Category Archives: Paleo Diet

Science over Sciencey-ness: Is it safe to indulge in beans? What about the Lectins?

Lady Kettlebells Summer womens crossfit shirt
Beans may be safe but get yourself a WODMASTERS shirt to make sure.

Talking about the Paleo Diet always feels dangerous.  It never made sense to me.  When I first brought that up at our CrossFit Box I was warned by a CrossFit trainer not to speak publicly about it.  “They will destroy you.” were her exact words.  Not being sure exactly who “they” were, I’ve written about it, pretty much as delicately as I can, a few times.  I don’t intend to offend anyone, or threaten anyone’s sense of self or loyalties.  But, as a professor and toxicologist (and hopefully responsible citizen) I feel compelled at times to discuss issues of logic and incomplete information when they are potentially damaging to people’s health.    So, in advance, to my Paleo friends . . . I only wish you well.

The Paleo Diet basics.

Most people on the Paleo Diet are trying to lose weight and become healthier.  The paleo diet eschews refined food and junk food.  It also eschews a number of other foods.  Grains are on the “not paleo” list as are beans and peanuts.  The rationale centers around gut inflammation.  Gluten, a plant lectin, is on the “not paleo” list because it causes inflammation in people who have celiac disease.  The paleo diet treats all people as though they have celiac disease.   It is a perfectly normal conclusion to make when immediate experience is the only source of information.    It makes sense on a primitive level.   A gut level.  For most paleo experts the  “medical establishment” and the FDA are misguided at best and are often seen as enemies.   For paleo advocates, there is very little information that can be trusted.  Paleo diet advocates do rely on selected papers published in scientific journals to support their hypotheses.  For a more articulate discussion watch the video below:

lectin Quinoia Paleo? CrossFit Social after CrossFit WOD
Fear of Lectins and anti-nutrients can make people neurotic. Maybe its just fear that makes people neurotic.  Either way its not good for you. Relax and enjoy life.

The Paleo Diet and Lectins and What are Lectins?

Lectins are binding proteins.   Humans, like other organisms, use binding proteins to protect and control various substances in the blood.  Binding proteins help protect hormones from being degraded before they can reach their targets.   Binding proteins can also serve to limit the amount of an active substance in the blood stream.  Binding proteins help the body maintain control of itself and its operations.  Lectins are binding proteins that bind to sugars.  In humans lectins play important roles in

  • Cell communication
  • Cell differentiation
  • Movement of cell vesicles

Why do Paleo Diet Experts think lectin is an anti-nutrient?

The rationale may be that

  • Gluten can harm the gut of people with celiac disease.
  • If some people cannot tolerate gluten, then gluten is probably bad for everyone
  • Gluten is a lectin, therefore lectins are bad for people

 

Much of the belief that lectins are anti-nutrient seems to come from a single paper published in an open-access online journal called BMC Endocrine Disorders.    It is a “hypothesis paper.”  The authors of the paper make associations between obesity and other diseases of affluence and cereal-based diets.  The paper was published in 2005 and has two citations.   Citations by other researchers are a way to judge the impact of the paper on other scientists.  If your paper gets cited it means that other scientists have referenced your work to support their research.  Two citations in 8 years is not a huge amount . . . and both citations were self-citations. Interestingly, neither of the citing papers discussed lectins.  Hypothesis generation is a worthy endeavor.  A lot of good comes from hypothesis generation.  Hypotheses can be fun and interesting.  And they can inspire research.  But unless the practice of noting associations goes beyond hypothesis generation to hypothesis testing the ideas should stay in the fun and interesting pile and not become a foundation for a diet for millions of people.

Eye Pood Kettlebell Crossfit shirt
Low T? Feeling awesome increases Testosterone. Wear WODMASTERS and feel it rise. This statement is not backed up by any research whatsoever.

