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More and more dairy products, baked goods and even chocolate bars are being infused with protein these days. Protein-rich products, which used to be available only at gyms, have found their way onto supermarket shelves.

“You might even think muesli and proteins are mutually exclusive,” a spokeswoman for breakfast brand Mymuesli admits. “But with the right ingredients, they fit well together.”

The German manufacturer is one of many to focus on protein, recently adding extra protein to its porridge range after its “40-per-cent protein mueslis” flew off the shelves.

“Daily time constraints play a large role today. The nutritional value of food is becoming increasingly important,” explains the spokeswoman. “If you eat well, you can do more.”

“Protein does indeed have a good reputation of being very nutritious,” explains nutritionist Antje Gahl of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). “It is an important material for cells and tissues.”

“A higher protein intake is accompanied by a higher level of saturation,” explains the nutritionist. Although proteins are good for muscle growth, they play a minor role for the average consumer. “Many think, ‘If I eat more proteins, I will be less hungry and lose weight.’”

Among those marketing this mentality is dairy company Arla. Among their 15 products containing high amounts of protein is the bestseller Skyr – a type of thick low-fat yoghurt.

Their popularity has been a global trend, Arla says, selling its yoghurt in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the US and Britain. Meanwhile muesli bars from granola maker Nature Valley are now available with a protein-rich version.

And yet protein is already found in a lot of foods. Three to four slices of wholemeal bread, a serving of milk, a small cup of yogurt, some potatoes and a piece of fish – that’s 60 grams of protein, Gahl explains. It’s a bit more than a grown man needs, and a 60-kilo woman only needs 48 grams.

So does all this extra protein make any sense?

“It’s not necessary,” says Gahl. She suspects that behind this protein trend is a clever marketing scheme. Even for a recreational athlete who exercizes for thirty minutes four to five times a week, the recommended average amount of protein is sufficient, and protein supplements are unnecessary.

Indeed there can be too much of a good thing: “There are studies that show a long-term increase in protein intake can damage the kidneys,” explains Gahl. “Protein consists of various amino acids and leaves uric acid in the body.”

In particular, products that are already unhealthy don’t suddenly become healthy when protein is added. “This is absolutely absurd with chocolate bars,” says Gahl. “You should not substitute your protein needs with chocolate.” – dpa

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