Whey protein’s heart health benefits demonstrated in RCT study

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Whey appeared to show CVD benefits compared to placebo. ©iStock/wildpixel
Whey appeared to show CVD benefits compared to placebo. ©iStock/wildpixel

Related tags: Whey protein, Blood pressure

Whey protein could reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease, an RCT has found. 

Researchers from the University of Reading in the UK found subjects who drank two milk-derived whey protein shakes a day reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 8%.

Those taking the supplement also recorded lower blood pressure and cholesterol values.

The study commented on the influence of whey protein on the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) - a central component of a system that controls blood pressure by regulating the volume of fluids in the body.

“The inhibition of ACE has been proposed as a potential mechanism by which dairy proteins reduce blood pressure,”​ the study concluded. “Whey protein exhibited significant Angiotensin-Converting-Enzyme inhibitory activity compared with that of calcium-caseinate, and the control.”

Study details

The double blind, randomised controlled study enrolled 42 participants who were asked to consume two protein shakes per day for eight weeks. These shakes consisted of 56 g of protein – an amount that compares to typical dosages consumed by bodybuilders.

These subjects — men and women, aged 30-77 years with a mildly elevated blood pressure (BP) range of 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic) to 159 (systolic) over 99 (diastolic) mm haemoglobin (Hgb) — were compared to subjects consuming shakes consisting of a casein supplement and a control group using a maltodextrin supplement.

blood pressure cardio
High blood pressure affects 1-in-3 people in the UK. ©iStock

Reductions in BP of 3.9 mm Hg and diastolic BP reductions of 2.5 mm Hgb were measured over 24 hours in the primary group.

Additionally, total cholesterol levels decreased by 5% as did triacylglycerol (-12%) when compared to the control. Triacylglycerol is a fat found in the blood that can increase CVD risk at elevated levels.

"One of the important impacts of this study is that whey protein may have a role, as part of a healthy diet, to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, although further studies are required to confirm these results,"​ said Professor Julie Lovegrove, director of the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition at the University of Reading.

Whey to go

Whey protein is most commonly used by bodybuilders and athletes for building muscle mass and in recovery. It is also found in products promoting satiety.

“The outcomes confirm that the health benefits of whey protein are relevant for the new wave of older adults taking up exercise to work on their health,”​ said Suzane Leser, Head of Nutrition for UK-based whey supplier Volac, sponsors of the study.

“Also to a generational shift of current sports nutrition consumers to whom training will one day move from being only about muscle performance and size, to muscle maintenance, mobility and metabolic health, as they get older."

The study was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (United Kingdom) with collaboration from Volac International Ltd.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.137919

“Whey protein lowers blood pressure and improves endothelial function and lipid biomarkers in adults with prehypertension and mild hypertension: results from the chronic Whey2Go randomized controlled trial.”

Authors: Agnes Fekete et al.

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