It seems to be true that some lectins can cause intestinal distress.  The Miyake et al. (2007) paper (below) was an investigation of the mechanism by which uncooked lectins cause acute gastrointestinal distress.  Fortunately, cooking breaks lectins down.  Unless you are a big fan of raw beans you will probably have no problem with lectins.   Most people cook beans.  And most people will get a huge stomach ache it they eat them uncooked.  If you do get a huge stomach ache after eating something (a lectin or not) you should probably not eat it anymore.  Our ancestors ate grains.  We are, in most likelihood, well adapted to their consumption.  Uncooked beans are probably another story.  Eat them after they have been cooked.  They are a good source of protein, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Science over sciencey-ness

Reasonableness over rigidity

 

 

Miyake K, Tanaka T, & McNeil PL (2007). Lectin-based food poisoning: a new mechanism of protein toxicity. PloS one, 2 (8) PMID: 17668065

Jönsson T, Olsson S, Ahrén B, Bøg-Hansen TC, Dole A, & Lindeberg S (2005). Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence–do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? BMC endocrine disorders, 5 PMID: 16336696

Research, Fads, Nutrition and Science

CrossFit Science or maybe Paleo Diet Science.

Pain is a frequent topic of conversation among people who do CrossFit.   Hip pain seems to be fairly common.   My hip hurts.  Its been hurting for several years.  It might be tendonitis.  It might be years of cumulative damage from back packing, portaging, backsquats, back country skiing, kettlebells, or rowing.  Or maybe the series of cycling accidents of my youth.  One of my crossfit friends told me that if I followed the paleo diet my hip would stop hurting.

  • I don’t follow the Paleo Diet and I have hip pain.
  • I don’t wear a beanie with a propeller on it and I have hip pain
  • There are probably other things that I don’t do.  But right now that’s all I can think of.

Why would someone think that hip pain is caused by diet?  How much of what we know comes from somewhere we don’t know?  A lot of the time we know things because they have been repeated a lot. Or because they have been stated authoritatively. Or because the people we hang out with believe something is true. Often, we believe to belong. Or we believe because we think we have the whole story.  Check out this video on media and science.   I believe this guy (Ben Goldacre) really has to pee.  But, he’s done a good job clarifying a lot of nonsense.

Paleo Diet Recipe for Chocolate Cake of Power.

If you are looking for a paleo diet recipe for chocolate cake give this chocolate cake a try.  Its pretty paleo.  It is made with Olive Oil, Carrot Juice and lots of Cocoa.  So it is extremely healthy and full of vitamins and anti-oxidants.  It is not a completely paleo recipe.  Some sugar is used to help with texture and to bring out flavor.  You can try it without.  It will come out somewhat like very dark brown Irish Soda Bread, but denser.

Ingredients for the Paleo Diet Recipe for Chocolate Cake of Power

  • 1 cup of Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups of Quinoa flour (whole wheat will work too)
  • 1 teaspoon of iodized salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup carrot juice
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of boiling water

Directions for the Paleo Diet Recipe for Chocolate Cake of Power

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease pans (two 9-inch rounds or 13x2x9 rectangle)
  3. Sift together all the dry ingredients.
  4. Add all the wet ingredients except for the boiling water.
  5. Mix for two minutes on medium speed or stir to exhaustion
  6. Add boiling water and mix until well blended, but don’t kill it.
  7. Bake for about 30-35 minutes.
  8. Cool completely before applying frosting.
  9. Decorate with symbols of power.
Paleo Diet Recipe for Chocolate Cake
Paleo Diet Recipe for Chocolate Cake. Its pretty close.

Suggested symbols of power:

  • Large Plastic Dinosaurs
  • Plastic nose pencil sharpeners
  • Chipotle peppers
  • Hot Wheels race cars
  • Small Rubber Ducks

 

 

 

For the Paleo Diet Purist we suggest the following:

  • Twigs
  • Bits of Hemp String
  • Tea Leaves
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Plastic wild animals

As always, be careful when decorating cakes for children.  Children should not, except in extremely rare cases where this is part of the child’s normal diet, eat Chipotle peppers.  All toys and non-edible decorations should be removed before consuming regardless of the servees age.

