A number of Bond Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice (MNDP) students recently had the opportunity to be part of a cutting-edge sports nutrition study into the doping risk of protein fortified foods.
The study for industry peak bodies - the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Sport Australia and Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) - was led by Sports Dietitian and Bond MDNP alumnus, Kerry O’Bryan alongside Associate Professor Greg Cox, Co-Head of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice at Bond University.
The second-year MDNP students were given the opportunity to be involved as part of their 20-week research internship.
Protein supplements, higher protein-containing-foods and foods fortified with protein - otherwise known as Protein Fortified Foods (PFF) - are widely used across the general sporting community as well as by professional sporting bodies.
The research, believed to be a world-first, explored the doping risk that commercially-manufactured foods containing ‘added protein’ - for example protein bars, balls, cereals and smoothies - pose to unsuspecting athletes.
It was based on related research Mr O’Bryan had conducted for his thesis, which explored the benefits of multi-ingredient protein supplements, as a former Master of Nutrition & Dietetic Practice student at Bond. This study went on to be published in the industry-leading British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) in 2020.
As a Bond alumnus, Mr O’Bryan understood the importance of gaining hands-on research experience as early in his career as possible, and so was keen to ‘pay it forward’ by involving Bond MDNP students in his latest research for the AIS when the opportunity arose.
The multi-dimensional research project included a systematic review, athlete interviews, food industry audits and a survey of cafes serving PFFs – and it was the survey that the Bond MNDP students were tasked with executing.
They surveyed more than 60 cafes to identify whether they were serving PFFs on their menus, whether they made the foods themselves and where they sourced their protein powders/products from, as well as analysing the data collected.
Mr O’Bryan said the students played a very important part of the project in terms of identifying and assessing the risk of PFFs being served in cafes.
“Their research contributed significantly to the key findings and recommendations provided to the AIS, which included the development of a suite of resources for athletes, sporting organisations and elite sporting bodies, on the doping risk of PFFs,” he said.
Natalie Rogers, one of the Bond students who conducted the research, said a key driver to her getting involved was the attention and hype surrounding PFFs.
“I was excited to learn more about how these products, which are so readily available, are regulated and how this impacts elite athletes,” she said.
“Coming from a sporting background, I was also eager to work alongside such experienced and knowledgeable sports nutrition researchers as Kerry and Greg and help support the AIS.”
Ms Rogers said learning about the processes around testing and certification was an eye-opening experience.
“I learnt that for an elite level athlete, it’s crucial they are aware of, and monitoring, the types of protein used in the products they consume,” she said.
“This research experience broadened my knowledge base and gave me a better understanding of how research is conducted as well as the importance of conducting thorough, high-quality research.
“Since graduating I have been able to apply the skills I gained across a number of different areas of dietetics.
“It has enabled me to confidently and critically appraise research and utilise the best evidenced-based practice for my patients in a clinical setting.”
Natalie is now working full-time at Mackay Base Hospital and running a private dietetic business that involves nutritional genetic testing.
Mr O’Bryan, who completed both a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science and Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice at Bond University, was joined by Associate Professor Cox to present their research findings at the 2021 Sports Dietitian Australia (SDA) Conference late last year.
The study will inform supplement policies of professional sporting bodies across the country and hopefully spawn similar investigations in other countries.
You can read a blog about the study here: New study explores doping risk of protein fortified foods | Sport Integrity Australia or the full report here: Protein-Fortified-Foods-Report.pdf (ais.gov.au).