Whey protein benefits for blood sugar and weight control

10 July, 2014

Natural Health News – Two recent studies have found that daily whey protein could produce big benefits in terms of weight control and blood sugar control

Whey protein is a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy. It is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids that the body needs. Whey has the advantage of being completely and rapidly digestible.

In particular whey protein is one of the best sources of a subgroup of three essential amino acids, called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which include leucine, isoleucine and valine.

Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are almost exclusively taken up and used by muscle and so may be important for muscle growth.

Weight loss/muscle growth

In the first, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition whey protein, either as a supplement combined with resistance exercise or as part of a weight-loss or weight-maintenance diet,  was found to provide both  men and women benefits in terms of weight loss.

The meta-analysis included 14 randomized controlled trials with a total of 626 adult participants.

When researchers analyzed those weight loss studies that used whey protein to replace calories in the diet, participants had a decrease in body weight of 4.2 kg (9.2 pounds), on average.

Those supplementing with whey, who were also on a regular exercise programme, also showed a  statistically significant increase in lean body mass of 2.24 kg (4.9 pounds,) on average,

“There is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of whey protein for weight maintenance and lean body mass,” said lead researcher Dominik Alexander, PhD, MSPH,

“The results indicate that there is something unique about whey protein, compared to other protein sources and carbohydrates, when it comes to building lean body mass and maintaining or losing weight.”

Better blood sugar control

A second smaller study, published in the journal  Diabetologia, suggests that consuming whey protein before a regular breakfast could help reduce the blood sugar spikes seen after meals and also improve the body’s insulin response.

This study involved 15 people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes who were not taking any medications except for sulfonylureas or metformin (oral diabetes drugs). These people consumed, on two separate days, 50 g whey in 250 ml water or placebo (250 ml water) followed by a standardised high-glycaemic-index breakfast in a hospital setting. The breakfast contained 3 slices of white bread and sugar-containing jelly, a meal designed to produce the maximum post-meal glucose spike.

The results showed that over the whole 180 minute post-meal period studied, glucose levels were reduced by 28% after whey protein pre-load compared with no whey protein. Thus, say the group of Israeli and Swedish researchers, whey protein could be an additional tool to help control blood sugar in patients with diabetes. They add that such treatment would be cheap and easy to administer, with patients able to use any brand of whey protein concentrate which has no added sugar or other nutrients.