Current research has revealed a promising relation between a high protein diet and low blood cholesterol levels. Many people with high cholesterol levels take medications to control their cholesterol levels. In this article we will examine the role of cholesterol and how its levels are linked to proteins in the diet.
Cholesterol is vital to maintain the integrity of brain cells, keep the membranes intact and the cells working. The protein receptors, imperative for inter-cellular communication, also anchor in cholesterol molecules present in these membranes. However, brain-cell membranes do more, as they contain receptors for key chemical messengers in the brain. These receptors permit cell-to-cell communication, and cholesterol helps to keep these attachment points functioning properly and the cells communicating normally.
Serotonin, a key messenger, has an anti-depressant effect, and proper functioning of serotonin receptors is linked to better mental health. With suboptimal cholesterol intake in the diet, poorly structured brain-cell membranes function inadequately with fewer receptors available to interact with nerve messengers. This could lead to depression.
Cholesterol is important for brain development in infants and plays a role in neuron function in adults. High blood cholesterol level is still considered a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, however, and physicians may decide that those risks outweigh any modest benefits for cognitive function. Scientists have not yet determined whether lowering cholesterol with medication will influence mental functioning.
In humans, normal metabolic oxidation reactions lead to harmful by-products. Accumulation of these harmful by-products causes damage to the neurons of the brain. Our bodies have antioxidants that protect it from these cellular damages.
Research has shown that regular consumption of cultured dairy products lowers cholesterol and protects against bone loss.
Role of casein and whey:
Dietary supplements containing proteins like whey and casein can be of benefit in lowering cholesterol. Casein and whey are natural based milk proteins.
Casein is the other protein derived from milk and is a complete protein. It is:
- Extremely high in the amino acid, glutamine, which is the most abundant amino acid found in skeletal muscles and may play a role in supporting the immune system.
- A larger protein (than whey) that is absorbed more slowly by the body. Often used when absorption over an extended time period is desirable.
- Not as absorbable (as whey) by the body because it has a lower biological value (BV) therefore more has to be consumed.
Whey: Whey proteins are not something new - they have been available for hundreds of years. It has only been during the last 15 - 20 years however, that the true potential of whey proteins has become known. This awareness has led to an increase in research activity to identify all the benefits whey proteins provide to the human body.
Whey protein contains an ample supply of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine appears to enhance glutathione levels, which has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties that mop up free radicals — free radicals induce cell death and play a role in aging. Therefore, whey proteins can have a protective effect on neurons when taken on a long-term basis.
Whey protein concentrate has been found to be a potent inhibitor of oxidized low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Current research suggests that the conversion of LDL cholesterol to oxidized LDL is the trigger that leads to atherogenesis — the formation of plaque and lesions associated with atherosclerosis. This commonly occurs in arteries that nourish the heart. Therefore, any substance that prevents the oxidation of LDL is thought to be anti-atherogenic.
Whey protein is made up of several minor and major fractions, such as beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, albumin, lactoferrin, and immunoglobulin. It was discovered that the minor constituent responsible for whey’s ability to prevent the oxidation of LDL appears to be the lactoferrin fraction of the protein. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that has been shown to reduce uptake of LDL cholesterol.
Whey protein has the following properties:
- It has the highest branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content found in nature. BCAAs are necessary for the maintenance of muscle tissue and they tend to be depleted following exercise.
- Is thought to be digested faster than casein and more completely than soy proteins.
- It enhances the production of the amino acid, glutathione, which is an important component for supporting the immune system.
- It is very miscible, which means it dissolves easily in water and other liquids making it more user friendly in some cases.
The link between protein and lower cholesterol continues to be studied, and the early indications are promising. With the broad benefits afforded by whey and casein, they are a smart addition to most dietary regimens.
Protica Research (Protica, Inc.) specializes in the development of Capsulized Foods. Protica manufactures Profect, IsoMetric, Pediagro, Fruitasia and over 100 other brands, including Medicare-approved, whey protein drinks for weight loss surgery patients. You can learn more at Protica Research - Copyright