Chronic inflammation is a persistent inflammatory response that occurs when the body’s immune system continues to release inflammatory chemicals, even when there is no actual threat to the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to the development of a range of diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Dietary interventions have shown to be a potent tool in the prevention and management of chronic inflammation. Among dietary interventions, whey protein has gained popularity as a dietary supplement in recent years due to its many health benefits, including its potential anti-inflammatory effects.
What is whey protein?
Whey protein is a type of protein that is derived from milk. It is a byproduct of the cheese-making process and is extracted from the liquid that is left over after milk has been curdled and strained. Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body needs but cannot produce on its own.
Whey protein is available in various forms, including concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Whey protein concentrate contains a lower percentage of protein and a higher percentage of fat and carbohydrates, while whey protein isolate contains a higher percentage of protein and fewer amounts of fat and carbohydrates. Whey protein hydrolysate is a predigested form of whey protein that is rapidly absorbed by the body.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural response of the body’s immune system to fight off harmful invaders such as pathogens, toxins, and other foreign substances. The immune system releases inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines, which help to neutralize the harmful invaders and initiate the healing process.
Acute inflammation is a normal and essential part of the body’s immune response. It is a short-term response that occurs in response to injury or infection and helps to eliminate the harmful invaders and initiate the healing process.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a persistent inflammatory response that occurs when the body’s immune system continues to release inflammatory chemicals, even when there is no actual threat to the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to the development of a range of diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Whey protein and chronic inflammation
Several studies have investigated the potential anti-inflammatory effects of whey protein. Whey protein contains various bioactive peptides, including lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, and immunoglobulins, which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that supplementing with whey protein concentrate significantly reduced the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in overweight and obese individuals. CRP is a biomarker of inflammation and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming whey protein concentrate reduced the levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in overweight and obese individuals. TNF-alpha is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is implicated in various chronic diseases.
Moreover, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients found that whey protein supplementation significantly reduced the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), another pro-inflammatory cytokine, in both healthy individuals and those with chronic diseases.
The potential anti-inflammatory effects of whey protein are attributed to its ability to increase the production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Whey protein is also rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which have been shown to reduce muscle damage and inflammation after exercise.