In Pictures: Quick Home-made Meals Packed with Protein

Veggie Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tuna and Cheddar Wraps

Baked Breaded Sole With Baby Potatoes and Broccoli

Grilled Ahi Tuna Over Mashed Cauliflower

Turkey Tacos

Spinach Tomato Frittata

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Understanding the Power of Honey Through Its Proteins

Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world. Humans have used honey throughout history, and its long shelf life and medicinal properties make it a unique, multipurpose natural product. Although it seems that a lot is known about the sweet substance, surprisingly little is known about its proteins. Now, researchers report in ACS’ Journal of Natural Products new data on honey proteins that could lead to new medicinal applications.

The European honeybee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, creates its signature product by collecting nectar from various plants and taking it back to the hive, where it is “ripened” and turned into a viscous, sugary substance. Honey is a highly valued food product and has been touted as a natural remedy for wounds, respiratory infections and other ailments. Because of its economic importance, the product has been a target of counterfeiters, who sometimes add pollens or other substances to misrepresent the country of origin or the plant that the honey was made from. Thus, many studies have been conducted on the chemical makeup of honey, though not much has been done to identify its proteins. That’s mostly because the proteins are present in tiny amounts, making analysis difficult. So, Tomas Erban and colleagues took on this challenge by conducting a proteomic analysis of several honeys.

The researchers analyzed the proteomes of thirteen different honeys, most of which came from the Czech Republic. Using mass spectrometry, the team identified known and previously unreported proteins and determined their amounts in each sample. The samples contained a similar ratio of proteins, though the total amount of protein varied. The researchers also found proteins previously unreported in honey, such as hymenopaectin, which plays a role in the sweet substance’s antimicrobial properties. In addition, the results shed new light on various allergens that are present, and this knowledge could facilitate further investigations into the treatment of honey and bee allergies.

Source: American Chemical Society

The Future of Protein Might be ‘Gas Fermentation,’ or Growing Food Out of Thin Air

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

We know that relying on animals — especially methane-producing cows — for the bulk of our protein is unsustainable. But creating protein alternatives in labs or out of plants can also have a significant environmental cost.

What about if we nixed the agricultural bits altogether and just made protein out naturally occuring elements in the air around us? Sounds like science fiction, but Finnish company Solar Foods is working to do just that. The company is creating a new platform for food production using two inputs: air and electricity.

Solar Foods’ technology captures CO2 and water from the air and introduces them to genetically modified bacteria, which form single-celled proteins the company calls ‘Solein.’

Founded in 2017, Solar Foods came about when its CEO Pasi Vainikka, who was in charge of the largest renewable energy resource program in Finland, wanted to develop new technology to push the world towards carbon neutrality. He discovered that one big way to sequester carbon was by making it into food.

As Vainikka explained it, their technology is similar to what Impossible Foods is doing to create its heme or how Perfect Day is making milk without cows. Only instead of feeding sugar solutions to the microbes, as those two startups are doing, Solar Foods feeds them carbon dioxide and hydrogen extracted from the air.

Motif Ingredients and Sustainable Bioproducts are two other companies using microbes to spin out protein, though they also don’t rely on CO2 as the main input. “We are a branch parallel to [them],” said Vainikka. “Not sugar fermentation, but gas fermentation.”

Not the sexiest of names, admittedly. For the less nerdy folks, though, Vainikka said he also calls their process “making food from air.” In fact, visit the Solar Foods lab in Finland and you (yes, you) could actually breathe into their device and make protein.

By disconnecting completely from agriculture, animal and otherwise, Solar Foods can produce protein with a negligable environmental footprint. As it’s not reliant on irrigation, feed, or weather, Solar Foods’ production capacity is also pretty much indefinite.

The technology is way beyond the theoretical stage. As of now, Solar Foods can produce one kilogram of protein per day. The company is also in the early stages of constructing a full-scale factory, filing for patents on their organisms, and starting food application tests.

It raised €2 million (~$2,273,000) in funding from Lifeline Ventures last year. In terms of timing, the company plans to have a global commercial launch of Solein in 2021 and, by 2022, is hoping to scale up to produce enough protein for 50 million meals per year.

Vainikka may have established Solar Foods to make the Earth carbon neutral, but one of the main applications for his technology is actually space travel. The company is working with the European Space Agency to make a prototype device which could theoretically be used to sustain astronauts on a mission to Mars.

Launching their technology into outer space makes things a lot more complicated for Solar Foods. To function on a spacecraft their protein has to last seven years, according to Vainikka. Since the contained environment of a spaceship is a closed loop, the platform will also have to function off of recirculated water and CO2 sourced from inside the ship, as well as recycled energy. “We need super efficient circulation of these factors,” explained Vainikka.

