You Probably Didn’t Know This….Whey Protein Lowers Cholesterol.
How can that even be possible you may be wondering. Ask any dietician, nutritionist or health professional - we did! - and most didn’t know the research behind this claim.
Cholesterol is found in your blood and can be described as a waxy substance. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but you want to avoid high cholesterol levels as that can increase your risk for heart disease.
The higher the cholesterol level, the more fatty deposits accumulate in your blood vessels. We have all seen the photos of clogged arteries and have heard the warnings that those deposits can suddenly break off and form a blood clot that may cause a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but it's often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. By changing your lifestyle with a healthy diet and regular exercise, high cholesterol can many times be preventable and treatable.
Studies show that by including whey protein in your diet, although containing cholesterol, actually is recommended to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. Studies have shown it lowers total, and others have mixed results, either lowering or no effect on LDL.
The Mayo Clinic has whey protein on its list of food items to include to lower cholesterol! Saturated fat is more important to try to lower in the diet than cholesterol. The problem is, with an exception being whey protein, many foods higher in cholesterol are also higher in saturated fat. Whey protein has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve endothelial function (which is in part the elasticity of the artery).
Research supports whey protein as a supplement to lower total and LDL blood cholesterol levels. Xendurance’s (chocolate) Whey Protein has 93 mg of cholesterol in a serving, but only 2g of saturated fat. What experts in cardiovascular health recommend is focusing on a plant-based vs animal based diet which will have a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids (that includes omega 3's) to saturated fatty acids, and a high fiber and phytochemical content. Saturated fat in the diet is of more concern than dietary cholesterol. Saturated fats along with trans fat have long been considered the unhealthy fats.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans removed the recommendation of less than 300mg/day of cholesterol and the guidelines are focused on a plant-based, healthy diet.
Another abstract that supports the above.
Nutrients. 2018 Jun; 10(6): 780.
Published online 2018 Jun 16. doi: 10.3390/nu10060780
Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. For years, dietary cholesterol was implicated in increasing blood cholesterol levels leading to the elevated risk of CVD. To date, extensive research did not show evidence to support a role of dietary cholesterol in the development of CVD. As a result, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans removed the recommendations of restricting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg/day. This review summarizes the current literature regarding dietary cholesterol intake and CVD. It is worth noting that most foods that are rich in cholesterol are also high in saturated fatty acids and thus may increase the risk of CVD due to the saturated fatty acid content. The exceptions are eggs and shrimp. Considering that eggs are affordable and nutrient-dense food items, containing high-quality protein with minimal saturated fatty acids (1.56 gm/egg) and are rich in several micronutrients including vitamins and minerals, it would be worthwhile to include eggs in moderation as a part of a healthy eating pattern. This recommendation is particularly relevant when individual’s intakes of nutrients are suboptimal, or with limited income and food access, and to help ensure dietary intake of sufficient nutrients in growing children and older adults.
Note: This information was put together by a registered dietician who has 38+ years of teaching and administration in the field of nutrition, Lori Anonsen. Lori also places dietetic students in hospitals throughout Phoenix, including the Mayo Clinic. She has an extensive athletic history as well; collegiate gymnast, first AZ female ironman champion, ABC survival of the fittest contestant, nationally televised.
Lori Anonsen, M.S. R.D. EP-C
Professor & Nutrition and Dietetics Program Director at PVCC
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), CDR #671320
Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), #6832
Certified Group Fitness Instructor, American Council on Exercise (ACE), #F28551
American Heart Association (AHA) Heart Savers CPR & AED Certification
Arizona State’s women’s Gymnastics Team; 1975-79.
NBC’s “Survival of the Fittest”; 1981.