12 January - 20 June 2016

Whey protein could reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease

University of Reading researchers have found that whey protein could reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. The study by Fekete et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, state that previous studies have shown an inverse association between milk consumption and blood pressure. However it still remains to be confirmed which bioactive compounds are responsible for this effect.

University of Reading researchers have found that whey protein could reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.  The study by Fekete et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, state that previous studies have shown an inverse association between milk consumption and blood pressure.  However it still remains to be confirmed which bioactive compounds are responsible for this effect.  

Using 38 participants with mildly evaluated blood pressure, Fekete et al. hypothesised that whey-protein and calcium caseinate supplementation compared with control intake would reduce 24 hours ambulatory blood pressure (AMBP), improve vascular function and beneficially affect other cardiometabolic risk markers. The researchers state that AMBP “is considered to the gold standard and AMBP predicts cardiovascular events, mortality and morbidity that are association with hypertension better than BP.”  The participants randomly consumed two protein shakes consisting of either 90% whey-protein isolate or 90% calcium caseinate or maltodextrin used as a control, mixed with a choice of sugar-free flavour and 250 ml of water for eight weeks.

Fekete et al. report that they found significant reduction in 24 hour blood pressure after consumption of the whey protein shake compared to the control (systolic blood pressure -3.9 mm Hg; for diastolic blood pressure – 2.5 mm Hg). However they did not detect any changes in blood pressure after calcium-caseinate supplementation.  Both whey protein and calcium caseinate significantly lowered total cholesterol (-0.26 mmol/L and -0.20 mmol/L respectively), with only whey protein decreasing triacylglycerol (-12%) when compared to the control. 

The study in discussion notes that “it has been estimated that the clinical significance of consuming whey protein and calcium caseinate for 8 weeks would be 7.7% and 1.4% reduction in future CVD events, respectively.”  The team discusses the role of whey protein on the Angiotensin-Converting-Enzyme (ACE), a system that controls blood pressure by regulating the volume of fluids in the body, stating that “the inhibition of ACE has been proposed as a potential mechanism by which dairy proteins reduce blood pressure”.  Although they note that a reduction in circulating ACE activity was not seen in their intervention study.  They state that this is possibly due to “the lack of power and further studies are required to confirm the importance of ACE in BP reduction by whey protein.”

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