How Whey Protein Fights AgeingPrint
By Michael Downey
Research shows that whey reduces muscle wasting in the elderly, inhibits weight gain, may help prevent cardiovascular disease, and more.1-11 Whey is a food source studied for maximizing production of glutathione,12,13 one of the body’s main internally produced, free radical scavengers.14,15
Glutathione levels drop with age, and this could play a role in neurodegenerative health issues, reduced immunity, and a host of other age-related conditions.16-20
Whey, made from the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production, is not just a source of protein, but also of nutrients including branched-chain amino acids, immunoglobulins, and bio-active protein sub-fractions such as lactoferrin.
These benefits show why whey is increasingly viewed as a food that can prevent frailty and promote healthy longevity.
Whey Keeps Muscles from Weakening
An insufficient intake of quality protein can lead to loss of muscle mass. For most people, this muscle loss begins around age 40, with an estimated 8% loss of muscle mass per decade. After age 70, muscle mass decreases by about 15% per decade.24
Inadequate protein consumption among older individuals is associated with reduced strength, decreased bone mass, low immunity, cognitive impairment, and delayed recovery from wounds and surgery.28 In fact, low protein intake is associated with frailty,29 when the body is so weak it becomes unable to cope with stress or injury. Frailty is a strong predictor of mortality in the elderly.21,30
Loss of muscle mass is not inevitable but does require some active countermeasures to prevent it.
Whey protein delivers an abundance of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), essential nutrients that reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate the building of protein in muscle.31
Of the three BCAAs found in whey, leucine is the most metabolically active, helping to build muscle by activating a signaling pathway that controls the body’s anabolic (growth-promoting) drive.2,32-35 Aging muscle ordinarily becomes resistant to leucine stimulation, but taking leucine-rich whey can overcome this, stimulating muscle synthesis.33-37
Whey Boosts Lean Muscle Mass
Whey has valuable potential to help prevent age-related muscle loss. But the benefits go even further. Recent studies have shown that whey significantly increases lean muscle mass—and not just among athletes.
In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers divided 81 healthy, older women, aged 65-80, into three groups for a 24-week program. One group exercised twice weekly, the second group took whey protein supplements but didn’t exercise, and the third group took whey protein after exercising.4
The increase in skeletal muscle mass was significantly higher for the whey-and-exercise group than for either of the two other groups. There was also a significant increase in grip strength and walking speed.4
Whey Helps Stop Age-Related Weight Gain
Whey doesn’t just affect the muscles. As we age, metabolism slows, and we start to put on weight more easily, increasing our risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes to strokes. This used to seem like an inevitable part of life. But research now shows that whey is an effective way to fight fat, helping to maintain weight and lean body mass as we age.40
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Whey Protein and Aging
- Whey protein is not just for athletes seeking to build muscle mass.
- Whey supplementation has been shown to help prevent the loss of muscle mass in aging individuals, inhibit weight gain, and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
This potent protein helps prevent frailty, obesity, and heart disease, while promoting longevity.
WHAT TYPE OF WHEY PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Whey protein is commonly available in three forms:
- Isolate, and
- Isolate with added creatine and glutamine.
Whey concentrate is whey, but with the water removed. It is rich in both branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and glutamine. The concentrate form of whey is a powder that mixes easily for a smooth-textured protein shake. High-quality whey concentrates contain no animal growth hormones.
Most whey concentrates contain about 80% protein. It is the ideal protein to help build muscle size and aid in recovery. Overall, whey concentrate may be the most economical form of protein for the human body to digest and use, which is why it is among the world’s most popular sports supplements.
Whey protein isn’t just for athletes and bodybuilders. Whey supplementation has now been shown to help prevent several common effects of aging, including loss of lean muscle mass and excessive weight gain. It also lowers cardiovascular risk and blood pressure. It is a powerful tool to prevent frailty and heart disease and to boost longevity.
- Oikawa SY, McGlory C, D’Souza LK, et al. A randomized controlled trial of the impact of protein supplementation on leg lean mass and integrated muscle protein synthesis during inactivity and energy restriction in older persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Nov 1;108(5):1060-8.
- Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, et al. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1562s-6s.
- Pepe G, Tenore GC, Mastrocinque R, et al. Potential anticarcinogenic peptides from bovine milk. J Amino Acids. 2013;2013:939804.
- Mori H, Tokuda Y. Effect of whey protein supplementation after resistance exercise on the muscle mass and physical function of healthy older women: A randomized controlled trial. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2018Sep;18(9):1398-404.
- Fekete AA, Giromini C, Chatzidiakou Y, et al. Whey protein lowers systolic blood pressure and Ca-caseinate reduces serum TAG after a high-fat meal in mildly hypertensive adults. Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 22;8(1):5026.
- Niccoli S, Kolobov A, Bon T, et al. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Rehabilitation Outcomes in Hospitalized Geriatric Patients: A Double Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2017 Oct-Dec;36(4):149-65.
