Whey Protein Does More Than Build Muscle
What can lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, improve mood and thinking, stimulate bone and muscle growth, decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, possess anticancer effects, and provide the health benefits of calorie restriction without restricting calories? Based on the title of the article you might say whey protein. And, if you are clever enough to figure that out, you would be right. Whey protein can do all of that making it one of the more healthy foods or nutritional supplement to include in your diet.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a superfood and a source high quality protein that contains all 18 amino acids. These amino acids are found in various forms in whey protein and include immunoglobulins, β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, serum albumin, and several other proteins all of which are highly bioactive compounds that mediate many of whey protein’s health benefits.
Calorie Restriction Effects of Whey Protein
Calorie restriction has been shown to increase life span in all organisms tested to date. Calorie restriction means reducing calories without causing malnutrition. Whey protein (and other compounds) is a calorie restriction mimetic meaning it induces similar healthy metabolic changes as does calorie restriction. The branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are thought to act as calorie restriction mimetics.
Diabetes and Weight Control
Whey protein helps diabetes and weight control through a couple of mechanisms. First, whey protein helps maintain muscles and muscles contain insulin receptors which clear sugar from the blood. It also increases metabolism and it stimulates the release of hormones that lead to reduce food intake and provide a sense of satiey or fullness.
In animal studies whey protein suppresses cancer develoment. It does so through increased production of glutathione and enhancement of the immune system. Gluthathione is the body’s main internally produced antioxidant and fights free radicals that contribute to disease. Whey protein seems to also stimulate the action of natural killer and T-helper cells of the immune system.
Alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin found in whey protein help modulate blood pressure while lactoferrin decreases platelet binding reducing cardiovascular risk. Plus, whey protein decreases LDL production another risk factor for heart disease.
Whey Protein and the Brain
Neurotransmitters that affect brain function and moods are sythesized from amino acids. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in whey protein and is a precursor to serotonin production. Serotonin is the “happy hormone” and its levels decline with age. Low serotonin levels also affect memory. Whey protein helps to restore healthy serotonin levels. The increased production of glutathione protects the brain from oxidative stress reducing cognitive decline and dementia.
Whey protein facilitates the growth of the good bacteria in the gut that play a major role in the function of the immune system. The bioactive protein compounds found in whey appear to protect against gastric ulcers and injury.
Known to support muscle growth and development, whey protein provides several other health benefits that are coming to light each day giving whey protein the right to be called a superfood.