Fighting inflammation with proteins: The power of whey and soy

Credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Why Researchers Are Interested

Inflammation is like your body’s alarm system. It’s a sign that something’s not quite right. Sometimes, it can be helpful.

But if it sticks around for too long (we call this low-grade inflammation), it can interfere with how our muscles work.

Researchers are especially curious about two proteins, whey and soy, and whether they might be able to help turn down that alarm.

What We Did

To find out, they did a big search. They looked at many studies called randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which are a very reliable type of research.

They searched in several big scientific databases, like MEDLINE and the Cochrane Library, from the day they started until September 2021.

They were particularly interested in seeing if these proteins might help reduce levels of certain things in the blood that indicate inflammation.

These are C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6, and TNF-α. To pull all the results together, the team used a method called a meta-analysis.

What They Found

After a lot of searching, the team found 31 RCTs that met our standards for good, reliable research. So, they included these in our review and meta-analysis.

Now, here’s the interesting part. The team found that drinking whey protein reduced the level of IL-6 in the blood. The average drop was 0.79 units.

Similarly, consuming soy protein led to a drop in TNF-α, another marker of inflammation. The average drop here was 0.16 units.

Even more, when people took soy isoflavones (a special component found in soy), their TNF-α levels dropped even more. The average drop was 0.20 units this time.

The team also looked at specific groups of people. They found that in people with sarcopenia (a condition where the body loses muscle mass) and those who were pre-frail, whey protein reduced IL-6 levels significantly.

The average drop was 0.98 units. However, these findings might depend on the characteristics of the participants and how long they took the protein.

What It All Means

So, what’s the big picture? Well, these findings suggest that whey and soy protein supplements can help reduce inflammation in the body. They seem to do this by lowering IL-6 and TNF-α levels in the blood.

This effect might be even stronger with the addition of soy isoflavones. Plus, the benefits might be more noticeable in people with sarcopenia.

So next time you’re choosing a protein supplement, you might want to think about choosing whey or soy. Not only could they help build your muscles, but they might also help keep inflammation at bay!

The research is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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