Healthy Frosting for Paleo Diet Cake Recipes

If you figure out how to do this please let us know.  We have managed to make stuff that looks like frosting by blending coconut oil with beet juice.  While the cake looked great, most guests were pretty disappointed with all other aspects.  We have also tried frosting with all-fruit jam.  It was pretty sticky and unattractive.  We recommend a light layer of traditional frosting, or a dusting of confectioners sugar.

Diet Paleo vs. Diet Junk Food: A short video on diets and economics

Diet Paleo vs. Diet Junk Food.

Diet Paleo? Our lady of the kettlebells shirt crossfit women
Diet Paleo or Diet Junk Food? Our Lady of the Kettlebells Shirt for Women

You can diet Paleo by adhering strictly to several popular diet books.  Or you can diet Paleo by eating whatever you imagine your forebears might have eaten.  For some of us that would have included a lot of tree bark in the early spring, the bounty of summer insects, nuts in the fall and winter, shellfish and an occasional bite of carrion, buffalo, or aurochs.  Whatever was available where you happened to be.  But what about now?  What determines what people eat when the variety is overwhelming?  Many of us do what is easiest and fastest.  Totally reasonable.  Many of us also choose what we are used to.  How our families ate.  And how the people around us eat.  As anyone who has suffered the pain of bringing your carefully fed, healthy child to kindergarten knows, there are powerful social forces at play in food choice.  What about simple economics?  Is a healthy diet too expensive for some people?

Diet Paleo vs. Diet Junk Food:  How do costs compare?

The video below was put together by Academic Earth.  Academic Earth is a website that has put together a lot of different resources for information and education.  They have links to online courses from many different universities.  They also have video lectures.  And other resources.
Created by AcademicEarth.org

Here is Academic Earth’s description of the video:
“According to Dr. James Hill, director of the Center of Human Nutrition at Colorado Health Sciences University, “Genes don’t make us obese. They allow us to be obese.” If our genes aren’t to blame for this rise in obesity, what is? Recent research suggests that socioeconomic class can impact our bodies as much as genetics, and may be a more accurate predictor for a variety of future health issues, including obesity. Check out this video to learn more about how American policies, like food subsidies, have had a direct role in driving our current obesity crisis.”
Diet Paleo or Diet Junk Food?

Holst, D. (2010). Hazelnut economy of early Holocene hunter–gatherers: a case study from Mesolithic Duvensee, northern Germany Journal of Archaeological Science, 37 (11), 2871-2880 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.028

Omega-6 fatty acids don't seem to be bad for your heart after all.

Omega-6 fatty acids have received a lot of bad press lately. A lot of people on the Paleo Diet have been told to minimize Omega-6 fatty acids. Many have been told that it is important that they should have an omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 1:1 or 4:1. There is a lot we don’t know about fats and health. Or about fats and diet. Or about fats and biochemistry. There is a lot of interesting work being done. And a lot of great papers coming out. Its exciting to watch so many new bits of information floating up to the surface. But we don’t know everything. And we probably don’t even know much. This means it is way too early to declare “truths” about dietary fats.

omega-6 fatty acids and health discussion
CrossFit Trainer talks about nutrition and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids do not increase risk of heart failure.

A recent paper published in the American Journal of  Clinical Nutrition found that high levels of omega-6 fatty acids did not increase risk of heart failure.  At least not in older doctors.  High levels of omega-6 fatty acids were actually associated with reduced risk of heart failure.  Other studies on Omega-6 fatty acids have been mixed.  Some show that Omega-6 fatty acids increase risks.  Others show that they don’t.  Or that they are protective.   At present, there is no need to get anal about omega-6 and omega-3 ratios.   Omega-3 fatty acids seem to be pretty good for you.  But even these can be over done.  If you indulge in large amounts of fish oil supplements, you can have problems with leaky cell membranes.  And bleeding.  And maybe stroke.  So don’t over do it or go nuts with supplements.
Petrone AB, Weir N, Hanson NQ, Glynn R, Tsai MY, Gaziano JM, & Djoussé L (2013). Omega-6 fatty acids and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 97 (1), 66-71 PMID: 23193008

Ramsden, C., Hibbeln, J., Majchrzak, S., & Davis, J. (2010). n-6 Fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials British Journal of Nutrition, 104 (11), 1586-1600 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114510004010

Weight gains and weight loss: does food give some people an "eaters high?"

