS).

The Rome-based organisation has called for this method to be used in place of the current measurement, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which was recommended by FAO in 1989.

According to the report, “limitations of PDCAAS have been recognised.”

Using the DIAAS method, however, the FAO claims that researchers were able to differentiate protein sources by their ability to supply amino acids for use by the body – demonstrating the higher bio-availability of dairy proteins when compared to plant-based protein sources.

Whole milk powder (WMP) was found to have a DIAAS score of 1.22. When compared to the highest refined soy isolate, dairy protein DIAAS scores were 10% to 30% higher, said the report.

The IDF claims that this new approach provides a clearer picture of how each dietary protein source can meet nutritional requirements for protein and amino acids.

Method demonstrates dairy protein “superiority”

Commenting on the report, IDF Action Team on Proteins leader Angela Rowan claimed that implementing the DIAAS method will provide decision makers and consumers with “accurate information” on protein quality.

With DIAAS, high quality proteins, such as the proteins from milk, whey and other dairy products, may score 30% higher than when using the older method for assessing quality. It clearly demonstrates the superiority of dairy proteins compared to plant proteins,” said Rowan.

“It will provide decision makers and consumers with accurate information when assessing which foods should be part of a sustainable diet for our growing global population,” Rowan added.

IDF president, Dr Jeremy Hill, has heralded the recommendations as a “major achievement.”

“In 2012, we expressed concerns regarding the older method for assessing protein quality, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), to FAO and explained its limitations,” said Hill.

“This is a major achievement. Further research should be encouraged so healthy and accessible choices are even easier to make,” Hill added.

PDCAAS limitations “recognised”

According to the FAO report, the ability to accurately define protein quality has become ever more important to meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population.

“The PDCAAS method has now been in use for some 20 years and has proved to be of considerable value in practice. Nevertheless, limitations of PDCAAS have been recognised and debated, and new research findings have accumulated, whereby it has become timely to review the adequacy of PDCAAS and its application vis-à-vis other methods of estimating dietary protein quality,” said the report.

The Global Dairy Platform has also given its backing to the FAO report. In a statement, the organisation called for the industry to replace the PDCAAS method to prevent future truncation.

Truncation removes any nutritional differences between high protein foods such as milk and soya. Truncation was a key concern raised by the FAO.

“Immediately removing ‘truncation’ will provide health professionals, regulators and policy makers a more accurate representation of which foods provide the highest quality of nutrition. We urge the industry to support the additional research required to enable implementation of the more accurate DIAAS method,” said Global Dairy Platform executive director, Donald Moore.

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