Studies on whey show that it is an even better protein supplement than previously thought. Although the health benefits of whey protein have not been demonstrated recently, the use of whey protein for medicinal purposes has been prescribed since the time of Hippocrates. In fact, there are two ancient proverbs from the Italian city of Florence that say, “If you want to have a healthy and active life, drink whey,” and, “If everyone were taken on whey, doctors would be bankrupt.”
In previous editions, we have explored the extensive research showing the potential health benefits of whey protein concentrations. Most of that research was done in the 1980s and early 1990s, and it was extremely persuasive. Scientists continued their research on whey proteins with even more remarkable results. The following are some of the more current, interesting and useful research on whey proteins.
Whey and Cancer
Additional animal studies were conducted on cancer-causing chemicals to determine the effects of whey protein concentration on cancer prevention or treatment. Scientists fed various proteins to rats and then added the powerful dimethylhydrazine carcinogen.
As with previous research, the rats fed whey protein concentrations showed smaller tumors and a reduced tumor pool area (tumor mass index). The researchers found that whey protein provided “considerable protection for the host” over other proteins, including soy. 1
More encouragingly, in vivo research on cancer and whey has shown that whey protein concentrations inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells at low concentrations (Baruchel S. and Vaiu G., Anti Cancer Research, 1996). Finally, and most importantly, a recent clinical study with cancer patients showed a regression in tumors of certain patients when fed whey protein concentrates at 30 grams per day. 2
Whey and Glutathione
This new research using whey protein concentrations led researchers to make a remarkable discovery about the relationship between cancer cells, glutathione (GSH) and whey protein concentration. Whey protein concentrations have been found to selectively deplete their cancer cells with glutathione, making them more susceptible to cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
It has been found that cancer cells and normal cells respond differently to nutrients and drugs that affect glutathione status. Interestingly, the concentration of glutathione in tumor cells is higher than the concentration of normal cells around it. This difference in glutathione status between normal and cancer cells is believed to be an important factor in the resistance of cancer cells against chemotherapy.
As the researchers added, “Tumor cell GSH concentrations may be among the determinants of cytotoxicity [poisonous to cells] of many chemotherapeutic and radiation agents, and an increase in GSH concentration appears to be at least one of the mechanisms for obtaining drug resistance against chemotherapy. “
They further say, “Rapid GSH synthesis in tumor cells is well known to be associated with high rates of cell proliferation. In vivo GSH tumor depletion reduces the rate of cell proliferation and inhibits cancer growth.”
The problem is, it is difficult to adequately reduce glutathione in tumor cells without compromising healthy tissue and putting the cancer patient in a worse condition. What is needed is a compound capable of selectively depleting glutathione from cancer cells, and increasing, or at least maintaining, glutathione levels in healthy cells.
This is exactly what whey protein seems to do. In this new research it was found that its glutathione was depleted in cancer cells subjected to whey proteins, and their growth was inhibited, although normal cells had increased GSH and increased cellular growth.
These effects have not been seen with other proteins. Not surprisingly, the researchers concluded, “Selective depletion of GSH tumors may actually make cancer cells more vulnerable to the action of chemotherapy and ultimately protect normal tissue from the harmful effects of chemotherapy.” The precise mechanism by which whey protein achieves this is not fully understood, but it does seem to interfere with the normal feedback mechanism and regulation of glutathione in cancer cells.
It is known that the production of synthesis itself negatively inhibits glutathione production. Because baseline glutathione levels in cancer cells are higher than those of normal cells, it is probably easier to achieve the level of inhibition of negative feedback in the glutathione levels of cancer cells than in the glutathione levels of normal cells.
Whey and LDL cholesterol
The positive health benefits of whey protein concentration do not end with its effects on immunity and cancer prevention and treatment. Whey protein concentration was also found to be a potent inhibitor of low-density oxidized lipoprotein cholesterol. Current research suggests that the conversion of LDL to oxidized LDL is the trigger leading to atherogenesis … the formation of plaque and lesions associated with atherosclerosis.