Weight loss and CrossFit. Weight loss is hard for most people. Maybe harder than Crossfit.   And there many different factors involved in weight gain.  One of the things that differs in people is the ability to taste bitterness.  Food does not taste the same to everyone.  And some people seem to be more “into” food than others.  They seem to get much more pleasure out of food than others.  There’s an entire foodie culture with clubs and magazines.  Even among hard core “Paleo Diet” CrossFit ers.  Note the many Paleo websites and Paleo recipes out there. Then there are people who would be happy eating peanut butter sandwiches three meals a day.  Who just don’t get what is so great about Cheetos. These people tend to have no problem with weight loss. What’s with that?
[embedplusvideo height=”284″ width=”480″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/eNdot9X6BAA?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=eNdot9X6BAA&width=960&height=568&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep8145″ /]
 

Pierce Colman
This infant has a non-taster father and a prop-taster mother.  Both parents follow the paleo diet.

People who perceive bitterness intensely tend to have lower BMI, lower food intake and different levels of appetite-regulators in their blood streams.  Some things taste not so good to them.  In fact, some things will taste very nasty.  Some people don’t notice a thing.  The difference between them is genetic.  You can tell if someone has the gene for tasting the bitter by use of a simple test strip.  The strip is a small piece paper coated with 6-n-propylthiouracil.  Call it PROP.  Ask a group of family and friends gathered around a Thanksgiving dinner table to taste one of these PROP strips.  Chances are some will taste nothing.  Others will taste a mildly bitter flavor.  And a few will be running to the sink spitting and then scrubbing their tongues with a scouring pad.  Who knew your auntie could behave like that in front of everyone?

People who are insensitive to PROP (can’t taste it) tend to eat more than other people.  They also tend to prefer strongly flavored, fatty foods, have a higher BMI, and are more likely to be obese.  The are also more likely to eat purely for the enjoyment of it.  That is also called hedonic eating.  As in hedonism.

Weight loss: Food makes some people “high” but not other people?

Appetite is regulated partly by endocannabinoids.  Think cannabis.  And pot.  And runner’s high.  Endocannabinoids are natural regulators of appetite.  People who are non-tasters have endocannabinoid levels that are significantly different from those of tasters. The way the body regulates food intake and maintains body weight differs between these two groups.  Even when both of them are of the same BMI (body mass index).  This may not mean that some people get a greater high from eating.  But it might.  It might also mean that in the future people may be able to control their weight by altering endocannabinoids.  Taking a bit of a jump here, but as physical activity alters endocannabinoids, and physical activity supresses appetite (up to a point), maybe here’s another reason to exercise.  Especially if you test positive for PROP tasting.  More research will tell.
ResearchBlogging.org

Tomassini Barbarossa I, Carta G, Murru E, Melis M, Zonza A, Vacca C, Muroni P, Di Marzo V, & Banni S (2013). Taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil is associated with endocannabinoid plasma levels in normal-weight individuals. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 29 (3), 531-6 PMID: 23398921

Folate, Cardiovascular disease, migraine, depression and MTHFRs

What is a MTHFR?

MTHFR is a gene.  It is a section of DNA that is responsible for producing an important enzyme.  Enzymes are proteins that drive many biochemical reactions.  Enzyme function is essential for your function as a living entity.  MTHFR is also pronounced (Mother @#$!% by graduate students.  And by younger faculty when they think tenured faculty are not listening.)    The enzyme is called Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  It is key to converting folate (Vitamin B9) to a form that the body can use.

