If high blood pressure runs in your family, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 43 million Americans have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Hypertension rarely presents with symptoms and is caused by factors like obesity, inactivity, smoking and high salt diets. It’s often referred to as the “silent killer” and should be taken seriously, because it’s a huge risk factor for stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
But new research suggests that adding whey protein to your diet can actually help lower cholesterol and prevent diabetes and heart disease. A study published in the International Dairy Journal found that beverages supplemented with whey protein significantly reduced blood pressure in patients with hypertension, lowering their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
When subjects with elevated blood pressure drank a daily beverage enriched with whey protein, their diastolic and systolic blood pressure came down by as much as 6 points. The reduction began after just a week, and continued for the duration of the 6-week study. Although a 6-point reduction may not sound very significant, scientists say that even this modest reduction can cut the risk of heart disease and fatal stroke by an impressive 35 to 40 percent.
Scientists say that whey protein works in the same way as blood-pressure lowering drugs, ACE inhibitors, by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). The benefit is that whey protein doesn’t have the side effects common with ACE inhibitor drugs. Other proteins in whey reduce the stickiness of blood platelets and the risk of thrombosis, which can trigger both heart attack and stroke. They found that the consumption of whey protein also helps reduce high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce triglycerides.