Whey to Go: New Meta-Analysis Crowns Whey Protein King for Countering Sarcopenia

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As we age, maintaining muscle strength and function becomes increasingly critical for preserving mobility, independence and quality of life. While resistance exercise is key, protein supplementation can augment its benefits. But with various protein options out there, which is best? A comprehensive new meta-analysis provides a compelling answer: whey protein comes out on top.

Whey Proven Best Protein for Building Muscle in Older Adults, New Meta-Analysis Confirms

Sarcopenia, the aging-related loss of muscle mass and strength, poses a major threat to the health and independence of older individuals. While resistance training is a well-established intervention to counter sarcopenia, the optimal type of protein supplementation to maximize its effects has been less clear. Now, a new network meta-analysis published in Nutrients has provided strong evidence favoring whey protein over other common protein supplements for augmenting resistance training’s impact on muscle mass, strength, and physical function in middle-aged and older adults.1

The meta-analysis, conducted by researchers from Taiwan, included 78 randomized controlled trials with a total of 5,272 participants. It compared the effects of six protein sources – whey, milk, casein, meat, soy, and peanut – in untrained community-dwelling adults, hospitalized patients, and institutionalized residents who suffered from acute or chronic health conditions and were undergoing resistance training.

Whey protein emerged as the clear winner, demonstrating the most effective results for increasing muscle mass (SMD = 1.29, 95% CI: 0.96, 1.62), handgrip strength (SMD = 1.46, 95% CI: 0.92, 2.00), and walking speed (SMD = 0.73, 95% CI: 0.39, 1.07) compared to the other protein sources. Surface-under-the-cumulative-ranking (SUCRA) scores, used to rank the probability of each treatment’s effectiveness, were highest for whey at 0.86, 0.85, and 0.84 for muscle mass, handgrip strength, and walking speed respectively.

Interestingly, the analysis also identified several factors that moderated the treatment efficacy. Participant health condition significantly influenced the effect on muscle mass, with healthier individuals seeing greater gains. Gender played a role in handgrip strength improvements, with males benefiting more than females. And supplementation dose impacted leg strength outcomes, with higher doses yielding better results.

These findings add to the already substantial body of research demonstrating the potent health effects of whey protein. The GreenMedInfo database2 has indexed hundreds of scientific articles on whey protein, highlighting its therapeutic potential for a wide array of health concerns. Looking at the top 10 researched benefits:

  1. Immune system enhancement: Numerous studies show whey can boost glutathione levels,3 stimulate antibody production,4 and protect against infections.5
  2. Anti-cancer effects: Whey has demonstrated anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects against various cancers, including colon,6 breast,7 and prostate8 cancers.
  3. Muscle building: Long before the current meta-analysis, many trials had found whey effective for increasing lean body mass, often outperforming other proteins like casein.9
  4. Weight management: Several studies indicate whey can aid fat loss while preserving lean muscle,10 increase satiety,11 and beneficially alter body composition.12
  5. Anti-inflammatory action: Whey shows anti-inflammatory properties, reducing C-reactive protein13 and pro-inflammatory cytokines.14
  6. Cardiovascular protection: Clinical trials have found whey supplementation can improve blood pressure and vascular function,15 decrease LDL/HDL ratios,16 and lower triglycerides.17
  7. Antioxidant activity: The cysteine-rich proteins in whey enhance the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, countering oxidative stress.18
  8. Blood sugar regulation: Whey intake has been associated with improved insulin sensitivity19 and glycemic control,20 with potentially protective effects against type 2 diabetes.21
  9. Bone health: Animal studies suggest whey protein may increase bone mineral density and protect against osteoporosis, especially in the context of exercise.22
  10. Detoxification support: By boosting glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, whey can enhance the elimination of toxins and protect against their damaging effects.23

In addition to whey protein, the GreenMedInfo.com database24 has identified over 40 natural substances that have been studied for their potential benefits in sarcopenia. These include a variety of nutrients, herbs, and dietary compounds such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, creatine, ginseng, and resveratrol. This wealth of research underscores the potential for a multi-faceted, integrative approach to managing sarcopenia, with whey protein as a key component.

In conclusion, this network meta-analysis provides compelling evidence for whey protein’s superiority compared to other protein supplements in supporting resistance training’s beneficial effects on aging muscle. When combined with the extensive literature demonstrating whey’s multi-system health benefits, it makes a strong case for incorporating whey protein into healthy aging strategies. As always, the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider should be sought to determine the appropriateness and optimal dosage of any supplements.

Originally Published: https://greenmedinfo.com/content/whey-go-new-meta-analysis-crowns-whey-protein-king-countering-sarcopenia

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