Study: Quorn's mycoprotein could be as good as milk for muscle building
- In a collaborative study between Quorn Foods and the University of Exeter, researchers found that mycoprotein may be substantially equivalent to some animal-based protein, according to Food Navigator.
- The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, involved 12 healthy young men who completed five experimental trials. They drank test substances either containing milk protein or some form of mycoprotein. Follow-up blood tests showed that mycoprotein resulted in slower but more sustained availability of amino acids and insulin, which could indicate conditions are right for muscle building.
- "We concluded that mycoprotein provides a very available dietary protein source, and speculate that it would be an effective source of protein to support muscle building in a variety of populations," Dr. Benjamin Wall, the study's senior author, told Food Navigator.
Quorn is understandably anxious to scientifically establish the value of mycoprotein, the controversial mold-derived ingredient in its non-animal protein products. The company settled a class-action lawsuit earlier this year filed by a Los Angeles woman claiming that its products violated federal and state false advertising and unfair business practices laws. It has also denied a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of an 11-year-old boy with a mold allergy who died of anaphylactic shock in 2013 after consuming a Quorn "Turk'y Burger."
As part of the settlement of the class-action suit — which claimed Quorn's labels stating it was made of mycoprotein led the plaintiff to believe it was something akin to mushrooms, truffles, or morels — Quorn must put the following label on its products: “Mycoprotein is a mold (member of the fungi family). There have been rare cases of allergic reactions to products that contain mycoprotein.”
While mycoprotein has been given a generally recognized as safe designation from the Food and Drug Administration, consumer groups and other lawsuits have claimed the ingredient causes fainting, extreme nausea, severe anaphylactic reactions and even death in some consumers. For those who have no adverse reactions to the ingredient, knowing that it is derived from mold may turn some off when they look at the product label.
Started in the U.K. in 1985 by Marlow Foods, Quorn was bought at auction in 2015 for $831 million by Philippines-based Monde Nissin, best-known for its noodles and other CPG products. Other bidders reportedly included Nomad Foods, McCain, Nestle and WhiteWave.
At the time, CEO Kevin Brennan told the BBC that the deal would help the business grow: "We have an ambition to be the world leader in meat alternatives, ultimately creating a $1 billion business. Monde Nissin ... provides the capability to expand the brand into Asia."
Despite its difficulties, Quorn has managed to persevere. It has introduced a line of vegan products and a line of refrigerated sausages and chicken strips, and its products are now distributed in 19 countries, including the U.S., where Walmart began selling Quorn items in 2012. Demand here is said to have increased 30% between 2014 and 2015, and the company hopes to triple its American business by 2020.
Any scientifically valid research showing that mycoprotein's bioavailability is just as good as that of animal-derived protein sources should provide Quorn with a further boost — provided those claims are labeled and marketed correctly. Even though mold has a high ick factor, consumers do embrace it in other food products — like artisanal cheeses — for taste and nutritional purposes.