Wondering what your best source of protein is? Walk into any health food store, and you’re bowled over by the amazing array of protein choices. If science is the arbiter of your protein choice, then clearly whey protein should be at the top of your list and the main one you take in. We all know that whey is a fast anabolic protein, getting into your bloodstream quickly. Other special properties of whey make it the crème de la crème of proteins.
Recently, scientists compared whey and casein formulas on glutathione and inflammatory markers in aged patients with acute ischemic stroke. Yep, they’re giving it to folks who have had a stroke. Makes you wonder what all the fuss is about when teenage athletes want to take whey. Anyhow, 31 elderly patients—12 males and 19 females, 65 to 90 years old—with ischemic stroke were randomized to receive early nasogastric feeding of a formula containing hydrolyzed casein or another isocaloric and isonitrogenous formula containing hydrolyzed whey protein for five days. What happened?
Serum IL-6 decreased and glutathione increased only in the whey group. Serum IL-6 was lower and glutathione higher in the whey-fed patients than in the casein group. The study proves indeed that whey protein can decrease inflammation and increase antioxidant defenses in elderly patients with ischemic stroke compared to a casein-containing formula.1 Perhaps you need to include whey with fish oil and creatine as a possible anti-inflammatory supplement stack.
Moreover, high-protein diets have been shown to improve hepatic steatosis—a.k.a. fatty liver—in rodent models and in high-fat-fed humans. A recent study examined 11 obese women who received 60 grams per day of a whey protein supplement for four weeks. Not surprisingly, whey proteins improved hepatic steatosis and plasma lipid profiles in nondiabetic obese patients without adverse effects on glucose tolerance or creatinine clearance.2
Next, scientists compared protein digestion and absorption and subsequent muscle protein accretion in healthy older adults after they ate a meal containing whey, casein and casein hydrolysate. A total of 48 older men—74 years of age—were randomly assigned to get a meal-like amount, 20 grams, of whey, casein or casein hydrolysate. Again, whey proved victorious, stimulating muscle-protein gain more effectively than the others. The researchers proposed that the effect was due to a combination of whey’s faster digestion and absorption kinetics and its higher leucine content.3
So here’s your take-home message:
• Whey is superior to both casein and casein hydrolysate for gaining muscle protein in older men.
• Whey has health benefits, such as reducing fatty liver.
• Whey acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, which in turn can reduce heart-disease risk.
Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (www.TheISSN.org); also check out his site www.TheWeekendWorkout.com.