11 August 2009
Whey protein may improve heart health: Study
A whey-protein-rich ingredient may improve blood vessel function in healthy individuals, reports a new randomised, double-blind study supported by Glanbia.
Two weeks of supplementation with a proprietary peptide (NOP847, Glanbia Nutritionals) resulted in a 1.5 per cent improvement in blood flow, report researchers from the University of Connecticut in the open access Nutrition Journal.
According to the researchers, the whey protein-derived ingredient, isolated from hydrolysate, may work via an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory activity.
ACE inhibitors work by inhibiting the conversion of angiotensin I to the potent vasoconstrictor, angiotensin II, thereby improving blood flow and blood pressure.
“The results of this preliminary study suggest that in individuals with normal endothelial function, the acute ingestion of a peptide derived from whey improves both conduit and resistance vascular responses,” wrote the authors, led by Kevin Ballard.
If further studies support the vascular benefits of the ingredient, it could see it enter the already buoyant heart health market. According to a recent market research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the market is dominated by four ingredients: phytosterols; omega-3s; beta-glucans and soy protein.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which cost €192 billion in health care costs across the 27-member state EU in 2007 according to the European Heart Network, can be sub-classified into categories such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
Ballard and his co-workers recruited 20 healthy men and women with an average age of 25, and an average BMI of 24.3 kg/m2, and randomly assigned them to receive the whey ingredient (five grams per day) or placebo for two weeks. After this time, the subjects underwent a two week washout period before being crossed over to the other intervention.
According to the study’s results, there was no difference between the groups’ flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax, at the start of the study. While placebo had no effect on FMD, supplementation with the whey ingredient was associated with a significant improvement in FMD for up to 90 minutes following ingestion or between 1.1 and 2.2 per cent.
Furthermore, blood flow in the arm improved by 2.7 per cent per minute following whey protein supplementation, but did not change following placebo, said the researchers.
“These findings indicate that supplementation with a novel whey-derived peptide in healthy individuals improves vascular function,” wrote Ballard and his co-workers.
Looking to the next stage in research, the scientists noted that an investigation into how the ingredient functions in people with vascular dysfunction would be “informative”.