- Bergia RE, 3rd, Hudson JL, Campbell WW. Effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition changes in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2018 Jul 1;76(7):539-51.
- Ho CF, Jiao Y, Wei B, et al. Protein supplementation enhances cerebral oxygenation during exercise in elite basketball players. Nutrition. 2018 Sep;53:34-7.
- Fernandes RR, Nabuco HCG, Sugihara Junior P, et al. Effect of protein intake beyond habitual intakes following resistance training on cardiometabolic risk disease parameters in pre-conditioned older women. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Sep;110:9-14.
- Kemmler W, Kohl M, Freiberger E, et al. Effect of whole-body electromyostimulation and / or protein supplementation on obesity and cardiometabolic risk in older men with sarcopenic obesity: the randomized controlled FranSO trial. BMC Geriatr. 2018 Mar 9;18(1):70.
- Wirunsawanya K, Upala S, Jaruvongvanich V, et al. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Body Composition and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Coll Nutr. 2018 Jan;37(1):60-70.
- Bumrungpert A, Pavadhgul P, Nunthanawanich P, et al. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Nutritional Status, Glutathione Levels, and Immune Function in Cancer Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial. J Med Food. 2018 Jun;21(6):612-6.
- Tosukhowong P, Boonla C, Dissayabutra T, et al. Biochemical and clinical effects of Whey protein supplementation in Parkinson’s disease: A pilot study. J Neurol Sci. 2016 Aug 15;367:162-70.
- Townsend DM, Tew KD, Tapiero H. The importance of glutathione in human disease. Biomed Pharmacother. 2003 May-Jun;57(3-4):145-55.
- Wu G, Fang YZ, Yang S, et al. Glutathione metabolism and its implications for health. J Nutr. 2004Mar;134(3):489-92.
- McCarty MF, DiNicolantonio JJ. An increased need for dietary cysteine in support of glutathione synthesis may underlie the increased risk for mortality associated with low protein intake in the elderly. Age (Dordr). 2015 Oct;37(5):96.
- Fraternale A, Brundu S, Magnani M. Glutathione and glutathione derivatives in immunotherapy. Biol Chem. 2017 Feb 1;398(2):261-75.
- Aoyama K, Nakaki T. Impaired glutathione synthesis in neurodegeneration. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Oct 18;14(10):21021-44.
- Garcia-Gimenez JL, Roma-Mateo C, Perez-Machado G, et al. Role of glutathione in the regulation of epigenetic mechanisms in disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 2017 Nov;112:36-48.
- Gu F, Chauhan V, Chauhan A. Glutathione redox imbalance in brain disorders. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 Jan;18(1):89-95.
- Valerio A, D’Antona G, Nisoli E. Branched-chain amino acids, mitochondrial biogenesis, and healthspan: an evolutionary perspective. Aging (Albany NY). 2011 May;3(5):464-78.
- Visvanathan R, Chapman IM. Undernutrition and anorexia in the older person. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2009 Sep;38(3):393-409.
- Ahmed T, Haboubi N. Assessment and management of nutrition in older people and its importance to health. Clin Interv Aging. 2010 Aug 9;5:207-16.
- Kim TN, Choi KM. Sarcopenia: definition, epidemiology, and pathophysiology. J Bone Metab. 2013May;20(1):1-10.
- von Haehling S, Morley JE, Anker SD. An overview of sarcopenia: facts and numbers on prevalence and clinical impact. Journal of cachexia, sarcopenia and muscle. 2010;1(2):129-33.
- Shafiee G, Keshtkar A, Soltani A, et al. Prevalence of sarcopenia in the world: a systematic review and meta- analysis of general population studies. Journal of diabetes and metabolic disorders. 2017;16:21-.
- Landi F, Liperoti R, Russo A, et al. Sarcopenia as a risk factor for falls in elderly individuals: results from the ilSIRENTE study. Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;31(5):652-8.
- Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, et al. Evidence-Based Recommendations for Optimal Dietary Protein Intake in Older People: A Position Paper From the PROT-AGE Study Group.Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2013 2013/08/01/;14(8):542-59.
- Coelho-Júnior HJ, Rodrigues B, Uchida M, et al. Low Protein Intake Is Associated with Frailty in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1334.
- Chapman IM. Nutritional disorders in the elderly. Med Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;90(5):887-907.
- Jackman SR, Witard OC, Philp A, et al. Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Front Physiol. 2017;8:390.
- Koopman R, Verdijk L, Manders RJ, et al. Co-ingestion of protein and leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis rates to the same extent in young and elderly lean men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Sep;84(3):623-32.
- Dardevet D, Sornet C, Balage M, et al. Stimulation of in vitro rat muscle protein synthesis by leucine decreases with age. J Nutr. 2000 Nov;130(11):2630-5.
- Katsanos CS, Kobayashi H, Sheffield-Moore M, et al. A high proportion of leucine is required for optimal stimulation of the rate of muscle protein synthesis by essential amino acids in the elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Aug;291(2):E381-7.
