When most people hear the words, “whey protein,” the first thing that likely comes to mind is giant tubs of protein powder used by bodybuilders and athletes as a dietary supplement to refuel and recover after a long workout. Despite its rigid perception as a workout supplement, however, whey protein has many benefits that extend beyond its use in the realm of fitness.
Not only is it known to help with weight management and muscle growth, it’s even been known to reduce the effects of aging. To help you learn more about whey protein’s unique benefits, we’ll take a look at some factors that contribute to aging and share examples of how whey protein can be used to promote growing old gracefully.
The Story Behind Aging
According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in four residents will be at least 65 years old by the year 2060. Yes, 25% of the population! To put that in perspective, that number is less than 15% today. With the aging adult population steadily increasing, it’s become more important than ever to help seniors stay healthy through proper diet and exercise.
As adults reach the age of 30, they’re subject to a natural, age-related loss of muscle and bone, known as sarcopenia. Even though it’s not recognized as a disease or syndrome, sarcopenia can happen to anyone, even healthy people. Those who suffer from sarcopenia typically experience a 3-8% reduction in lean muscle per decade after approximately 30 years of age, and it’s thought to affect around 20% of people in their 60s and 70s.
Thankfully, with the increase in medicine, nutrition and technology, Americans are more health conscious and aware than ever before, and maintaining a lean body mass is more achievable with a high-protein diet that’s supplemented with whey protein.
The Anti-aging Industry is Booming
More than ever, consumers are looking for ways to improve longevity and decrease the signs of aging. The onslaught of anti-aging products is helping the global market grow at an estimated CAGR of 5.3% and is expected to exceed $55 Billion by 2023.
Despite some products with questionable side effects and negligible results, consumers continue to invest in an array of topical treatments for everything from fine lines to eliminating body fat. Science, however, continues to prove that true beauty and wellness needs to start from within by eating a healthy diet that provides essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Even though plant-based proteins have been gaining popularity, whey protein is commonly recognized for its superior health and wellness benefits as part of a high-protein diet. Its nutritional value, digestibility and protein content outshine plant proteins. As smart shoppers continue to educate themselves, food manufacturers are recognizing opportunities to promote their products containing whey protein.
What exactly are the anti-aging benefits of whey protein?
1. Prevent Osteoporosis
When people age, they can lose the ability to effectively uphold strong bones and muscles. Studies show older adults who consume low levels of protein are more prone to having a significant loss of bone density, particularly in their hips and spines. However, one of the easiest ways to achieve healthier bones and increase muscle is by following a protein-rich diet.
According to a scientific research study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adults who added 20 grams of whey protein to their daily diets were able to accelerate the healing of bone fractures and prevent osteoporotic fractures from occurring. That being said, with the average protein supplement “wheying” in at approximately 20 grams per serving, this is a very attainable goal for consumers.
Aside from the protein found in meat, whey protein is one of the few foods that contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need. One such branched chain amino acid, leucine, stimulates muscle protein synthesis and actually helps make muscles. For those suffering from certain conditions associated with muscle wasting, whey protein can be a significant aid in reducing or slowing its progression.
Unlike dairy proteins which contain all nine essential amino acids, most plant proteins are considered “incomplete” and do not have sufficient levels compared to whey protein. It’s one more reason why whey protein, which is a real dairy product, remains the go-to ingredient for those wanting to achieve maximum health benefits.
2. Boost Immunity with Higher Glutathione Levels
Glutathione is a tri-peptide found in whey protein that deals with immunity and acts as an antioxidant. Glutathione also occurs naturally in the human body. Made inside your cells from amino acids, glutathione increases the integrity of telomeres in our DNA, which are known to deteriorate as we age. In fact, studies show that increasing the body’s production of glutathione may slow down the aging process as old cells are known to contain 20-30% less glutathione than young cells.
Because glutathione supplements provide almost no health benefits when ingested directly, research has proven that whey protein is the most convenient way to improve glutathione intake, in addition to multiple other health benefits. This is because high-quality whey protein contains the highest levels of the full range of naturally-occurring glutathione precursors: glutamylcysteine, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins and active peptides.
3. Boost Metabolism
Contrary to what some people believe, ingesting food actually boosts metabolism. This effect, known as thermogenesis, is greater for protein than it is for fat or carbohydrates. In a study to measure the thermogenic effects of different protein sources, researchers were able to determine that whey protein not only provided a higher thermogenic effect than other protein sources, but it also had higher fat oxidation properties as well.
By including more whey protein in your food products as a replacement for heavy cream, eggs, cheese or butter, not only can you lower the fat and calorie content, but you can also help provide a little boost to your aging consumers’ metabolism.
4. Promote Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails
It’s conclusive that whey protein can help you feel good on the inside, but it can also help you look good on the outside. Protein is essential for generating healthy skin and nails. The collagen and amino acids found in whey protein help maintain skin’s elasticity and firmness.
According to Mayo Clinic, a person typically loses about 50 to 100 strands of hair each day, and new strands continually replenish those lost strands. A poor diet can greatly impact how full and healthy your head of hair may be. Hair is made up of protein, so it stands to reason that nutritional deficiencies, especially insufficient protein, can lead to hair loss. If you want a full head of shiny, healthy hair, ingesting high levels of protein can help strengthen hair follicles.
5. Fight Life-threatening Diseases
As our bodies age, the risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions increases. Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes, and consuming whey protein has been proven to promote weight loss to help reduce the risk. Additionally, a diet with whey protein stimulates insulin releases and can improve glycemic levels by more than 10%.
Whey protein has also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. One study showed that high doses of whey protein reduced the risks of these life-threatening conditions by about 8%, while another showed it helps lower blood pressure and improves vascular functions.
As consumers’ bodies age, they’re subject to the natural effects of muscle and bone weakness. With the help of protein-rich foods, however, thankfully we can help combat these effects. At Grande, our variety of whey protein ingredients are considered among the best in the industry. Not only are they specially formulated to fit nearly any application (think beyond supplements to items such as soups, sauces, dressings, prepared meals, snacks, baked goods, clear protein beverages, frozen desserts, etc.); they’re also made with the safest, highest-quality ingredients available.
Available in many forms, whey protein can be used in almost any application to reduce or replace eggs, milk, cream, cheese, butter, oil, and other high-fat, high-cost ingredients. Plus, since Grande's products are all-natural, they can help clean up labels by replacing artificial gums and starches.
To learn more about our high-quality whey protein options and which type of whey protein is best for your application, simply click the button below! Then, reach out to discuss your toughest formulation challenge with one of our food scientists.