Supporting women’s health is crucial, as women go through many unique stages of the life cycle that must be cared for properly. These different life stages include puberty, pregnancy, and of course aging. Nutrition is one of the best controllable ways to support women’s health. Consuming a diet high in quality protein is crucial as protein helps with growth and development of the body. Whey protein, one of the protein fractions of cow’s milk, is a high-quality source of protein that can easily be supplemented in a women’s diet. Some of these benefits include building lean body mass and bone mineral density, weight loss and satiety, and managing blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Creating healthy nutritional habits can help women as they age when certain diseases may become more prevalent and adding whey protein into a women’s diet might be exactly what they need to support their health and fitness goals.
BUILD LEAN BODY MASS & BONE MINERAL DENSITY
One of the obvious benefits of whey protein is the development of lean body mass and muscle hypertrophy when paired with strength training. One study looked at lean body mass increase in individuals who supplemented whey protein isolate (WPI) compared to individuals who just supplemented with carbohydrates (Burke et al., 2001). There was nearly a two-fold increase in lean body mass in the WPI consuming group compared to the carbohydrate-supplemented group. The amino acid profile of whey protein is what sets itself apart from other protein sources as it can efficiently increase muscle mass and be digested and absorbed in the body very quickly. Not only can whey protein help with building lean body mass, but it can also improve bone mineral density. Studies have found that whey protein can improve bone health by reducing osteoclast activity, and therefore, help to maintain bone density (Wirunsawana and Upala, 2018). Increasing lean body mass and bone mineral density is especially important as women age. Diseases such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia grow in prevalence as women age. By consuming high-quality protein, such as whey protein, women can decrease their risk of these diseases.
MANAGE BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
Studies have found that whey protein consumption can also support blood glucose levels. This is extremely beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. When whey is consumed shortly before a meal, it can slow the time that it takes for food to transfer from the stomach to the small intestine as well as stimulate the release of insulin (Mignone et al., 2015). This may also benefit women who develop gestational diabetes. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, studies do support that whey protein can help blood glucose maintenance.
REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, so decreasing and lowering blood pressure is crucial to decrease this risk. Studies have found that supplementing whey protein in the diet can decrease high blood pressure. In one study, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure was measured in groups that supplemented either whey, casein, or glucose over a 12-week period (Pal and Ellis, 2010). By the end of the study, it was determined that whey significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This means that whey protein could reduce the risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure. Heart disease tends to become a greater issue through aging, so consuming whey protein throughout life could help reduce the chances of heart disease in women.
MAINTAINING SATIETY & WEIGHT LOSS
It is well accepted that protein is the most satiating macronutrient in comparison to carbohydrates and fats. Whey protein has been shown to increase satiety, and thus lead to weight loss. In a study using male mice, whey, soy, and gluten proteins were fed and weight and energy was measured (Yu, South and Huang, 2009). Mice who were fed the whey protein weighed less by the end of the study and had less energy. Since the mice who were fed the whey protein were satiated faster, they consumed less calories, and therefore had less energy. Although it is not fully understood why whey protein increases satiety, some researchers believe this is because the whey component glycomacropeptide may have the ability to release the hormone cholecystokinin which induces satiety (Lam and Moughan, 2011). The amino acid profile of whey also contributes to this phenomenon. Amino acids such as tryptophan, threonine, leucine, isoleucine, and lysine have been shown to suppress hunger (Mignone et al., 2015). Consuming whey protein can help women reach their health and fitness goals especially when consumed post resistance training.
Adding high-quality protein in a busy women’s life can be challenging. However, whey protein makes adding protein to the diet convenient. Whey protein powders are shelf stable and are found in powdered form that can be easily added to water, milk, pancakes, smoothies, overnight oats and many more. Consuming whey protein daily and starting at an early stage in life could help reduce the risk of disease, promote lean body mass, bone mineral density, and optimal body composition through enhanced satiety.
References: Burke, D. G. et al. (2001) ‘The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength’, International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 11(3), pp. 349–364. doi: 10.1123/IJSNEM.11.3.349.
Lam, S. M. S. C. C. and Moughan, P. J. (2011) ‘Whey Protein and Satiety: Implications for Diet and Behavior’, Handbook of Behavior, Food and Nutrition, pp. 1107–1124. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-92271-3_72.
Mignone, L. E. et al. (2015) ‘Whey protein: The “whey” forward for treatment of type 2 diabetes?’, World Journal of Diabetes, 6(14), p. 1274. doi: 10.4239/WJD.V6.I14.1274.
Pal, S. and Ellis, V. (2010) ‘The Chronic Effects of Whey Proteins on Blood Pressure, Vascular Function, and Inflammatory Markers in Overweight Individuals’, Obesity, 18(7), pp. 1354–1359. doi: 10.1038/OBY.2009.397.
Wirunsawana, K. and Upala, S. (2018) ‘Impact of Whey Protein on Bone Mineral Density: a Systemic Review and Meta-analysis’, Journal of Clinical Densitometry, 21(4), pp. 597–598. doi: 10.1016/J.JOCD.2018.05.005.
Yu, Y., South, T. and Huang, X. F. (2009) ‘Inter-meal interval is increased in mice fed a high whey, as opposed to soy and gluten, protein diets’, Appetite, 52(2), pp. 372–379. doi: 10.1016/J.APPET.2008.11.011.