- Fujita S, Dreyer HC, Drummond MJ, et al. Nutrient signalling in the regulation of human muscle protein synthesis. J Physiol. 2007 Jul 15;582(Pt 2):813-23.
- Dreyer HC, Drummond MJ, Pennings B, et al. Leucine-enriched essential amino acid and carbohydrate ingestion following resistance exercise enhances mTOR signaling and protein synthesis in human muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Feb;294(2):E392-400.
- Fujita S, Volpi E. Amino acids and muscle loss with aging. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):277S-80S.
- Katsanos CS, Chinkes DL, Paddon-Jones D, et al. Whey protein ingestion in elderly persons results in greater muscle protein accrual than ingestion of its constituent essential amino acid content. Nutr Res. 2008 Oct;28(10):651-8.
- Dangin M, Boirie Y, Guillet C, et al. Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects. J Nutr. 2002 Oct;132(10):3228S-33S.
- Jakubowicz D, Froy O. Biochemical and metabolic mechanisms by which dietary whey protein may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Jan;24(1):1-5.
- Baer DJ, Stote KS, Paul DR, et al. Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2011 Aug;141(8):1489-94.
- Bowen J, Noakes M, Trenerry C, et al. Energy intake, ghrelin, and cholecystokinin after different carbohydrate and protein preloads in overweight men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Apr;91(4):1477-83.
- Veldhorst MA, Nieuwenhuizen AG, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, et al. Dose-dependent satiating effect of whey relative to casein or soy. Physiol Behav. 2009 Mar 23;96(4-5):675-82.
- Pal S, Ellis V. The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. Br J Nutr. 2010 Oct;104(8):1241-8.
- Hall WL, Millward DJ, Long SJ, et al. Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. Br J Nutr. 2003 Feb;89(2):239-48.
- Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- Available at: http://usdec.files.cms-plus.com/Publications/CardioHealth_English.pdf. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- Zhang X, Beynen AC. Lowering effect of dietary milk-whey protein v. casein on plasma and liver cholesterol concentrations in rats. Br J Nutr. 1993 Jul;70(1):139-46.
- Kurosawa Y, Hamaoka T, Katsumura T, et al. Creatine supplementation enhances anaerobic ATP synthesis during a single 10 sec maximal handgrip exercise. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):105-12.
- Pinto CL, Botelho PB, Carneiro JA, et al. Impact of creatine supplementation in combination with resistance training on lean mass in the elderly. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2016 Sep;7(4):413-21.
- Candow DG. Sarcopenia: current theories and the potential beneficial effect of creatine application strategies. Biogerontology. 2011 Aug;12(4):273-81.
- Farshidfar F, Pinder MA, Myrie SB. Creatine Supplementation and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism for Building Muscle Mass- Review of the Potential Mechanisms of Action. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2017;18(12):1273-87.
- Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, et al. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul 20;9(1):33.
- Leguina-Ruzzi A. A commentary on the 2015 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines in glutamine supplementation to parenteral nutrition. Crit Care. 2016 Jan 8;20:7.
- Calder PC, Yaqoob P. Glutamine and the immune system. Amino Acids. 1999;17(3):227-41.
- Peng X, Yan H, You Z, et al. Glutamine granule-supplemented enteral nutrition maintains immunological function in severely burned patients. Burns. 2006 Aug;32(5):589-93.
- Keast D, Arstein D, Harper W, et al. Depression of plasma glutamine concentration after exercise stress and its possible influence on the immune system. Med J Aust. 1995 Jan 2;162(1):15-8.
- Castell LM, Newsholme EA. The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition. 1997 Jul-Aug;13(7-8):738-42.
- Legault Z, Bagnall N, Kimmerly DS. The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Oct;25(5):417-26.
- Varnier M, Leese GP, Thompson J, et al. Stimulatory effect of glutamine on glycogen accumulation in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol. 1995 Aug;269(2 Pt 1):E309-15.
- MacLennan PA, Smith K, Weryk B, et al. Inhibition of protein breakdown by glutamine in perfused rat skeletal muscle. FEBS Lett. 1988 Sep 12;237(1-2):133-6.
- Carvalho-Peixoto J, Alves RC, Cameron LC. Glutamine and carbohydrate supplements reduce ammonemia increase during endurance field exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1186-90.
- Bassini-Cameron A, Monteiro A, Gomes A, et al. Glutamine protects against increases in blood ammonia in football players in an exercise intensity-dependent way. Br J Sports Med. 2008 Apr;42(4):260-6.
- Mutch BJ, Banister EW. Ammonia metabolism in exercise and fatigue: a review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1983;15(1):41-50.
- Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. Journal of epithelial biology & pharmacology. 2012;5(Suppl 1-M7):47-54.
- Kim M-H, Kim H. The Roles of Glutamine in the Intestine and Its Implication in Intestinal Diseases. International journal of molecular sciences. 2017;18(5):1051.