by Michael Colgan, Ph.D.
Popular articles often judge dietary proteins by comparing their ability to promote muscle protein synthesis. This one-eyed focus leads many people to believe that proteins are simple foods, and building muscle is their most important, if not their only, function. This belief is entirely false.
The amino acids that make up proteins have been evolving on Earth for more than two billion years, and are far and away the most complex foods we eat (1). Twenty-first century molecular biology shows that we still have a lot to learn about them. Some school texts still state, for example, that only eight of the 21 amino acids in human proteins are essential. In the last few years of science that number has grown to 17, although some oxymoronic folk still call the nine new ones “conditionally essential” (2,3).
We should have realized long ago how complex proteins are from how complex we are. Scientists have known for a long time that half the dry weight of the human body is proteins, more than 100 thousand different proteins (4). Each one is made to precise specifications from our genetic code. They do more than a million different jobs every day. Each one is manufactured from the amino acids in the proteins that you eat.
Titin, for example is our longest protein. It enables muscles to contract optimally. Titin is 34,500 amino acids long, all in precise sequence. If even one amino acid is missing, or in the wrong place in the sequence, titin does not work properly, and muscle contraction does not work optimally. If you can’t gain muscle and strength the way you should, check the quality of your dietary proteins. Even the hemoglobin that carries your oxygen is a protein. If you are panting like a grampus trying to train for that marathon, check the quality of your dietary proteins.
Proteins form your whole structure and control every move you make. The structure of your eyes and brain is mainly proteins. The brain activity and the vision you are using right now to read this page is precisely controlled by thousands of different enzymes–and all enzymes are proteins. If you are having trouble following this, check the quality of your dietary proteins.
The big point is that the quality of the proteins you eat determines the quality of the proteins that compose your body. If you eat garbage proteins you will grow a garbage body, because you are failing to give your genome the construction materials it needs to express its power. Before you bite into that yummy chilidog, remember that its inferior protein will grow into your muscles, organs, and brain, and you will have to live with it for the next six months.
If you eat pizza you will grow a pudgy pizza body, no matter what else you do for your health. If you eat burgers, you will grow a bloated burger body. You see them all waddling down the mall. That guy is definitely a Burger King, and there go a couple of Taco Bells and a Pizza Hut… You get the picture. You will grow a body structure with shape, movement, and mind that portray the quality of the dietary proteins from which they are built.
The best dietary match we have found for human proteins is undenatured whey protein concentrate. If anyone has a better match, with controlled scientific evidence to prove it, I would love to learn of it. Undenatured whey protein from range-fed cows is not a simple food. It consists of eight different proteins, each composed of 21 amino acids, each with different effects on the human body.
Like range-fed meats and wild fish, but better, undenatured whey proteins contain the right combinations of the amino acids for human proteins, complete with numerous peptides encrypted into amino acid sequences (“keys” that open gene expression locks in our DNA code) and encrypted bioactive immune factors too (5). Only intact proteins work properly. Any way we meddle with them with our simian fingers, we mess them up.
When we leave them intact, these complex proteins influence many more bodily processes than muscle growth. They regulate glucose metabolism, lipid metabolism, bone metabolism, blood pressure, enzyme function, immune function, brain function, consciousness, emotions, sleep, appetite, food intake, and body weight (6). They are a boon to health.
I will take a quick romp through the a few research papers representative of the research on overweight, the worst health problem in America, caused mainly by our simian fingers messing with the food supply. The human body was not designed to be overweight. Our DNA code can’t handle it. The current situation of overweight in America, especially in children, predicts a tsunami of disease in which parents who remain fit and trim will outlive their offspring (7).
Simply owning excess body fat causes simultaneous disorders of insulin, glucose, lipids, blood pressure, heart function, pancreatic function, kidney and liver function, brain function, and emotions (8-10). These disorders work together to make you chronically sick, exhausted, and depressed.
We have so messed up the food chain that people fighting to lose bodyfat need any help they can get. I am happy to be able to share some of the recent discoveries on whey protein concentrate, findings of its benefits for appetite, food intake, insulin and blood sugar levels, blood lipids, emotions and cognition.
Calorie for calorie, whey protein increases satiety (appetite satisfaction) more than any fat or carbohydrate (8-10). Whey also has a larger influence than any other protein on amino acid levels and patterns in the brain. These changes in the brain induce satiety and result in reduced food intake (8-10). Whey protein concentrate also raises brain levels of amino acids that regulate areas of the hypothalamus to reduce food cravings (8-10). Whey reduces food intake in human subjects to a greater extent than casein, eggs, or soy (9-11).
You digest whey proteins more rapidly than casein, egg, meat, fish, or vegetable proteins. This effect potentiates insulin release, increases glucose uptake by tissues, and reduces blood sugar levels more than other proteins (11,12).
Big bonus: whey protein raises brain serotonin levels and improves mood, at least as well as some antidepressants, and with zero side effects (13). It also improves cognition (14). Getting your proteins from undenatured whey can make you leaner, happier, and smarter.
About Dr. Colgan
Dr. Michael Colgan is a world-renowned research scientist, leading expert in the inhibition of aging, and a member of the Isagenix Science Advisory Board. Dr. Colgan has provided nutrition, training and anti-aging programs to more than 11,000 athletes, including many Olympians. He is director of his eponymous Colgan Institute, a consulting, educational and research facility concerned with the effects of nutrition and exercise on athletic performance, along with prevention of chronic degenerative disease, and prevention of degeneration of the brain.
- Chernikova D, Motamedi S, Csürös M, Koonin EV, Rogozin IB. A late origin of the extant eukaryotic diversity: divergence time estimates using rare genomic changes. Biol Direct. 2011 May 19;6:26.
- Fürst P, Stehle P. What are the essential elements needed for the determination of amino acid requirements in humans? Journal of Nutrition, 2004;134 (6 Suppl):1558S–1565S.
- Reeds PJ. Dispensable and indispensable amino acids for humans. J Nutr. 2000;130 (7):1835S–40S
- Colgan M. Optimum Sports Nutrition. New York: Advanced Science Press 1993.
- Colgan M. The Anti-Inflammatory Athlete. Vancouver: Science Books, 2012.
- Graf S, Egert S, Heer M. Effects of whey protein supplements on metabolism: evidence from human intervention studies. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Nov;14(6):569-80.
- Moore SE, Anderson GH. Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. J Nutr 2004;134:974S–9S.
- Bremer AA, Mietus-Snyder M, Lustig RH. Toward a unifying hypothesis of metabolic syndrome. Pediatrics. 2012 Mar;129(3):557-70.
- Luhovyy BL, Akhavan T, Anderson GH. Whey proteins in the regulation of food intake and satiety. J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26:704S–12S.
- Corredig M, (ed). Dairy-derived ingredients: food and nutraceutical uses. London, United Kingdom: Woodhead Publishing, 2009.
- Hall WL, Millward DJ, Long SJ, Morgan LM. Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. Br J Nutr 2003;89:239–48.
- Claessens M, Saris WH, van Baak MA. Glucagon and insulin responses after ingestion of different amounts of intact and hydrolysed proteins. Br J Nutr 2008;100:61–9.
- Markus CR, Olivier B, Panhuysen GE, Van Der Gugten J, Alles MS, Tuiten A, Westenberg HG, Fekkes D, Koppeschaar HF, de Haan EE. The bovine protein alpha-lactalbumin increases the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, and in vulnerable subjects raises brain serotonin activity, reduces cortisol concentration, and improves mood under stress. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1536-44.
- Markus CR, Olivier B, de Haan EH. Whey protein rich in alpha-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jun;75(6):1051-6.