Whey protein can cause ‘significant decrease’ in cholesterol levels

Why cholesterol is bad for you

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Having high cholesterol means you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. If left untreated it can lead to blockages in the arteries resulting in serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. However, there are ways to prevent or reduce the risk of this happening.

High cholesterol is caused by a number of factors including eating too much fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight or obese, smoking and drinking alcohol.

However, it can also run in families.

While long-term diet and other lifestyle changes are recommended to reduce your risk or lower levels, there are additional things you can consume to help.

One study suggests that whey protein powder can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.

A meta-analysis of existing clinical trials, which was published in the Lipids in Health and Disease journal in 2020, found it not only lowered overall cholesterol but also “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein).

It also increased “good” cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein.

The paper says: “In a study in which patients with metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity) were taking yoghurt fortified with whey protein during 10 weeks, it significantly reduced triglycerides levels and insulin resistance, and significantly increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

“Supplementation with whey proteins during 12 weeks in overweight and obese subjects was associated with a significant decrease in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and an improvement in fasting insulin concentrations and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance scores.

“In a meta-analysis by Wirunsawanya et al., which included trials on overweight and obese patients, whey protein administration improved some cardiovascular disease risk factors such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels, but did not influence other metabolic parameters.”

Whey is a by-product of making cheese and whey protein is a mix of the proteins found in whey.

As well as being sold as a powder to be added to drinks and foods, it can also be consumed in protein bars.

High-density lipoprotein works to reduce cholesterol levels by absorbing it and carrying it back to the liver.

The liver then removes it from the body.

In contrast, low-density lipoprotein is what can build up on the walls of your blood vessels and over time this causes the insides of the vessels to narrow.

Generally a healthy level of total cholesterol in the blood is considered to be five or less millimoles per litre (mmol/l).

More specifically, a healthy level of high-density lipoprotein is one or more mmol/l.

And you should have four or less mmol/l of low-density lipoprotein.

To reduce cholesterol levels the NHS advises:

  • Eating less saturated fat
  • Exercising more
  • To stop smoking
  • Cutting back on alcohol.

The study also found that whey powder could improve haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and insulin levels – both of which benefit diabetics.

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