Whey proteins show blood pressure lowering powers

Young adults in the early stages of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) experienced significant decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures following six weeks of drinking a whey-rich beverage every day, according to findings published in the International Dairy Journal.

Effects were observed whether the subjects consumed hydrolyzed or non-hydrolyzed whey beverages, leading the researchers to propose that the benefits were due to a factor other than the presence of anti hypertensive peptides was produced during hydrolysis.

“The majority of the subjects enjoyed the taste and convenience of the functional whey protein beverages. Taste and convenience are both important to ensure compliance during a dietary intervention,” wrote researchers from Washington State University.

“Whey protein beverages may be a valuable dietary intervention in the treatment of hypertension,” they added.

High blood pressure (hypertension),defined as having a systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) greater than 140 and 90 mmHg, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) – a disease that causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year.

Study details
Led by Susan Fluegel, the WSU researchers recruited 71 young men and women with an average age of 20 and an average BMI of 24.6 kg/m2 and randomly assigned them to receive either a beverage containing 28 grams of whey protein concentrate 80 (WPC80 TemPro, Leprino Foods) or a beverage containing 28 grams of hydrolyzed WPC80. After six weeks of intervention, the researchers noted no overall differences in systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), or mean arterial pressure (MAP) between the groups. However, when Fluegel and her co-workers looked at sub-groups, they noted significant decreases of 8.0, 8.6, and 6.4 mm Hg for SBP, DBP, and MAP, respectively, in young adults with elevated DBP and SBP. The apparent benefits were observed following ingestion of either beverage. On the other hand, people with normal blood pressure levels at the start of the study had no changes in their BP measurements, they added.

“We found that whey protein beverages lowered BP only in individuals with previously high BP, but not in those with normal blood pressure,” wrote the researchers. “These findings suggest that whey protein beverages had a normalizing effect on elevated BP and did not cause hypo tension. This is important since hypo tension can be a health concern in certain population groups, such as young women and the elderly.”

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the WSU researchers noted that the effects may be related to whey’s influence on nitric oxide production – a chemical species with a known role in blood pressure regulation. Indeed, a randomized, double-blind study showed that Glanbia Nutritionals’ proprietary peptide NOP-47 improved blood vessel function in healthy individuals, with the effects occurring via nitric oxide dependent and independent mechanisms.

Source: International Dairy Journal
Volume 20, Pages 753-760, doi: 10.1016/j.idairyj.2010.06.005
“Whey beverages decrease blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive young men and women”
Authors: S.M. Fluegel, T.D. Shultz, J.R. Powers, et al.