What Are Whey Proteins? What Are Their Benefits?

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Whey Proteins:

Out of the many protein sources out there, whey protein is the ultimate. It comes from milk. During the process of turning milk into cheese, whey protein is separated out. Protein can be found in a variety of foods -mainly meats, such as fish, beef, and chicken.

Dairy products as well as eggs, cottage cheese, soy and vegetable protein also contain good amounts of protein. Nevertheless, none of these sources compares in quality or ease of use like whey protein. Whey protein has the highest value in providing branched-chain amino acids, which result in building and retaining muscle tissue.                     

Benefits of Whey Proteins

Physical Performance

    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

     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.

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.

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

Baby Formulas 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.

Healthy Aging

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.
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