Whey protein isolate offsets effects of high fat diet

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By David Liu, PHD

Wednesday Aug 08, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Whey protein isolate or powder is commonly used as a bodybuilding dietary supplement to help men and women build muscle or a lean body.  A study in Journal of Nutrition suggests that whey protein isolate may help more than bodybuilding.

High fat diet or typically called the Western diet is known to lead to body weight gain, adiposity, and metabolic syndrome associated with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The study led by H.G. Shertzer of University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, OH and colleagues showed consumption of whey protein isolate may help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus or at least delay the onset of these diseases.

In the study, female C57BL/6J mice received for 11 weeks a high fat diet, supplemented with or without 100 grams of whey protein isolate per liter of drinking water.  Energy consumption and glucose and lipid metabolism were studied.

Mice eating whey protein isolate were found to have lower rates of body weight gain and body fat percentage and greater lean body mass or muscle even though they consumed the same amount of energy from a high fat diet as controls did.  Whey protein isolate rendered these benefits seemingly by increasing basal metabolic rates, respiratory quotients, and hepatic mitochondrial respiration, which were observed in the study.

Whey protein isolate also improved early biomarkers of fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.  Mice eating the whey protein supplement had significantly fewer hepatic lipid droplets and less deposition of nonpolar lipids even though they ate a high fat diet.

Additionally, mice on whey protein isolate improved their glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, suggesting that use of the whey protein may help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The researchers concluded mice eating a high fat diet can improve their metabolic conditions by eating whey protein isolate, which can lead to higher basal metabolic rates and less deposition of nonpolar lipids.  

Eating whey protein isolate may also prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus because the protein prevents hepatpsteatosis and insulin resistance.

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