New research supports whey protein for weight management

New research supports whey protein for weight management

A new study funded by USDA and the US Whey Protein Research Consortium demonstrates the ability of supplemental whey protein to improve body weight and composition, without energy restriction and changes to the habitual diet of obese and overweight adults, in comparison to consuming an equal amount of calories from carbohydrates.


A new study funded by USDA and the US Whey Protein Research Consortium (USWPRC) demonstrates the ability of supplemental whey protein to improve body weight and composition, without energy restriction and changes to the habitual diet of obese and overweight adults, in comparison to consuming an equal amount of calories from carbohydrates. 

Previous research has demonstrated a benefit of whey protein for weight management when taken with concurrent energy restriction or physical activity.  However, the research to be published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that whey protein could play a significant role in weight management over the long term, without the need for additional changes in physical activity or diet.

“This study contributes strong evidence to support the benefits of whey protein for weight management. The design meets EFSA scientific requirements to support health claims on this area, according to the latest draft guidance,” comments Suzane Leser, Nutrition Manager for Lifestyle Ingredients at Volac, whey protein suppliers and the European member of the USWPRC. 

The researchers from the USDA—ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Centre tracked body weight, body composition and waist circumference data from 73 overweight and obese adults. These adults were assigned to consume a 200-calorie beverage, consisting of 28g of whey or soy protein plus carbohydrate or carbohydrate alone, twice a day for 6 months. There were no significant differences between groups at the start of the trial, but by the end of the trial, the whey protein group’s body weight was 2 percent lower than the carbohydrate group. 

The results of the study indicate that whey protein supplementation has the potential to promote lean body composition, with results showing subjects in the whey protein group recording reduced body fat, five pounds less than the carbohydrate group, and a waist size nearly an inch less than both the carbohydrate and soy protein groups.

Study data indicates that participants compensated for the additional 400 calories per day by cutting back on other foods, as none gained a significant amount of weight during the 23-week period. However, the whey protein group made up for the added calories more effectively, showing improvements in body weight and composition when compared to the carbohydrate group. This could be related to satiety with whey protein, as participants in the whey protein group showed significantly lower levels of hunger-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, compared to the other two groups. 

“This pre-competitive consortium research is a great example of what the industry can achieve by working together. In Europe, it has the potential to support future applications for health claims as it tackles EFSA concerns resulting from the rulings. The careful methodology applied to this study tested the long-term effect of whey protein specifically on appetite ratings and subsequent energy intake. It also demonstrates the most obvious health benefit of reducing body weight, which is the concomitant reduction in body fat mass, particularly abdominal fat”.

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