Industry members said they were reevaluating the available evidence and ways of presenting it to the European Union nutrition and health claim process, which they said had become a lot clearer since protein and whey protein dossiers were submitted in 2007.
“Over the last 3 years, however, a vast amount of positive evidence has emerged on the independent role of whey protein and more is due to be published,” said Suzane Leser, nutrition manager in lifestyle ingredients at UK-based protein supplier, Volac, and vice chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA).
“We firmly believe therefore that there is scope to support specific health claims on whey proteins, via Article 13.5. At this stage, we fully understand the issues arising in the evaluation of claims and the complexity of the unprecedented process. Whilst the industry is now learning what type of studies and outcome measures are acceptable for future substantiation, we trust that EFSA will be able to provide additional guidance to applicants. And then our industry will work together to develop research in key areas and resubmit the evidence."
EFSA verdicts on whey and whey protein
In two opinions relating to a host of dossiers EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) rejected a slew of protein and whey claims including those around satiety, endurance and recovery.
The findings, if authorised by the European Commission and member states, present a major problem to the whey industry that does so much of its business in sports nutrition and weigh management markets.
Only ‘growth or maintenance of muscle mass’ drew some kind of positive response from the NDA for whey, albeit in a guarded fashion.
“In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that only three small intervention studies in humans were pertinent to the claim, and that these studies reported conflicting results with respect to the effects of whey protein on muscle mass compared to other protein sources (i.e. casein and soy protein),” the NDA wrote in its opinion.
“On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of whey protein and growth or maintenance of muscle mass over and above the well established role of protein on the claimed effect.”
That opinion can be found here.
The whey industry is making the most of this positive finding as a building block for exercise and senior nutrition claims.
“We welcome the opinion that whey protein works as effectively as other protein sources, recognising that from the evidence submitted EFSA could not go further,” said Leser.
In its opinion on protein, which can be found here, the NDA found, “evidence provided by consensus opinions/reports from authoritative bodies and reviews shows that there is good consensus on the role of dietary protein in the maintenance of whole body lean body mass, including muscle mass.”
The only other positive in both opinions was protein’s ability to benefit normal bone health.
Other rejected claims for whey protein included maintenance of normal body weight; increase in lean body mass during energy restriction or resistance training; increase in muscle strength and skeletal muscle tissue repair.