What did we learn from Décathlon’s carb claim success?

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Carb-muscle health claim provides hope for cash-strapped SMEs, says Naturalpha
Carb-muscle health claim provides hope for cash-strapped SMEs, says Naturalpha

Related tags Health claim Nutrition Glycogen Snack functional beverage beverage

The approval of a health claim on carbohydrates and muscle function has shown that a successful dossier does not have to contain proprietary data.

Naturalpha, the consultancy firm that worked on the claim with Décathlon sports brand Aptonia, said the claim was a good sign for SME’s that may have been intimidated by the costly process of gathering proprietary data.

Eric Chappuis, director of consulting at Naturalpha, told us this was the first time such a strategy of existing science had been successful for an article 13.5 health claim, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) usually favouring tailor-made research.

Passed by the European Commission in January two-years after EFSA’s approval, the claim​ read: "Carbohydrates contribute to the recovery of normal muscle function (contraction) after highly intensive and/or long-lasting physical exercise leading to muscle fatigue and the depletion of glycogen stores in skeletal muscle​".

Back to basics

By going through past research Naturalpha and Décathlon were able to find papers to find “things that are commonly admitted”​.

“It’s interesting because it means you do not necessarily need to do extra clinical trials if you want to have a claim on something quite generic. Carbohydrates are quite generic and this could be the same for proteins.”

Chappuis said this could signal further claim opportunities through reanalysing this 'basic science'.

Choosing the right existing data was key though.

“There is good science existing in the literature but you have to screen it and to find which will be the best for your application.”

Rejected claims may not have been focused enough or justified their choice of evidence to EFSA. You could not, for example, compare a study on carbohydrates electrolytes drinks with non-drink products.

Performance was a difficult to compare due to widely differing methodology and protocols across studies.

The final application included about 15 trials – some dating from the 1970s.

Spotting the difference

The dose was set at 1 g/kg body weight to be consumed immediately after exercise and then every hour at a dose of 0.5 g/kg body weight, for a recovery period up to six hours, reaching an overall dose of about 100-300 g.

In order to carry the claim, a product must supply at least 75% carbohydrate as a main source of energy and 75% of the energy should be derived from glycaemic carbohydrates. If it is a drink, the carbohydrate concentration should exceed 10% of weight by volume.

Chappuis said the specific condition of use and target population of the claim prevented the French retailer’s claim from suffering the same fate as Dextro Energy’s five glucose claims​, which were rejected by the Commission due to concerns over what they would tell the public about sugar consumption.

Décathlon's claim required quite a high amount of carbohydrates for the desired effect, making it a tough case to argue from a public health perspective. 

However, the conditions of the claim included a target population of active individuals performing strenuous exercise.

The product could be either solid or liquid.

Décathlon said the claim would help it better communicate to consumers and establish Aptonia as a serious and legitimate sports nutrition player.

It is developing a range of sports nutrition products that covered hydration, energy and muscle maintenance and recovery.

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