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New Longevity Benefits of Whey Protein

September 2013

By Will Brink

What is a Calorie Restriction Mimetic?
What is a Calorie Restriction Mimetic?

A wealth of scientific data spanning more than seven decades shows that calorie restriction (CR), the reduction of caloric intake without malnutrition, has power to boost longevity in nearly all forms of life—as much as 100% in some species.84,85

However, most people cannot submit to a sufficiently restrictive dietary regimen to obtain the benefits. And the effects and risks for elderly individuals have not been well investigated.

The good news is that pioneering researchers have brought to light a novel class of nutrients called calorie restriction mimetics (CR-mimetics). The administration of a CR-mimetic results in some of the same physiological changes seen in CR itself. One way these substances work is by influencing specific genes that ultimately affect either cell repair or cell death.

A handful of natural compounds have been shown to safely simulate some of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction— without the need for stringent dietary measures.

Each of the following CR-mimetics operates in a multi-targeted and complementary fashion—allowing you the opportunity to activate your longevity genes without hunger:99-104

Resveratrol, the most widely known of the CR mimetics, is a polyphenol found most abundantly in red wine grape skins, as well as in many other darkly colored fruits.

Fisetin is a relatively rare flavonoid found only in minute quantities in the plant kingdom that augments the effects of resveratrol.

Pterostilbene is a polyphenol closely related to resveratrol, but with unique attributes.

Grape Seed Extract is a derivative of whole grape seeds; resveratrol is a polyphenol contained in grape seeds.

Quercetin is a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains.

Black Tea, a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green, and white teas, contains polyphenols and other constituents.

Whey has newly emerged as a CR mimetic and is gaining acceptance as the first whole food CR-mimetic.

Block Age-Related Muscle Loss and Muscle Wasting

Approximately 30% of people aged 60 or over have sarcopenia, age-related muscle-wasting that increases the risk of falls and disability.40 By sparing and synthesizing muscle, whey blocks this process.41,42 (This mimics the proven sarcopenia-delaying effects of calorie restriction.43)

The most metabolically active branched chain amino acid in whey is leucine, which promotes muscle synthesis by activating a signaling pathway in muscle that modulates the body’s anabolic drive.44-48 Aging muscle becomes resistant to leucine stimulation, but taking leucine with meals (or in leucine-rich whey) can overcome this aging deficit, stimulating muscle synthesis.46-50

Cachexia is a clinical wasting syndrome characterized by progressive loss of weight, muscle, and strength.51 Increased calorie intake doesn’t help.51 Cachexia can occur with cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and various chronic or malignant diseases—and is a major cause of death.

Because whey has among the highest biological values—meaning absorption, use, and retention—of any other protein source, it attenuates catabolic wasting by boosting muscle mass.5-7,52,53

One study involving HIV-positive men given whey found dramatic increases in glutathione, with most subjects reaching ideal body weight.54

Aging individuals may also benefit from whey’s ability to promote bone formation and suppress bone resorption.55

Whey’s Multiple Anti-Aging Benefits
Whey’s Multiple Anti-Aging Benefits

This highest-quality of all protein sources delivers the wide spectrum of anti-aging effects provided by a calorie restriction (CR) diet, without the need for the willpower of long-term starvation. (See figure 2)

Among the many anti-aging benefits of whey are:

  • Mitochondrial biogenesis2
  • Bone growth55
  • Muscle support13,38
  • Hypoglycemic effect16,31
  • Anticancer defense56-58
  • Antioxidant enhancement10
  • Anti-inflammatory protection69
  • Anti-hypertensive effect60
  • Anti-microbial activity8
  • Cholesterol reduction60
  • Mood balance66
  • Cognitive function67
  • Reduced sarcopenia41,42

Whey Protein Inhibits Development of Cancer Cells

Animal studies have demonstrated that whey is superior to other dietary proteins for suppression of cancer development.56-58

This benefit is attributed to whey’s high content of cystine/cysteine and gamma-glutamylcysteine dipeptides—used for synthesis of glutathione—giving whey its rare ability to raise levels of glutathione.9,10 Glutathione is well-known to destroy reactive oxygen species—but it also detoxifies carcinogens and ensures a competent immune system!56

Studies show that whey’s tumor prevention is accompanied by enhanced glutathione levels, spleen lymphocyte proliferation, phagocytosis, and activity of natural killer, T helper, and cytotoxic T cells.56

And the whey component lactoferrin powerfully inhibits tumors by various pathways, including inducing apoptosis, blocking angiogenesis, modulating carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes, and possibly by scavenging iron.56

Whey Component Uniquely Modulates Iron for Broad Health Benefits
Whey Component Uniquely Modulates Iron for Broad Health Benefits

Lactoferrin is a minor fraction of whey (see figure 1). Its unique ability to modulate ironup or down as needed—in different tissues provides a remarkably broad range of health benefits that contribute to whey’s life extension effects.

Extensive scientific research demonstrates that, through its wide network of modulatory effects, lactoferrin:

  • Kills dangerous microbes86,87
  • Nurtures beneficial bacteria88
  • Binds iron to prevent free radicals89,90
  • Optimizes blood-iron levels86,91
  • Inhibits cancer cells86,92
  • Enhances intestinal absorptive cells93 and maturation of dendritic cells94
  • Boosts immunity94
  • Enhances gene transcription95,96
  • Reduces inflammation86,97
  • Combats obesity98

It’s no wonder scientists have described the whey protein lactoferrin as “multifunctional!86