woman drinking a smoothie

Decades of hype have turned protein into a superfood – and spawned an industry worth billions

from Hannah Cutting-Jones, University of Oregon

Ever mix a protein smoothie for breakfast or grab a protein bar after an afternoon workout? If so, you are likely one of those millions of people looking for a higher protein diet.

Protein fortified products are ubiquitous, and nowadays it seems like protein can be poured into anything – even water. But the problem is how Kristi Wempen, Nutritionist at Mayo Clinic, mention, that, is that, “Against all the hype that everyone needs more protein, most Americans are getting twice what they need.”

Many of us who live in the most economically developed countries buy in a myth of protein deficiency created and sustained by food companies and a host of self-proclaimed health professionals. Global retail sales of protein supplements – which typically contain a combination of whey, casein, or vegetable proteins such as peas, soy, or brown rice – reached a a staggering $ 18.9 billion in 2020, with the US making up about half of the market.

I am a Food historian and recently spent a month at the Library of Congress answering the question of why we have historically been and remain so focused on dietary proteins. I wanted to study the ethical, social, and cultural implications of this multi-billion dollar industry.

Experts weigh in

Slimming surgeon Garth Davis writes in his book “Proteinaholic” that “Eat more protein” can be the worst advice the “experts” give to the public. ” Davis claims that most doctors in the United States have never examined a patient with a protein deficiency because by consuming a reasonable number of calories each day, we are most likely getting enough protein.

Indeed, Americans are right now consume almost twice The National Academy of Medicine’s Recommended Daily Protein Intake: 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women – that’s the equivalent of two eggs, half a cup of nuts, and 3 ounces of meat – although the optimal protein intake may vary based on age and activity level.

For example, if you are a dedicated athlete, you may need to consume higher amounts of protein. Generally however a 140 pound person shouldn’t exceed 120 grams of protein per day, especially because of a high protein diet Straining the kidney and Liver function and increase the risk of developing heart disease and cancer.

Walter Willett, Chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, describes high protein intake as “one of the fundamental processes that increase the risk of cancerWith these concerns aside, processed supplements and protein bars are often full of calories and can contain more sugar than a candy bar.

However, as noted in the New York Times, “the protein supplement market is booming among the young and healthy,” those who arguably least need it Retail of protein products in the US was $ 9 billion in 2020, up from about $ 6.6 billion in 2015.

Fats and carbohydrates have been alternately denigrated along with sugar since the macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) were identified over a century ago. As a food writer Bee Wilson indicates that protein has succeeded in “last macronutrient left over. ”

Why has protein proven itself to be the supposedly holy grail of nutrients, with many of us wholeheartedly joining in the pursuit of ever larger amounts?

The hit of protein products

The history of making and marketing protein-fortified products almost goes back to the discovery of the protein itself.

German chemist Justus von Liebig, one of the first to identify and study macronutrients, looked at proteins.as the only true nutrient. “Liebig was also the first to mass-produce and market a protein-related product,” Liebig’s Extract of Meat “, in the 1860s.

Author György Scrinis write that through “Advertising and cheap advertising that [Liebig’s Extract of Meat] Company achieved ‘significant success’. “Especially for those who couldn’t afford meat, the extract appeared to be a sensible and filling substitute.

A wagon pulled by two oxen with people walking by.
French advertisement for Liebig’s meat extract.

Wikimedia Commons

Protein consumption has since remained a central part of nutritional advice and marketing campaigns, even with recycled and recurring arguments about the optimal amount of protein and whether plant or animal sources are best.

Around the time Liebig was starting his extract company, John Harvey Kellogg, a staunch vegetarian, set off Redefine traditional American dishes at his sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The Kellogg family invented cereal, cereal, nut butters, and a variety of “nut meats” that they produce, package, market, and sell across the country. Kellogg wrote countless tracts denouncing meat-heavy diets and assuring readers that protein-rich plant foods could easily replace meat.

In an April 1910 issue of Good Health, Kellogg found that “Beans, peas, lentils, and nuts provide a large proportion of the protein elements that are essential for blood formation and tissue building.”

How protein regained its status

In addition to the meat and grain companies that consistently advertise the high protein content of their foods, the first processed protein shake came onto the market in 1952 with the bodybuilder mogul Bob Hoffman Hi-Proteen Shakes, made from a combination of soy protein, whey and flavorings.

Protein products remained visible in the 1970s through 1990s, but declined somewhat as the focus of the diet was on low calorie, low fat, sugar free snacks and beverages after publication of studies Connection of sugar and saturated fat with heart disease. Those decades gave us Slimfast and Diet Coke, as well as fat-free (and guilt-free) SnackWells cookies and Lays potato chips.

New research in 2003, however suggested high protein diets might help you lose weight, and protein quickly regained its former nutritional superstar status.

Whole diets followed, each offering a range of protein drinks and bars. Robert Atkins first published his low-carbohydrate, high-protein “Dr. Atkins’ diet revolution“in 1982. It became one of the 50 best-selling books of all time in the early 2000s, despite one 2003 New England Journal of Medicine article clearly recommending that “Longer and Bigger Studies [were] needed to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of low-carb, high-protein, and high-fat diets, “according to Atkins’.

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The long-term pursuit of protein in the hopes of achieving bigger muscles, smaller waists, and fewer hunger pangs is ongoing, and there has never been a shortage of people willing to take advantage of the public’s nutritional goals by giving or giving unnecessary advice new high protein product.

Ultimately, most people living in high-income countries get enough protein. When we replace meals with a protein bar or shake, we also risk missing out on the abundant sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and many other benefits of real foods.The conversation

Hannah Cutting-Jones, Lecturer, Institute for History, University of Oregon

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.


Thank You For Reading!

Reference: www.healthywomen.org


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