Chicken feathers are a powerful protein supplement - study

If you're after a new protein supplement to hit those New Year's fitness goals, chicken feathers might be the surprising answer. 

New research from Massey University's School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition suggests chicken feathers could have potential as a protein supplement for people wanting to build or maintain lean body mass.

The study, published recently in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, says that it's due to the keratins in chicken feathers: structural, thiol-rich proteins which make up 90 percent of poultry feather weight. 

"Normally we don't eat feathers because we can't digest them, even though they are full of protein. But for our study, the feathers went through a process called 'acid hydrolysis', which vastly improved solubility," says leader of the study Professor Steve Stannard.

"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 - was mixed with water to make a drink. 

The study says 15 male cyclists were given the supplement for four weeks. 

Professor Stannard says while the total body mass and percentage body fat did not change significantly, 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," he says.  

"Despite not inducing any significant changes in cycling performance, the keratin was well-tolerated by the study participants. 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 sports-people."

That's cluckin' helpful for reaching those fitness goals this year.