One of the most well-known benefits of whey protein, is that it can help build muscle. But as research reveals, whey protein also possesses 7 other health benefits. Read on as I unravel the 8 benefits of whey protein that are based on academic research and real life studies.
Support the Immune System and Reduce both Inflammation and Asthma
Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the lungs. Cytokines assist in managing inflammation and are used by the immune system in response to trauma and infection . Research has demonstrated whey proteins’ ability to improve cytokine response. Supporting the immune system and its response to inflammation . Scientists have also found that the consumption of whey can help reduce the amount of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in the blood. Experts have found a link between CRP and inflammation. Whereby an increase in CRP leads to an increase in inflammation and a reduction in CRP assists with alleviating it [3, 4].
Muscle Building and Recovery
Whey is rich in amino acids. These amino acids are classified into two main groups; essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body, instead they are absorbed from the foods we eat. Similarly, non-essential amino acids are also absorbed from the foods we eat. However, they can also be produced by the body. Both groups provide the nutrients that are required to build natural anabolic hormones and muscle . In particular, research has demonstrated that the group of essential amino acids known as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are especially useful in synthesizing muscle. As whey is high in BCAAs, experts recommend that its consumption can assist in reducing the duration of muscle soreness and promote the recovery, toning and growth of muscle fibers [6, 7, 8, 9, 10].
Reduce HIV Symptoms
Cysteine is an amino acid that helps the body produce glutathione. The body uses glutathione as an antioxidant, protecting its cells against harmful oxidants . Patients with HIV are often deficient in glutathione . This deficiency can affect the immune system, producing unwanted side effects. Research has demonstrated that whey protein can significantly increase the production of glutathione, reducing hepatitis and other HIV symptoms [13, 14, 15].
Protection against Cancer
Glutathione plays a big role in preventing cancer. As an antioxidant, it reduces the stress formed by oxidants. If this stress is not controlled, oxidants can not only break down the cells themselves, but can also damage and mutate DNA, potentially developing cancerous cells [20, 21]. In studies, whey protein has demonstrated its ability to prevent the development of certain cancers, with other studies suggesting it can also help improve cancer treatment [22, 23, 24].
Cortisol is a hormone that has been associated with stress. Scientists discovered that the alpha-lactalbumin in whey protein reduces this hormone, assisting with the management of stress . Research has also shown that the tryptophan found in whey promotes the synthesis of serotonin. This hormone helps to regulate emotions. Experts have linked deficiencies in serotonin to an increase in stress, depression, and anxiety . Studies have found that by increasing this hormone, the associated negative effects can be better controlled [18, 19].
Reduce Blood Pressure
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you have probably already heard about the Angiotensin-I-Converting Enzyme (ACE) and ACE inhibitors. For those that aren’t aware, ACE inhibitors help reduce blood pressure. Scientists have found that the alpha-lactalbumin (alpha-la) and beta-lactoglobulin (beta-lg) found in whey protein, can mildly inhibit ACE and thereby help reduce a person blood pressure [25, 26].
Increase the Feeling of Fullness
Consuming any type of protein enhances the feeling of fullness over other macronutrients such as fat, fiber and carbohydrates [27, 33]. As whey is high in protein, it has a positive effect on satiety, reducing hunger and increasing the feeling of fullness. In one study, scientists found snacks that contain whey protein improved appetite control and satiety over the control group . Interestingly enough, they also found whey to produce a more favorable effect on appetite and satiety than both casein and soy .
Support Weight Loss
In 2011, scientists found that the consumption of whey, can help increase fat oxidation and improve the body’s metabolism [30, 31]. Supporting a weight loss diet by burning more energy and increasing the availability of fat to be burnt. Scientists demonstrated whey’s benefits in one weight loss study, where participants were put on a 500 calorie deficient diet. One group was given the whey protein while the other consumed an isocaloric drink. After 12 weeks, the group that consumed the whey saw a greater increase in both; the amount of weight lost and also the amount of muscle retained .