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Whey protein combats stress

MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS. People who are constantly exposed to stress tend to experience a decline in their ability to learn and memorize things (cognitive performance). It is believed that this effect is caused by the fact that chronic stress reduces brain serotonin levels. Serotonin is formed from tryptophan supplied by the diet. Tryptophan competes with other large amino acids for entry to the brain so a diet high in protein may actually lead to lower tryptophan concentrations. Researchers at Maastricht University now report that consuming a meal containing alpha-lactalbumin, a whey protein with a high tryptophan content, increases the ratio of tryptophan to other large amino acids in the blood stream and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable people.

Their double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study included 23 students who were highly vulnerable to stress and 29 who were not. The participants consumed a diet (breakfast, snack and brunch) containing either whey protein or sodium caseinate (control). One and a half hours after brunch they had a blood sample taken and were then seated in front of a computer and exposed to a cognitive performance test. Blood analysis showed that the ratio of tryptophan to other large amino acids was 43 per cent greater after the whey diet than after the control diet. It was also clear that stress-vulnerable participants on the whey diet performed much better on the cognitive tests than did those on the control diet. No difference in performance was noted for the low stress vulnerability group.
Editor's Note: Increased serotonin levels reduce depression so a morning shake of whey protein powder and fresh berries may help brighten up your day.
Markus, C. Rob, et al. 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. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 75, June 2002, pp. 1051-56

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