Archive for December, 2008

Soy vs. Whey Protein: Confused Over Which One is Better?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Although I get asked, “Which is better, soy or whey protein?” …my question back is, “Better for what?” Each one is an excellent sources of protein, and each one has its own benefits.  I suggest to use at least both sources of protein in order to obtain the benefits each provide.  We need to consume protein in order to make and replace protein; and athletes and body-builders are very familiar with whey protein as an excellent source of “bio-available” protein.

Protein is essential for producing antibodies, hormones, new muscle tissue, and the oxygen-carrying protein in blood, hemoglobin. All protein lost or destroyed within the body must be replaced by bio-available protein in order for new tissue to be constructed.

Our bodies are able to manufacture many of the amino acids that are used to produce protein; however, there are nine “essential” amino acids that we cannot manufacture, but must obtain from the protein in our food. Not all protein sources provide these essential amino acids. For example, whey is an excellent source of glutathione and the branched chain essential amino acids L-leucine, L-valine and L-isoleucine.

The protein in most beans and vegetables may contain all the essential amino acids, but they are not naturally concentrated in foods, and thus vegans often do not readily obtain adequate amounts of protein, particularly the branch-chained amino acids. However, this can be compensated for by consuming concentrated protein sources, such as found within quality meal-replacement drinks.

Almost daily, I drink one or two nutritious meal-replacement drinks. These drinks not only contain a blend of both soy and whey proteins, they also contain protein from two additional sources, that of rice and pea. By obtaining a blend of proteins from these four sources one is obtaining all the essential amino acids and the benefits that each provide.

Soybeans contain high amounts of protein. Soy protein and soy isoflavones have been found to help reduce the symptoms of menopause, help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and to help prevent a number of hormone-related diseases, such as endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. (Neither soy nor soy isoflavones increase the risk of breast cancer; in fact quite the opposite, they help maintain breast health.)

In addition, soy has been observed to help maintain heart health. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated 25 grams of soy protein per day can reduce the chances of developing heart disease.

Soy protein has also been shown to help the thyroid, which can help with obtaining a leaner body. In the case of a soy allergy, the opposite would be true …reduced metabolism and weight gain.

If you are not allergic to soy, there are very few side effects to including soy in your diet. The most common side-effect of soy is the production of intestinal gas. Flatulence is a common side-effect of all beans (including soy), due to the bowel bacteria’s fermenting effect on the indigestible sugars contained within beans. Humans do not have the enzyme alpha-galactosidase necessary to break down the sugars that the bowel bacteria feast upon and produce gas.

Beano, purchased over-the-counter, contains alpha galactosidase, and regular use may be able to reduce gas production by breaking down the oligosaccharides (bean sugars) before the bacteria in the large bowel has a chance to ferment the sugar.

For those who are allergic to soy, gas would not be the only problem present, but significant diarrhea and abdominal bloating, hives, skin rash, and worst case, breathing problems. Soy isoflavones are not the same as pure soy protein; and even if one is allergic to soy it wound not mean they were allergic to soy isoflavones, as soy protein (the allergen of the allergy) is not found in soy isoflavones.

Whey protein is used by athletes and body builders because of the higher level of essential amino acids, particularly the branched chain amino acids that are metabolized in the muscle not the liver. Protein is critical in repairing not only muscle, but many other body tissues. Whey is helpful for weight loss and building muscle in those who work out, but will do little to help build muscle in those with sedentary lifestyles.

Whey protein affects the digestive tract in much the same way as yogurt. Therefore, it is considered to be a natural remedy for many intestinal issues. In fact, it is often used in Sweden to help prevent bowel problems, gas, and constipation. However, since whey is obtained from a dairy source (it is the liquid by-product of curdled milk … the solid becomes cheese, and the liquid protein part is dried as a source for whey). Therefore, those who are lactose intolerant should avoid whey protein, and steer towards soy protein only, as gas, constipation, and bloating can be significant. Over-the-counter Lactaid is available to help provide the enzyme necessary to break down dairy-derived lactose sugar found in whey products.

Since both soy and whey protein may lead to constipation, it is important to find a meal-replacement drink that provides adequate fiber to overcome this side-effect.

Whey protein makes a good alternative to those who are allergic to soy, and vice-versa, but the blend of soy and whey will render the user with the benefits of each, particularly if blended with adequate fiber, as mentioned. While companies selling protein supplements tout the benefits of whatever they’re selling as “the best,” whether it is soy, whey, or a combination of rice and pea protein, which together the last two alone hit numbers between 85 to 90% bioavailable protein, it is good to know that at least one company was wise enough to combine all four protein sources in their meal-replacement drinks, along with fiber, low-glycemic sugar, and vitamins and minerals.  The balance is its greatest strength as a perfect meal replacement.

A summary of the benefits of Soy and Whey Proteins, and that you can have BOTH:

Soy Protein

  • Soy protein has been found to be higher in non-essential amino
  • The consumption of 25-50 grams of soy protein daily may enhance production of thyroid stimulation hormones that regulate the metabolic rate, thereby making it easier for us to lose both body weight and fat and create a leaner body.
  • Soy is good for athletes: in a study from Romania endurance athletes experienced lean body mass, increased strength, and decrease fatigue while training. (Revue Roumaine de Physiologie 29, 3-4:63-70, 1992)
  • It contains more protein by weight than beef, fish or chicken, and contains less fat (especially saturated fat than meat).
  • The FDA has approved the following statement: ”Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
  • Other studies show that soy protein isolate has the ability to effectively lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Soy may improve kidney functioning
    Whey Protein