If you had no methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase you would be screwed.  Fortunately this is extremely rare.  Possibly because few would survive long enough to be born.  However, life being complicated . . . there are several different forms of the MTHFR gene.  The different forms produce slightly different kinds of enzyme.  The “normal” form is found in most people.  About 70% of the general population. The other 30% have mutations. Chances are high that someone you know is a mutant.  You may be a mutant too.   And there are different kinds of mutants.  “Normal” has two copies of the gene that makes high function enzyme.  Someone could have one normal and one mutant.  This person would make less high functioning enzyme.  But more than someone with two mutant copies.  About 10% of the population is thought to have two mutant copies.  There are also different types of mutations.  So there is probably a range going on here.  In terms of how much methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is circulating in people.

What does it mean health-wise for MTHFR mutants?

MTHFR mutants can’t convert folate to its useable form as well as MTHFR normals.  They are more likely to be folate-deficient.  This can lead to greater risk of some birth defects.  For example: spina bifida and anencephaly. (not having a brain).  Mutants are much more likely to get migraine headaches.  The kind of headache with aura.  They are also more likely to get cardiovascular disease.  Even if they do everything else right.  Other bad things are:

  • More severe forms of schizophrenia (not all MTHFR mutants have this! Or so says a very reliable voice)
  • More likely to suffer from depression
  • Greater risk of high blood pressure
  • Greater risk of pre-eclampsia
  • Greater risk of some cancers
  • Greater risk of birth defects including heart defects and spina bifida

Some good things about being a MTHR mutant are:

  • Less risk of colon cancer
  • Less risk of leukemia

What are the chances that I am a MTHFR mutant?

A lot of research is still being done.  So far it looks like there are 24 different polymorphisms.   So far it looks like people of Mediterranean descent and Hispanics are more likely to have a MTHFR mutation.  General Caucasions are next.  MTHFR mutations seem to be least frequent in people of African ancestry.  See this article (page 12 for a chart).  If you look at the chart you will see that MTHFR mutations are not uncommon at all.  So don’t feel bad if you are one.  You will need to be more careful about heart disease.  If you are a young woman of childbearing age you should make sure your diet contains enough folate.  If you are low in folate AND a MTHFR mutant you may be more likely to have health problems.

Is there anything I can do about my mutation (Does CrossFit fix mutations)?

Possibly yes.  Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is only one step in the conversion of folate to its useable form.  There are now folate supplements you can take in which the folate is already partly converted.  These are available by prescription.  Some people are taking them to help combat depression.  It will be interesting to see if such supplements will also control migraine headaches.  And cardiovascular disease.  And birth defects.  Very exciting. Oh.  CrossFit will not help with this.

What about diet? Are people on the Paleo diet protected?

People who have the MTHFR mutation may need more folate than others.  Regardless of what diet they follow.  Increasing folate intake may protect them from heart disease.  And other problems.  Beans and whole grains are major sources of folate.  Fruit, vegetables and liver are good sources too.  People who drink alcohol regularly will need more folate than others.  So will young women.  People who follow the Paleo diet (or Paleolithic diet) may also have low folate intake. That is because the paleo diet excludes grains and beans.  High vegetable intake should help.   The paleo diet is popular with CrossFit athletes.

Here are a few citations. For more check pubmed.

Liu A, Menon S, Colson NJ, Quinlan S, Cox H, Peterson M, Tiang T, Haupt LM, Lea RA, & Griffiths LR (2010). Analysis of the MTHFR C677T variant with migraine phenotypes. BMC research notes, 3 PMID: 20663228

Gong D, Gu H, Zhang Y, Gong J, Nie Y, Wang J, Zhang H, Liu R, Hu S, & Zhang H (2012). Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase C677T and reduced folate carrier 80 GA polymorphisms are associated with an increased risk of conotruncal heart defects. Clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine : CCLM / FESCC, 50 (8), 1455-61 PMID: 22868813

Khandanpour N, Willis G, Meyer FJ, Armon MP, Loke YK, Wright AJ, Finglas PM, & Jennings BA (2009). Peripheral arterial disease and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T mutations: A case-control study and meta-analysis. Journal of vascular surgery, 49 (3), 711-8 PMID: 19157768

CrossFit Diets: What is the Ketogenic Diet?