Therefore, any substance that inhibits LDL oxidation is considered anti-atherogenic. While animal-based proteins were usually considered pro-atherogenic proteins, whey proteins seem to be the exception to the rule. Whey protein is composed of several small and large fractions, such as beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, albumin, lactoferrin and immunoglobulin. The lactoferrin fraction of the protein has been found to be the minor ingredient responsible for the ability of whey protein concentrate to inhibit LDL oxidation. 3
Lactoferrin In Whey
Removing the lactoferrin from the protein significantly reduced the ability of the whey protein concentration to prevent LDL oxidation, prompting the researchers to speculate, “Our results suggest that LF (lactoferrin) is the main factor responsible for the effect whey protein inhibitor (on LDL) and may function synergistically with other factors in whey protein, for example, alpha-lactalbumin. “
Another study using rats examined the effects of whey protein and casein concentrations on cholesterol and heart disease risk factors. While casein (another milk-based protein commonly used in research) is known to raise cholesterol in humans and animals, whey protein has the opposite effect, leading researchers to note, “On high level of dietary protein [300 gram per kilogram of feed] , whey protein significantly reduced plasma and liver cholesterol and also plasma triacylglycerols. “4
The cholesterol lowering effects of whey protein concentration in this study were also associated with a reduction in LDL cholesterol. Interestingly, this effect on cholesterol was not observed when the animals were given amino acid mixtures that simulated whey protein, so it is clear that whey has properties that have these effects rather than its amino acid profile.
Whey and Bone Growth
Finally, whey protein appears to play a direct role in bone growth. Researchers found that rats fed whey protein concentrations showed increased bone strength and collagen-like bone protein. This discovery conducted research to test whey protein stimulated osteoblast (bone cell) growth directly in vitro.
Whey protein was found to stimulate, dose-dependently, total protein synthesis, DNA content, and increased hydroxyproline content in bone cells. 5
It should be noted that not all whey protein concentrations are created equal. The manufacturer takes special care to process whey protein to remove the lactose and fats without losing its biological activity. The protein must be processed under conditions of low temperature and low acid so that it does not “denature” the protein. It is essential to maintain the natural state of the protein for its biological activity.
These research findings, combined with the previous decade of studies on whey protein, should convince anyone that the concentration of whey protein is actually a life – extending protein.
High levels of Glutathione and Whey
The benefits of extensive whey protein have yielded ten and a half years of results.
Previous Study includes the following:
* Whey protein concentration significantly raises glutathione levels. Glutathione is an essential water-soluble antioxidant in the body that protects cells and acts as a major toxicant of harmful compounds such as peroxides, heavy metals, carcinogens and other toxins.
* Glutathione is also closely linked to immunity, and reduced levels of glutathione have been linked to diseases such as AIDS, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, to name but a few. In fact, glutathione levels seem to be one way to modulate immunity. 6
* Whey protein concentration has been found to raise this extremely important immune-stimulating antioxidant antioxidant over any studied protein (including soy) to higher-than-normal levels in multiple animal studies. 7
A small pilot study with HIV-positive men given whey protein concentration found significant increases in glutathione levels of all study participants, with two out of three men achieving their ideal body weight. 8
In fact, several US and international patents have been granted to treat AIDS and improve immunity with whey protein concentrate.
* Whey protein improves immune function and fights infections. Consistently concentrated whey protein concentrate for animals has shown a significant improvement in the humoral and cellular immune response to various immune challenges, such as salmonella, streptococcus pneumoniae 9 and cancer-causing chemicals. This effect on immunity was not seen with other proteins.
* Whey protein concentration fights cancer. Animals fed whey protein.
1. (McIntosh GH,. Et al., Journal of Nutrition, 1995)
2. (Kennedy RS, Konok GP, Bounous G., Baruchel S., Lee TD, Research Against Cancer, 1995)
3. (M. Kajikawa et al. Biochemica et Biophysica Acta, 1994)
4. (Zhang X. and Beynen AC Brit. J. of Nutri., 1993)
5. (Takada Y., Aoe S., Kumegawa M., Biochemical Research Communication, 1996)
6. (Rosanne K., Fidelus and Min Fu Tsan. Cellular Immunology, 1986)
7. (Bounous G. and Gold P., Clin. Invest. Med. 1991)
8. (Bounous G., Baruchel S., Faiutz J., Gold P., Clin. Invest. Med. 1992)
9. (Bounous G., Konshavn P., Gold P., Clin. Invest. Med. 1988)