Whey and soy protein may reduce inflammation in older people

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Background: Understanding Inflammation and Muscle Health

Before diving into the specifics, let’s first understand some basics. In our body, there’s a thing called ‘inflammation’. It’s usually our body’s response to an injury or an infection.

When it stays for a short period, it’s okay, but when it becomes a long-term thing, it’s not so good. This type of long-lasting or ‘low-grade’ inflammation can impact our muscles’ health.

It can interfere with the way our muscles renew and repair themselves, a process known as ‘proteostasis’.

Research Goal: Proteins’ Role in Controlling Inflammation

Given this, a group of scientists wanted to find out if certain types of protein could help. They were particularly interested in two kinds of proteins: ‘whey’ and ‘soy’.

They wanted to see if these proteins could reduce some inflammation markers in the blood. These markers are substances that increase when there’s inflammation.

They focused on three specific markers: ‘C-reactive protein’ (CRP), ‘interleukin-6’ (IL-6), and ‘tumor necrosis factor-alpha’ (TNF-α).

The Process: Finding the Right Studies

To answer this question, the scientists didn’t start from scratch. Instead, they turned to the work already done by other scientists. They searched through four big databases of scientific studies.

Their goal was to find high-quality studies, called ‘randomised controlled trials’ (RCTs), which had tested the effect of whey or soy proteins on inflammation markers.

Results: What The Studies Showed

They found a total of 31 studies that met their standards. After carefully analyzing all the data, here’s what they found:

Whey protein helps lower IL-6 levels: People who took whey protein had lower IL-6 levels in their blood. This suggests that whey protein might help control inflammation.

Soy protein helps lower TNF-α levels: People who took soy protein saw a reduction in their TNF-α levels. This points towards soy protein having a role in managing inflammation.

Soy isoflavones can boost the effect: When people took soy protein with something called ‘isoflavones’, the TNF-α levels went down even more.

People with muscle problems benefited the most: People with a muscle weakness condition called ‘sarcopenia’ and those who were ‘pre-frail’ saw the most significant decrease in IL-6 levels when they took whey protein.

The researchers also noted that these effects might depend on the characteristics of the participants and how long they were taking the protein supplements.

Conclusion: The Takeaway Message

From their work, the researchers concluded that both whey and soy proteins can help in managing inflammation.

They can do this by reducing the levels of certain inflammation markers in the blood. The effect of soy protein might get a boost if taken with isoflavones.

And it seems like people with muscle problems might benefit the most from taking whey protein.

In simple terms, adding whey and soy proteins to your diet might help your body fight inflammation, especially if you’re experiencing muscle weakness or frailty.

Remember, though, this is based on the analysis of a bunch of different studies.

More research will be needed to confirm these findings and to figure out the best way to use these proteins for managing inflammation.

Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

The research was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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