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic Diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat, “adequate protein” diet.  Ketogenic diets have proven helpful to people with uncontrolled epilepsy and may be of benefit to epileptics in general, to victims of stroke and other forms of brain injury and possibly cancer. It has become somewhat popular among CrossFit-ters and followers of the paleo-type diet.  They were developed for people with uncontrolled epilepsy.  They are also used by some people who wish to lose weight rapidly.

The Ketogenic Diet may come with other effects that may not be worth the discomfort or unintended risks to healthy people. This includes kidney stones and, in women and girls, amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is associated with bone loss, increasing risk of osteoporosis, and indicates problems in hormone balance. Supplementation with calcium may help with this, but then again, it might not. Taking a supplement is not the same thing as absorbing a nutrient.  Another thing to think about is that if something that causes hormonal imbalance in women chances are good it might also cause hormonal imbalance in men.

Discussing Diet at CrossFit Iron Horse in Fort Worth, TX.

What is the optimal diet?  Is the Paleo Diet the Optimal Diet?

It is very hard to say what is the optimal diet.   Vegetarians, as described in some current diet books, are weak and “skinny-fat“. But you can be a vegetarian and have great bone density, low blood pressure, low heart rate, low fasting blood sugar, excellent blood lipid profile.  And be fit and strong.

The current state of research indicates no harm though, from short-term ketogenic diets. There has been little, if any, research on the risks and benefits of long-term ketogenic diets in healthy adults.


CrossFit, Diet, Health and The Ketogenic Diet

What is a ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic Diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat, “adequate protein” diet.  Ketogenic diets have proven helpful to people with uncontrolled epilepsy and may be of benefit to epileptics in general, to victims of stroke and other forms of brain injury and possibly cancer. It has become somewhat popular among CrossFit-ters and followers of the paleo diet.

They come with other effects that may not be worth the discomfort or unintended risks to healthy people. This includes kidney stones and, in women and girls, amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is associated with bone loss, increasing risk of osteoporosis, and indicates problems in hormone balance. Supplementation with calcium may help with this, but then again, it might not. Physiology can be quite complex, and consumption does not necessarily indicate absorption is occurring. It is quite possible that something that causes hormonal imbalance in women may also cause hormonal imbalance in men. Playing with one’s physiology, when we don’t know the unintended outcomes of such play, may be inadvisable, especially long-term. 

What is the optimal diet?  Is the Paleo Diet a ketogenic diet?

It is very hard to say what is the optimal diet.   Vegetarians, as described in some current diet books, are weak and “skinny-fat”. However, one can be a vegetarian and have excellent bone density, low blood pressure, low resting heart rate, low fasting blood sugar, excellent blood lipid profile and great strength to body weight ratio .I will leave it at this: The “optimal diet” for one person may not be the “optimal diet” for another, nor the optimal diet for all conditions. Humans are omnivores and physiologically polymorphic and adaptable. This has given us tremendous flexibility and enabled us to survive in wildly different climes and environments.  It has made us resilient. It is also quite possible, that our individual resilience allows our bodies to adjust to dietary and environmental change.  Gut microbiota populations, after all, change as diet changes.  That said, the paleo diet is not necessarily ketogenic.  But you follow a paleo diet and choose to make it ketogenic if you wanted to.

The current state of research indicates no harm though, from short-term ketogenic diets. There has been little, if any, research on the risks and benefits of long-term ketogenic diets in healthy adults.

Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, & Wilson CJ (2009). Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. Archives of internal medicine, 169 (20), 1873-80 PMID: 19901139

Kossoff, E., Zupec-Kania, B., & Rho, J. (2009). Ketogenic Diets: An Update for Child NeurologistsJournal of Child Neurology, 24 (8), 979-988 DOI: 10.1177/0883073809337162

Bergqvist AG, Chee CM, Lutchka L, Rychik J, & Stallings VA (2003). Selenium deficiency associated with cardiomyopathy: a complication of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 44 (4), 618-20 PMID: 12681013Shop Now Rogue Fitness

Are Whey-Based Protein Powders Best for Athletes?

Have not found any research on athletic performance and goat milk.

A lot of athletes, with CrossFit and others, supplement their protein intake with protein powders (such as whey) or by eating more meat and some from the old school swear by drinking a lot of milk.  So what’s best?

It turns out that for weight loss, whey is better at reducing appetite and food intake than red meat, soy protein or milk (Huang et al. 2008), and produces less of an insulin response.  Whey contains a protein/hormone called relaxin.  One of the things relaxin does is inhibit secretion of insulin.  This is not necessarily a good thing.  Inhibiting insulin may result in sugars remaining in the blood stream, and doing damage, longer than they would have if insulin was getting it out of there. (Relaxin is also believed to increase sperm motility . . . might be good if yours are sluggish, not good if you are emotionally drained and exhausted by the kids you already have . . . and inhibit collagen synthesis.  This is not good for weight lifters, but good for pregnant women getting ready to give birth).  Just speculation at this point as to whether or not eating a lot of whey would do any these things though. 
For bone strength, skim milk powder seems to produce better results than whey protein and calcium combined.  It sounds like there may be more to skim milk powder, and probably milk in general, that helps with growth and strength.  Oh, this would not be growth hormone because growth hormone will be found in milk fat.  The skim stuff is pretty safe.  Cow’s milk contains lactoferrin, which has recently been shown to increase production of angiogenic factors (these aid development of blood vessels and capillaries) in bone tissue (Nakajima et al. 2011). Since lactoferrin is a whey protein it is likely that whey supplements (as long they have not been heat treated) would provide similar benefits.

Here it is in plain English: Whey protein and skim milk may both offer a lot of benefits.  If you are trying to follow a Paleo-style diet (aka Paleolithic Diet), whey may be a good option, since milk is on the “no” list.  Some people will tell you whey is not Paleo, but from a scientific perspective that really doesn’t matter.  A lot of commercial products contain artificial sweeteners.  Natural plain whey protein is available too but does not dissolve well.  

In a nutshell:  There is evidence that whey protein:
1. is a good source of protein
2. will suppress appetite
3. is good for bone health
4. may reduce insulin levels
5. is low in some hormones and chemicals and so forth. 
6. more research is needed to find out if the hormones that are in whey have an effect on people.

ResearchBlogging.org
Graf S, Egert S, & Heer M (2011). Effects of whey protein supplements on metabolism: evidence from human intervention studies. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 14 (6), 569-80 PMID: 21912246
 
Nakajima K, Kanno Y, Nakamura M, Gao XD, Kawamura A, Itoh F, & Ishisaki A (2011). Bovine milk lactoferrin induces synthesis of the angiogenic factors VEGF and FGF2 in osteoblasts via the p44/p42 MAP kinase pathway. Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine, 24 (5), 847-56 PMID: 21404021  

Yamamoto, H., Arai, T., Tasaka, R., Mori, Y., Iguchi, K., Unno, K., & Hoshino, M. (2009). Inhibitory Effect of Relaxin-3 on Insulin Secretion in Isolated Pancreas and Insulinoma JOURNAL OF HEALTH SCIENCE, 55 (1), 132-137 DOI: 10.1248/jhs.55.132

Fried A, Manske SL, Eller LK, Lorincz C, Reimer RA, & Zernicke RF (2012). Skim milk powder enhances trabecular bone architecture compared with casein or whey in diet-induced obese rats. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 28 (3), 331-5 PMID: 22119485