Here on Earth, Vainikka hasn’t yet decided on the best application for Solein. It might be used in a meal replacement product à la Soylent, or even in the Impossible burger as a more sustainable alternative to soy. He told us that Solar Foods will be a protein supplier for food producers and isn’t looking to create their own branded consumer goods.

Gas fermentation may sound kind of out there, but actually Solar Foods is part of a nascent group of startups using carbon dioxide and electricity to make food. Based in San Francisco, Kiverdi is using microbes to upcycle CO2 into edible products like palm oils and proteins. Nearby, Novo Nutrients is leveraging a similar technology to turn CO2 into feed for aquaculture farms. In the U.K., Deep Branch Biotechnology is also focused on animal feed, making single cell proteins out of CO2 in industrial waste gas. Vainikka also pointed out a few university research groups, including ones in Ghent and Nottingham, U.K., which are working on a similar technology.

While gas fermentation makes a lot of sense for space travel, I could also see it having a significant environmental effect here on Earth. Demand for protein is skyrocketing: ResearchandMarkets.com projects that the global protein market will grow from $49.8 billion in 2019 to $70.7 billion in 2025. The world’s population is also projected to hit almost 10 billion by 2050. Combine those, and it means we’ll need to find protein wherever we can — especially if it can replace less sustainable ingredients (like meat) and sequester carbon in the process.

Source: The Spoon

Study Suggests Whey Protein Best for Seniors Rebuilding Muscle

While exercise buffs have long used protein supplements to gain muscle, new research from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, suggests one protein source in particular, whey protein, is most effective for seniors struggling to rebuild muscle lost from inactivity associated with illness or long hospital stays.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared the impact of different forms of protein supplements on older adults, a growing population challenged by the loss of muscle and strength, or sarcopenia, which in turn can affect balance, gait, and the ability to perform the simple tasks of everyday life.

Researchers found that protein didn’t stop lean muscle loss caused by inactivity; however, whey supplements helped to rebuild muscle once the participants’ activities resumed.

“The important message here is that not all proteins are created equal. Whey is one of the highest-quality proteins and is ideal for older persons,” says Stuart Phillips, PhD, senior author on the paper and a professor of kinesiology at McMaster.

Researchers set out to compare the impact of whey vs collagen protein on muscle loss during periods of inactivity and then recovery.

Whey is considered a high-quality or “complete” protein, meaning it’s rich in all essential amino acids and is higher in leucine, one of the essential amino acids the body cannot make itself and therefore must derive from food.

Collagen peptides, by comparison, are much lower in their leucine content and lack or are low in essential amino acids.

For the study, researchers recruited men and women who were nonsmokers, didn’t have diabetes, and were between the ages of 65 and 80. One group of subjects consumed whey protein, the other collagen peptides, throughout the study.

For a five-week period, their diet was controlled, including a two-week time frame where their daily steps were restricted to 750 per day and their calorie intake reduced by 500 kcal per day, conditions that might mimic what older people often experience during a hospital stay.

Participants returned to normal activity levels during a one-week recovery period.

The team had predicted that the collagen peptide group would experience significantly greater muscle loss than the whey protein group, but that didn’t happen. Both groups lost the same amount of muscle.

“While we already know that complete protein sources are more potent for stimulating building processes we were surprised to discover that after two weeks of limiting steps among the participants, there were no apparent differences in muscle loss between the two groups,” says Sara Oikawa, lead author and a graduate student in the department of kinesiology at McMaster.

While protein was ineffective in mitigating muscle loss, researchers say, when participants returned to normal, muscle-building activity, the whey group recovered more skeletal muscle.

“When we consider measures that can be taken to help seniors as they age, it’s clear that whey is an important ingredient. Conversely, we should avoid collagen in formulations targeting older people,” Oikawa says.

In future research, Oikawa plans to focus on women specifically, who tend to experience greater difficulties in rebuilding strength.

Source: McMaster University

Do You Really Need to Eat More Protein?

Patti Neighmond wrote . . . . . . . . .

The marketing is enticing: Get stronger muscles and healthier bodies with minimal effort by adding protein powder to your morning shake or juice drink. Or grab a protein bar at lunch or for a quick snack. Today, you can find protein supplements everywhere — online or at the pharmacy, grocery store or health food store. They come in powders, pills and bars.

With more than $12 billion in sales this year, the industry is booming and, according to the market research company, Grand View Research, is on track to sell billions more by 2025. But do we really need all this supplemental protein? It depends. There are pros, cons and some ho-hums to consider.

For starters, protein is critical for every cell in our body. It helps build nails, hair, bones and muscles. It can also help you feel fuller longer than eating foods without protein. And, unlike nutrients that are found only in a few foods, protein is pretty much ubiquitous. “The typical American diet is a lot higher in protein than a lot of us think,” says registered dietitian Angela Pipitone with Johns Hopkins McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine.

