Feather-based snacks help ath­letes’ pro­tein lev­els soar

The Northern Advocate - - Nation - Jamie Mor­ton

Could chicken feath­ers help beef up your lean body mass?

It’s a weird sug­ges­tion, but one backed by a study just pub­lished by New Zealand re­searchers.

The Massey Univer­sity paper found the feath­ers could have po­ten­tial as a pro­tein sup­ple­ment for peo­ple want­ing to build or main­tain lean body mass.

Ker­atins are struc­tural, thiol-rich pro­teins which com­prise 90 per cent of to­tal poul­try feather weight.

“Nor­mally we don’t eat feath­ers be­cause we can’t di­gest them, even though they are full of pro­tein,” said Pro­fes­sor Steve Stan­nard, who, with Dr Matthew Barnes, su­per­vised the study by Drs Emma Crum and Yanita McLeay. “But for our study the feath­ers went through a process called acid hy­drol­y­sis which vastly im­proved sol­u­bil­ity.”

The mix­ture was then cooled and a base was added to raise the pH of the so­lu­tion to form a neu­tral pH ed­i­ble pro­tein mix. That so­lu­tion was dried and milled, and flavour­ing added to form a pro­tein pow­der.

The sup­ple­ment was con­sumed as two pro­tein bars, of two dif­fer­ent flavours, and the re­main­der of the pro­tein re­quire­ment, in pow­der form, mixed with wa­ter to make a drink.

Fif­teen trained male cy­clists, aged be­tween 18 and 50, were re­cruited for the Manawatu-based study.

They were then given four weeks of sol­u­ble ker­atin sup­ple­men­tary to their diet to see if it would have ef­fects on body com­po­si­tion, blood and car­diores­pi­ra­tory vari­ables and cy­cling per­for­mance, com­pared to ca­sein pro­tein, or dairy.

Stan­nard said while the to­tal body mass and per­cent­age body fat did not change much, the study un­earthed an in­ter­est­ing find­ing.

“Our data showed that while ker­atin con­sump­tion is not use­ful as a per­for­mance en­hanc­ing aid, it was as­so­ci­ated with sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in lean body mass dur­ing the four weeks of ex­er­cise train­ing.”

The dairy-based sup­ple­ment didn’t have the same ef­fect.

“It per­haps has the po­ten­tial to be used as a sup­ple­ment for peo­ple who want to im­prove their lean body mass such as the el­derly or some sports­peo­ple.”

The study was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Sports Nu­tri­tion.

Steve Stan­nard

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