Whey protein lowers diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors in obese adults

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(NaturalNews) Whey protein may reduce obese adults' risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research and funded by the Nordic Centre of Excellence and the Danish Council for Strategic Research.

Whey is a form of protein most commonly found in dairy products such as milk and cheese. It is a popular dietary supplement among muscle builders and recent studies have also suggested that it may have health benefits in people who are obese. Because whey is produced as a byproduct of dairy manufacture, and would have to be disposed of as waste if not purchased, it tends to be low-cost relative to other protein supplements.

Healthier sugar and fat levels

Approximately 35 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in the United States suffer from obesity, placing them at increased risk of developing a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In this population, high levels of blood sugar and high levels of blood fat after meals are considered major risk signs for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, respectively.

Recent studies have suggested that in obese adults, blood fat levels after meals may be affected, in part, by the type of protein consumed during the meal. Other studies have suggested that whey protein in particular might lower fat levels and also boost production of insulin (thereby lowering blood sugar levels).

In order to examine these issues further, the researchers fed volunteers a meal of soup and bread supplemented with either whey, casein (another milk protein), gluten (a grain protein) or cod protein. They found that the participants who ate the whey protein had lower levels of fatty acids in their blood after meals, as well as higher levels of amino acids that are known to increase insulin levels. This suggests that in obese adults, whey protein could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Many demographics benefit from whey

The study is only the latest to suggest the cardiovascular benefits of whey consumption in some populations. For example, a study conducted by researchers from Washington State University and published in the International Dairy Journal in 2013 found that individuals with high blood pressure taking a daily whey supplement led to a six-point reduction in blood pressure. There was no effect on people who did not have high blood pressure. Prior studies have shown that blood pressure decreases on this scale can reduce the risk of fatal stroke by 35 to 40 percent and also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"One of the things I like about this is it is low-cost," researcher Susan Fluegel said. "Not only that, whey protein has not been shown to be harmful in any way."

Another study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2013, examined the effect of whey and soy protein supplements on resistance-trained men in their early 20s. Men were randomly assigned to consume 20 grams of whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate or maltodextrin (placebo) every day before engaging in heavy resistance exercise. Participants were not allowed to take any other supplements during the course of the intervention; vegetarians, vegans, and people on high-protein diets were excluded from the study.

The researchers found that after two weeks, resistance athletes who took the whey supplement exhibited a significantly lower stress hormone (cortisol) response following the exercise than patients in the placebo group. In contrast, patients who took soy protein demonstrated decreased blood levels of testosterone.

"Protein supplementation alters the physiological responses to a commonly used exercise modality with some differences due to the type of protein utilized," the researchers wrote.

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