She says it’s in foods many of us expect, such as beef, chicken and other types of meat and dairy. But it’s also in foods that may not come immediately to mind like vegetables, fruit, beans and grains.

The U.S. government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the average adult is 50 to 60 grams of protein a day. This may sound like a lot, but Pipitone says: “We get bits of protein here and there and that really adds up throughout the day.”

Take, for example, breakfast. If you ate two eggs topped with a little bit of cheese and an orange on the side, you already have 22 grams of protein. Each egg gives you 7 grams, the cheese gives you about 6 grams and the orange — about 2 grams. Add a lunch of chicken, rice and broccoli, and you are already over the recommended 50 grams. “You can get enough protein and meet the RDA before you even get to dinner,” says Pipitone.

So if it’s so easy to get your protein in food, why add more in the form of powders, snack bars or a boost at your local juice bar? No need to, says Pipitone because, in fact, most of us already get enough protein in our diet.

“Whole foods are always the best option rather than adding supplements,” she says, noting the FDA does not regulate supplements as stringently as foods or drugs, so there could be less protein, more sugar and some additives you wouldn’t expect, such as caffeine and even steroids.

If you are considering a supplement, read the list of ingredients, she says, although this is not always foolproof. “I’ve seen very expensive protein supplements that claim to be high quality but they might not really be beneficial for the average healthy adult,” she says. “It could just be a waste of money.”

But there are certain situations that do warrant extra protein. “Anytime you’re in an anabolic state or building muscle,” Pipitone says, such as if you’re an extreme endurance athlete, training for a marathon, or you’re a body builder.

If you’re moderately exercising for 150 minutes a week, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, or less than that, you’re probably not an extreme athlete.

Extreme athletes expend lots of energy breaking down and repairing and building muscles. Protein can give them the edge they need to speed along that process.

Vegans can benefit from protein supplements since they do not eat animal-based protein sources like meat, dairy or eggs. And, for someone always on-the-go who may not have time for a meal, a protein snack bar can be a good option for occasional meal replacement.

Also, individuals recovering from surgery or an injury can also benefit from extra protein. So, too, can older people. At around age 60, “muscles really start to break down,” says Kathryn Starr, an aging researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, “and because of that, in addition to the fact that as we get older our body’s ability to break down protein is reduced, the protein needs of an older adult actually increases.”

In fact, along with her colleague Connie Bales, Starr recently conducted a small study that found that adding extra protein foods to the diet of obese older individuals who were trying to lose weight strengthened their muscles. Participants in the study were separated into two groups — one group was asked to eat 30 grams of protein per meal in the form of whole foods. That meant they were eating 90 grams of protein a day. The other group — the control group — was put on a typical low-calorie diet with about 50 to 60 grams of protein a day.

After six months, researchers found the high protein group had significantly improved their muscle function — almost twice as much as the control group.

“They were able to walk faster, had improved balance, and were also able to get up out of a chair faster than the control group,” Starr says.

All 67 participants were over 60 years of age, and both groups lost about the same amount of weight.

Starr is now looking into whether high-protein diets also improve the quality of the muscle itself in seniors. She’s using CT scans to measure muscle size and fat, and comparing seniors on a high-protein diet to those on regular diets. She says her findings should be available in a couple of months.

In the meantime, 70-year-old Corliss Keith, who was in the high protein group in Starr’s latest study, says she feels a big difference. “I feel excellent,” she says. “I feel like I have a different body, I have more energy, I’m stronger.” She says she is able to take Zumba exercise classes three times a week, work out on the treadmill, and take long, brisk walks. Keith also lost more than 15 pounds. “I’m a fashionable person, so now I’m back in my 3-inch heels,” she says.

As people age, researcher Starr says muscle strength is key to helping them stay strong and continue living on their own in their own home. “I feel very much alive now,” says Keith. “I feel like I could stay by myself until I’m 100.”

But can people overdo protein? Pipitone says you do have to be careful. Other researchers say too much protein can cause nausea, cramps, headaches, fatigue and bloating.

Dehydration is also a risk when you eat too much protein. Pipitone says if you increase protein, you also have to increase your fluid intake. “I always tell people to make sure they’re drinking enough fluids,” which for the average person is 60 to 70 ounces a day, which translates into eight 8-ounce glasses of water or liquid per day.

There have been some indications that extra protein makes the kidneys work harder, which could be problematic for individuals with a history of kidney disease and for them, the supplements may increase the risk of kidney stones, she says.

Bottom line, if you think you need more protein in your diet, consider these questions: Are you are an extreme athlete; are you recovering from injury or surgery; or are you 60 years or older?

If so, adding high protein foods like eggs and meat products to your diet can be beneficial.

And, if you’re not sure, it is always a good idea to check with your primary care provider.

Source: npr