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  • Research Confirms Benefits of Whey Protein

    By USDEC Staff June 10, 2014


    Studies show the benefits of whey protein on body composition and immune recovery from HIV.

    Anecdotal evidence has long suggested a link between whey protein and a variety of health benefits. What’s been lacking is scientific proof. That’s why two clinical research reports released over the past two months are so noteworthy. Both stud­ies testified to significant health benefits associated with whey protein consumption, setting the stage for increased utilization.

    In April, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a meta-analysis on 14 randomized controlled trials that found significant declines in body weight and body fat when whey proteins were used in place of alternative proteins in weight loss and maintenance diets. In addition, a statistically significant increase in lean body mass was seen in studies that included resistance exercise.

    “Now we have the proof that whey proteins are superior to other proteins in achieving this improved body composition goal, and at a most opportune time, when consumer interest in protein is rising,” says Véronique Lagrange, USDEC senior vice president, strategy and insights.

    The study was backed by the Whey Protein Research Consortium, a pre-competitive, international group of whey suppliers, global customers and associations, including USDEC and USDEC members. The Consortium has worked for 12 years to document the unique benefits of whey proteins with a focus on body composition for an eventual health claim on package labels. It is currently researching acceptable wording for such a claim.

    HIV impact: whey directly linked to immunity

    In May, the British Journal of Medicine published the results of a four-year, independent study that found that whey-containing supplements not only improve weight gain, lean body mass and grip strength in people living with HIV who are starting antiretroviral therapy (ART), they also improve immune recovery.

    The study, funded by USDEC and Dairy Research Institute and conducted by independent third-party researchers in Ethiopia, is part of a multi-year strategic plan to deliver science that will help determine the exact, efficacious dose of dairy ingredients and nutri­ents that benefits the world’s most vulnerable groups.

    Almost 70 percent of the people living with HIV worldwide reside in Sub-Saharan Africa—an estimated 23.5 million men, women and children.

    ART has proven a key treatment for people living with HIV. However, “poor nutritional status at the start of ART has been identified as a predictor of mortality, while patients who gain weight in the early phase of treatment have improved prognoses,” the study noted. “In addition, low lean body mass results in functional limitations, which can have devastating consequences for patients and their families.”

    Nutritional support, therefore, is becoming an integral part of ART. Government health centers and private voluntary organizations are purchasing various ready-to-use supplementary foods now as part of ART treatment. But information is needed to guide supplementation programs toward optimal composition and timing.

    To disseminate the Ethiopia study results, USDEC will be meeting with high-level representatives from organizations such as USAID and coordinating with the International Dairy Federation to reach key government contacts in countries with high HIV prevalence.

    “This is the first study that provides science-based evidence of the additional benefit of dairy or whey on immune recovery,” says Lagrange. “The next step is to communicate the scientific findings to policy makers so this becomes the standard of care.”

    (This article first appeared in the June 2014 edition of Export Profile.)

    Image copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff that builds on collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to build global demand for U.S. dairy products.   



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