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The challenges of creating whey based medical nutrition

04 Apr 2019

2 min

The case for whey protein in medical nutrition

Elderly and patients rely on high-quality supplementary nutrition to support recovery and to maintain quality of life. 

Whey protein is an excellent nutrition source for the elderly and patients due to its fast absorption properties and high leucine content; the essential amino acid that triggers the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Increasing MPS supports the maintenance of muscle mass.

The benefits of using whey protein in medical nutrition to support muscle maintenance have been widely documented in the literature. However, there are still challenges in terms of formulating oral nutritional supplements (ONS) containing whey protein.

The heat stability issues of standard whey protein ingredients create challenges for manufacturers

Like many liquid food products, medical beverages are subjected to high-heat treatments during processing [i.e. retorting or ultra-high heat treatment (UHT)] to ensure product safety and shelf-life stability.

Thermal treatment causes whey proteins to denature irreversibly and form aggregates or gels.

Moreover, manufacturers risk extensive fouling and blocking of their production equipment. These problems increase with higher whey protein levels.

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Processing challenges significantly impact the quality of whey-dominant products

Consequently, these products may show unwanted sensory attributes, including:

  • High viscosity
  • Chalkiness
  • Sandiness
  • Lumpiness

Sedimentation or gelation post-production can also occur, causing limited shelf life.

Unwanted sensory attributes can cause lower levels of medical nutrition compliance

Healthy agers and patients typically have a reduced appetite due to a decline in their sense of taste, smell, and/or the ability to chew and swallow. Therefore, it is paramount that ONS is fit for purpose by providing excellent mouthfeel, great taste and an easy to swallow texture, to enable the delivery of high-quality nutrients into the bodies of patients and healthy agers.

Developing ONS containing standard whey proteins is difficult, causing producers to resort to using other types of protein which don’t match the qualitative amino acid profile of whey protein or deliver the digestion benefits of whey protein. 

This information is intended for B2B customers, suppliers and distributors, and is not intended as information for final consumers.

 

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