  • Whey protein assists in losing excess weight and maintaining optimal weight
  • Whey protein, combined with resistance training, even those who have immunosuppressive disorders (AIDS) can increase body cell mass, muscle mass and muscle strength, according to a study in AIDS (15, 18:2431-40, 2001).
  • Whey protein is superior to other proteins when it comes to anabolic response. It has consistently been shown to stimulate the anabolic hormones after a workout. In other words, whey protein improves athletic performance.
  • It mixes well and is low in fat and lactose, and has a superior amino acid profile
  • Whey protein lacks no essential amino acids. It needs no fortification or additive to make it complete. It is complete in its natural form
  • Whey enhances the immune system because it raises glutathione levels. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps our immune cells stay charged to help ward off cancer, bacterial infection and viruses. In other words, it helps improve the immune system.
  • Whey is also very high in glutamine and the branch chain amino acids L-leucine, L-valine and L-isoleucine, important aminos for repairing muscle
  • Whey acts as a natural antibacterial or anti-viral
  • Whey reduces the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Whey reduces liver damage
  • Whey improves blood pressure
  • Whey improves the function of the digestive system
  • Whey reduces gastric mucosal injury seen in ulcerative colitis
  • How Much Vitamin D is Too Much?

    Thursday, December 4th, 2008

    I get this question all the time, because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.  If you have not already done so, please go to the “In the News” section of this website and please read my article on vitamin D.   That should answer this question adequately. 

    Although vitamin D is fat soluble the level that has been shown to be very effective in maintaining health (decreasing the risk of heart disease and cancer) is between 1000 and 10,000 IU.   Vitamin D also helps with many other health situations as well.  As I mentioned in my article, vitamin D does not seem to approach toxic levels until you consume 50,000 IU per day or more.  That is why I suggest one does not supplement with more than 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day …unless instructed by their own physician.

    Personally, I take 5000 IU of vitamin D per day, and I advocate that every adult consider taking at least 1000 to 2000 IU per day.  (Children can safely take 400 to 1000 IU per day; however, one needs to discuss supplementation with their physician …a physician who is keenly aware of the benefits and high safety level of vitamin D.)

    Most Prenatal Vitamins Fail to Deliver

    Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

    When I practiced medicine as a board certified Ob/Gyn in Atlanta, Ga., I recommended a high-quality, full-spectrum multi-antioxidant, chelated mineral supplement brand to my pregnant patients.  In addition, I suggested they take highly purified fish oil capsules, extra calcium-magnesium, and an over-the-counter iron tablet to complete what I felt was a fully rounded prenatal nutrient regimen for the mother’s and baby’s optimal health.

    Studies indicate that most prescription prenatal vitamins do not adequately release the folic acid (folate) they supposedly contain.   Most prenatal vitamins do not have a full-range of minerals; and what they contain is usually not in what I consider adequate amounts.  Pregnancy is a time for extra calcium (on the order of 1000 to 1500 mg per day) and magnesium (on the order of 200 to 600 mg per day), not the relatively small amounts contained in prenatal vitamins. 

    It wasn’t until the last 4 or 5 years that it has become standard to put pregnant women on DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) supplement for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes (among many other benefits).  This was something that I was recommending to my patients well over 12 years ago.  It only became ”acceptable” for doctors to do this once a pharmaceutical company marketed DHA capsules to Ob/Gyn offices, as if anything done outside of what’s provided by a pharmaceutical company is “alternative medicine,” ….a topic for another day. 

    Although a pregnant woman needs to be careful about fish oil capsules, as organic residues and PCBs can be a problem, I only recommended a supplement brand that I knew was “pharmaceutical grade.”  Fish oil capsules do not need to be produced by a pharmaceutical company; the nutritional supplement brand that I recommended to my patients follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that were designed for the pharmaceutical industry, and are producing pure and potent supplements, including fish oil capsules.

    The fish oil that I recommended to my patients is highly purified through a double distillation process, and free of PCBs and organic residues.  (Needless to say, the capules are free of mercury and other heavy metals that can become a problem by consuming fish.)   My general recommended dose of fish oil was at least 2000 mg per day; though I preferred my pregnant and lactating patients to bump that level up to 4000 mg per day.

    One last concern that I’ll mention at this time, and that is the fact that, according to laboratory analysis of prescription prenatal vitamins, most prenatal vitamins lack adequate iodine levels or they are highly inconsistent in the levels of iodine they contain.  Most prescription prenatal vitamins have the minimum level of iodine (150 micrograms per day) that is required for pregnant and lactating women listed on the label; however, when analyzed the TRUE AMOUNT contained in the tablets was found to be much less!

    Fetal thyroid development and functioning is dependent on adequate dietary intake of iodine by the mother.  This, in turn, is critical for the brain functioning and normal neurological development in the newborn.  It has been shown that even a modest iodine deficiency can adversely affect the development of the baby’s cognitive development.  Mild to moderate mental retardation, or developmental delay are very possible outcomes due to an iodine deficiency.

    The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 220 micrograms per day during pregnancy (the amount that is in the broad-spectrum essential multi-antioxidant and chelated mineral supplement regimen I recommend), and 290 micrograms per day while breast feeding.   The World Health Organization recommends a flat 250 micrograms per day during both periods of pregnacy and lactation.  

    Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation worldwide, affecting more than 2.2 billion people.  Only 28% of prescription prenatal vitamins and 69% of over-the-counter multi-vitamins marketed in the United States even listed iodine as an ingredient on the label.   This is concerning enough, and the fact that most do not even have the stated amounts of iodine within the tablet (from 50 to 76% of what is stated), is even more evidence that everyone needs to find a supplement brand that they can trust.