Nestlé to evalute protein impact on muscle wastage

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Combating muscle wastage in the elderly through greater understanding of the mechanisms of protein coupled with exercise is the primary focus of a three year research project involving Nestlé’s Research Centre and leading sports nutrition and physical performance research institutes.

The global population is expected to increase to 9.1bn by 2050 - up from 6.5bn in 2005; and 21 per cent of people will be over the age of 60 in 2050, compared to 10 per cent in 2000.

Nestlé scientist Dr Trent Stellingwerff said its researchers along with experts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Australian Institute of Sport as well McMaster University in Canada are teaming up in order to evaluate the potential of synergising protein intake and exercise to stave off the gradual decline in muscle mass, strength and function for this growing age group.

Quality of life

Maintaining an optimal body composition (including adequate muscle mass) throughout the lifespan can greatly enhance general physical performance and the overall quality of life, states the Nestlé researcher.

He said the project has just been green lighted through the receipt of funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), and will also evaluate the impact of nutrition and exercise on the quality and quantity of muscle mass in young adults with a view to boosting their sport performance.

Muscle analysis

Stellingwerff told that the Nestlé researchers will employ cutting edge technologies such as gene microarray platforms to assess muscle samples post exercise from a genome and molecular biology perspective while the role of the Canadian team will be to evaluate protein synthesis in muscle mass.

“The studies involving human participants will take place in Australia and Canada, as the institutes involved are pioneers in the field of nutrition and physical performance and have a long history of undertaking clinical trials in this field,” ​said Stellingwerff.

The project teams are primarily focused at this early stage on building the science around macro nutrient proteins through gaining a greater insight into the mechanism and characteristics of their release, said the Nestlé scientist.

A range of studies during the three year timeframe of the project will assess the impact of exercise combined with either a regular or protein optimised diet, and will include multiple protein types, continued Stellingwerff.

Product potential

He added that Nestlé’s involvement in the project was also prompted by the long term view the company takes to nutritional product development research.

“Our work at the Nestlé Research Centre is increasingly concerned with devising products that can benefit the ageing population, with muscle wasting in the elderly an area that does not have a huge body of science behind it,”​ said Stellingwerff.

Any functional food and drink products that will be developed arising from the resulting project data, he stressed, should have as wide positioning as possible rather than being marketed as medical nutritional products solely so as to benefit a greater percentage of the target population group.

Drink launch

Nestlé recently launched a 200ml nutrient drink in Switzerland targeting the malnourished elderly – a segment of the population it says is deficient in key nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium and protein.

The product – Resource SeniorActiv – is being sold through Swiss pharmacies, principally via doctor and medical professional recommendation, with launches in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands to follow in 2010.

Asian and North American debuts were also planned along with other European countries in an “ongoing roll-out”.

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