Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is an excellent protein choice for individuals of all ages who value the role of a healthy diet in helping to maintain and improve their health. Whey protein isolate, the purest form available, is unsurpassed as a source of the essential amino acids required in the daily diet. Essential amino acids are the building blocks for healthy muscles, skin, nails and other body tissue. To learn more about whey protein and how it contributes to good health please select your specific area of interest.

Physical Performance
Whey protein has long been considered the “Gold Standard” of protein for serious athletes who work hard to develop and sustain a lean, strong and well-defined physique. Research studies support this belief. Athletes need more protein in their diet, often as much as twice the recommended daily allowance. The protein they choose makes a difference and here are several reasons why whey protein is a preferred choice for athletes of all types.

  • Whey protein is a naturally complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids required in the daily diet. It has the ideal combination of amino acids to help improve body composition and enhance athletic performance.
  • Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), containing the highest known levels of any natural food source. BCAAs are important for athletes since unlike the other essential amino acids, they are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise and resistance training. Whey protein provides the body with BCAAs to replenish depleted levels and start repairing and rebuilding lean muscle tissue.
  • Whey protein is an excellent source of the essential amino acid, leucine. Leucine is important for athletes as it plays a key role in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. Research has shown that individuals who exercise benefit from diets high in leucine and have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat compared to individuals whose diet contains lower levels of leucine. Whey protein isolate has approximately 50% more leucine than soy protein isolate.
  • Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest protein and is efficiently absorbed into the body. It is often referred to as a “fast” protein for its ability to quickly provide nourishment to muscles.
  • Whey protein helps athletes maintain a healthy immune system by increasing the levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is an anti-oxidant required for a healthy immune system and exercise and resistance training may reduce glutathione levels. Whey protein helps keep athletes healthy and strong to perform their best.

Weight Management
Studies show that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can add years to your life and help prevent weight related complications, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Diet plays a key role in any weight management program and adding whey protein often helps make a positive difference. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • The body requires more energy to digest protein than other foods (thermic effect) and as a result you burn more calories after a protein meal.
  • Whey protein isolate is pure protein with little to no fat or carbohydrates. It is a perfect complement to any low carbohydrate or low glycemic index diet plan.
  • Recent studies by Dr. Donald Layman, a professor at the University of Illinois, have highlighted the role of the essential amino acid leucine in improving body composition. High quality whey protein is rich in leucine to help preserve lean muscle tissue while promoting fat loss. Whey protein contains more leucine than milk protein, egg protein and soy protein.
  • Protein helps to stabilize blood glucose levels by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This in turn reduces hunger by lowering insulin levels and making it easier for the body to burn fat.
  • Whey protein contains bioactive components that help stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing hormones: cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). In support of this, a new study found that whey protein had a greater impact on satiety than casein, the other protein in milk. Adding whey protein to a mid-day snack or beverage provides healthy energy and may help control food intake at the next meal.

Cardiovascular Health
In 2001 heart disease was the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. With the average life expectancy rising each year, it becomes increasingly important to adopt a nutritious diet and regular exercise program to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Whey protein should be part of that nutritious diet.

Cancer
Cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy often have difficulty in meeting their daily nutritional requirements due to nausea and lack of appetite. This may lead to weight loss, muscle loss and protein calorie malnutrition. Whey protein is an excellent protein choice for cancer patients as it is very easy to digest and very gentle to the system. Whey protein may be added to a wide variety of foods and beverages to increase the protein content without affecting taste.

As with serious athletes, cancer patients often have reduced glutathione levels and a weakened immune system. Numerous studies have shown that whey protein, rich in the amino acid cysteine, provides an extra boost to the immune system by raising glutathione levels. This may help reduce the risk of infection and improve the responsiveness of the immune system. In support of this, at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Cancer Society, research was presented showing that women with the highest levels of plasma cysteine had a 56% reduction in the risk of breast cancer compared to individuals with the lowest levels of plasma cysteine.

Whey protein has been shown through animal and in vitro studies to inhibit the growth of several types of cancer tumors. Dr. Thomas Badger, head of the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock, found that feeding rats whey protein resulted in their developing 50% fewer tumors than rats fed casein. The rats fed whey protein also developed fewer tumors than rats fed soy protein and the tumors took longer to develop.

Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a growing health problem, largely in part to the continued rise in obesity. It is not unique to adults and is becoming more of a concern for children and teenagers. The good news is that healthy nutrition practices have been shown to play a role in helping to manage, and possibly prevent, the onset of type-2 diabetes. Whey protein, a high quality, high biological value protein, is a good choice for diabetics who need to carefully manage food intake. Whey protein provides more value than equal amounts of lower quality proteins that are often higher in fat and cholesterol. In addition, whey protein helps control blood glucose levels and has been shown to be beneficial for weight management, both of which are often a concern for type-2 diabetics.

Infant Nutrition
Whey protein contains many of the same components found in human breast milk and for this reason, is a key ingredient in a wide variety of infant formulas, including those for premature infants. Certain types of whey protein based infant formulas have also been shown to help reduce crying in colicky infants. While breast-feeding is preferred, infant formulas containing whey protein are the next best thing when breast-feeding is not an option. In addition, whey protein is an excellent protein choice for the expectant mother who needs increased amounts of protein. Pregnancy can increase the body’s protein needs by up to 33%. Before making any changes to their diet, it is recommended that expectant mothers consult with a physician to determine their unique protein needs.

Healthy Aging
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by the year 2020 approximately one out of every six Americans will be in the in the 65 and older age group. As we age, muscle loss and its negative health implications is a growing concern, both in terms of volume and medical costs. Good nutrition and adequate amounts of high quality whey protein may help maintain strong muscles during aging, especially when combined with an exercise and resistance training program. A recent study in Europe compared whey protein to casein, the primary protein in milk. They found that older men who consumed whey protein showed greater protein synthesis, or growth, which helped limit muscle loss over time.

Another benefit of whey protein for seniors is the ability to help prevent bone loss. A recent study conducted at Boston University showed that elderly individuals who consumed low levels of protein had a significant loss of bone density four years after the start of the study, especially in the hip and spine areas. A nutritious diet including whey protein may help keep bones and muscles healthy and strong.

Wound Healing
When the body is working to heal wounds and surgical incisions it requires increased amounts of protein. Protein and its amino acids are the building blocks that initiate the growth of new skin during the healing process. Inadequate amounts of protein or diets high in poor quality proteins, such as gelatin, may delay the healing process. Whey protein is a very high quality protein and is often the preferred choice for high protein products recommended by physicians following surgery or burn therapy.

Whey protein also contains components with protective anti-microbial properties, such as lactoferrin. In recent years companies have introduced mouthwashes and oral care products containing these protective whey protein components. The companies are taking advantage of the unique features of whey protein to create new products for diabetics and others sensitive to oral irritations. This area is expected to evolve in the future

® Whey Protein Institute

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