ROSEMONT, Ill.—Whey protein, either as a supplement combined with resistance exercise or as part of a weight-loss or weight-maintenance diet, may provide men and women benefits related to body composition, according to a recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
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 9.2 pounds, on average, compared to baseline values with whey protein intake. Additionally, after analyzing muscle protein synthesis studies that included resistance exercise along with whey provisions, researchers found that participants had a statistically significant increase in lean body mass of 4.9 pounds, on average, when whey protein was used in conjunction with resistance exercise.
"There is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of whey protein for weight maintenance and lean body mass," said Dominik D. Alexander, Ph.D., MSPHii, principal investigator. "By conducting this meta-analysis we were able to better evaluate the collective power of each individual study. 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."
Whey protein is a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy. It is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids ("building blocks") the body needs, and is rapidly digestible. Whey protein is also 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, among common food sources of BCAAs, whey protein contains one of the highest levels of leucine, which has been shown to influence muscle growth.
This is only part of a growing body of research that points to the value of dairy ingredients in sports nutrition. And dairy proteins aren't just for muscle—athletes interested in maintaining or losing weight can also benefit from high-quality dairy proteins. They enhance satiety, possibly in a dose-dependent manner, and higher-protein diets help preserve muscle mass during periods of dieting or calorie restriction. (Check out the "Dairy Ingredients in Sports Nutrition" Digital Issue from Food Product Design for more on this.) It's no surprise the addition of protein has become one of the leading trends across virtually all packaged food categories.
And technology has made it easy and cost-effective to utilize dairy proteins in foods. In the bakery industry, for example, dairy powders—dried and concentrated forms of milk and its constituents—can assist bakers with delivering better baked goods while including the benefits of dairy proteins. Nonfat dried milk contains casein, lactose and whey, making it a functional ingredient in bakery applications. FPD's Digital Issue, "Dairy Powders Build Better Baked Goods," explores how these dairy powders can help formulators deliver better baked goods while maintaining costs and keeping labels clean.
Whether used in sports nutrition, in weight management, or as a functional ingredient, dairy proteins like whey and casein adhere to consumers' demands for increased nutrition, and can not only nudge consumers toward healthier choices, but drive demand for foods containing these powerful proteins.