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Is Protein Superior to Carbohydrates for Health?

www.ironmanmagazine.comIn the never-ending quest to find the “best” protein available, suffice it to say that they all have their roles and benefits. It’s sort of like asking, Who’s better looking, the Victoria’s Secret Super Model or the Playboy Playmate? Soy, whey, casein, milk, pea, eel, snake, pork, blah, blah, blah. One thing’s for sure—you need to eat copious quantities of the stuff if you want to build mass. Interestingly, there are differences when it comes to health.

Scientists did a very extensive study of 352 adults in the United States who had total serum cholesterol levels of <240 mg/dl.1 That’s not a superhigh cholesterol number by any means, but it is a tad higher than you’d want. The study took place from September 2003 to April 2008, and participants were randomly assigned to get 40 grams per day of soy protein, milk protein or complex carbohydrate from wheat for eight weeks in random order.

Results: Compared with carbohydrate, soy protein supplementation was significantly associated with a drop in total cholesterol and the total-to-HDL cholesterol ratio. Compared with milk protein, soy protein supplementation also had better effects on blood fats. Thus, soy protein—but not milk protein—supplementation improves the fat profile of healthy individuals.

Another study looked at whether four weeks of increased protein intake affected blood pressure compared with increased carbohydrate intake.2 They compared consumption of 20 grams of protein three times a day (20 percent pea, 20 percent soy, 30 percent egg and 30 percent milk-protein isolate) with 20 grams three times a day of maltodextrin. They discovered that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were lower in the protein group.

So do you have any doubts as to which macronutrient is better for you, protein or carbohydrate? Well, if you can read, then the answer is as clear as the Montana sky.


Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University in sunny South Florida.


1 Wofford, M.R., et al. (2012). Effect of soy and milk protein supplementation on serum lipid levels: a randomized controlled trial. European J Clin Nutr. 66:419-425.

2 Teunissen-Beekman, K.F., et al. (2012). Protein supplementation lowers blood pressure in overweight adults: effect of dietary proteins on blood pressure (PROPRES), a randomized trial. American J Clin Nutr. 95:966-971.


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