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Whey protein is a high quality protein that together with casein are the major proteins in milk. In prior articles we have kept you informed of the growing research showing benefits of whey protein for athletes. Whey protein is digested quickly resulting in a more rapid increase in plasma amino acids compared to casein, which rapidly stimulates muscle protein synthesis[1] and supplementing with whey augments adaptations to resistance training as shown by i ncreases in muscle strength and enhanced lean body mass[2, 3]. Several studies have shown other important physiologic outcomes that are likely mediated by unique peptides in whey hydrolysates. Several peptides from whey protein have been shown to possess hypotensive properties. A recent paper in the Journal of Hypertension evaluated the effects of a whey hydrolysate in 30 subjects with mild hypertension. Subjects were randomly assigned to a whey hydrolysate group (20 g/day) or a control group who ingested the same amount of an unmodified whey protein. After 6 weeks of treatment the whey hydrolysate group significantly reduced systolic blood pressure by 8 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg compared to control. An additional benefit of lower LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) was also noted in the whey hydrolysate group. The most likely mechanism for this blood pressure-lowering effect is inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity because milk has been shown to be a rich source of ACE inhibitory peptides. Several drugs for treating blood pressure are targeted at reducing ACE activity. Inhibition of ACE prevents the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor. Whey derived peptides showing ACE inhibitory effects are released during normal digestion in the gastrointenstinal tract by proteases. Typical enzymatic procedures in the manufacturing of whey hydrolysates also result in rich sources of ACE inhibitory peptides. The magnitude of reduction in blood pressure in just 6 weeks would be considered very clinically relevant and on par with some drugs used to treat blood pressure. Of course the benefit of using whey proteins is that there are no risks for adverse effects, and you get the added benefit of a high quality protein source that has many other health benefits beyond lowering blood pressure.

Pins JJ, Keenan JM. Effects of whey peptides on cardiovascular disease risk factors. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2006 Nov;8(11):775-82.