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Whey Protein – Composition & Quality

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The composition of various protein powders can be so varied that the influence on physiological function in the human body will be quite different.

The major components of whey are:

  • Beta-lactoglobulin
  • Alpha-lactalbumin
  • Bovine serum albumin
  • Immunoglobulin

Correct ratios of these and the retention of minor peptides, sets Monkey Primal26 apart from the run of the mill powders currently available on the UK market. Poor separation and purification processes and in some cases a lack of technology, compromises the native structure of the whey and therefore affects functional properties of the powder, rendering it inferior. This is the norm for most powders on the UK market.

By retaining 100% of the subfractions and minor peptides, such as lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, protease peptone, osteopontin, lizozyme and ensuring that these remain undenatured, Primal26 stays well ahead of the game.

Over the years, whey powders have evolved from low-grade concentrates to very high-grade concentrates and isolates. The potential for these high-grade, biologically active powders to improve immunity, build lean tissue, reduce stress, lower cortisol, increase brain serotonin levels, improve liver function, reduce blood pressure and improve overall performance, has been assessed to a large degree and what is clearly apparent, is that not all powders are created equal!

Inferior powders are processed using extremes in pH and chemical pre-treatments, which result in the most valuable, health promoting components being lost or greatly reduced. This leaves you with imbalanced acidic whey, which may be contaminated with synthetic additives, chemical detergents and heavy metals. We use natural, non-chemical processes and technologically advanced molecular sieves, to ensure the highest possible retention of important subfractions and minor peptides. This also means no unnecessary contamination and results in a clean, easily digested, biologically active product.

Great care must be taken when processing whey and attempting to remove lactose, fats, carbs, gluten, ash and heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic), without losing biological activity, this is both a time consuming and costly process. Even amongst filtration processes, there are varying degrees in quality, with the more advanced techniques maintaining the natural, undenatured state of a protein and preserving more of the biologically active components. Inferior filtration may result in a high incidence of the dangerous heavy metals already mentioned. Filtration processes will dictate the ratios of the subfractions, as well as the concentration of the biologically active immune components and tissue repair factors. Technologically advanced filtration systems will result in an all round superior product, but this obviously comes at a price. If the protein you are using is cheap, then the processing techniques employed will also be cheap and this results in an inferior product.

Whey protein fractions are linked to a number of bioactive functions, including the promotion of tissue repair, maintenance of intestinal integrity, prebiotic effects, as well as the destruction of pathogens and the elimination of toxins. However, a poorly processed whey product will not possess these abilities and in the long term, may result in allergic reaction.

To ensure allergic reactions are kept at bay and to achieve the best possible health related results, the whey powder should contain less of the allergenic fraction beta-lactoglobulin and more of the health promoting alpha-lactalbumin. For the majority of powders (all on the UK market) these ratios will be in favour of beta-lactoglobulin, giving you an inferior product. Our own research tells us that whey protein isolates from respected brand names on the UK market, contain far too much beta-lactoglobulin; in some cases four times as much as the more important alpha-lactalbumin. Primal26 contains just about twice the amount of alpha-lactalbumin, as it does beta-lactoglobulin, making it a far superior product to those currently available on the UK market.

Beta-lactoglobulin (Blg) is a major cow’s milk allergen and whey powders on the UK market contain an abundance of it! According to one study - Allergy to bovine beta-lactoglobulin: specificity of human IgE to tryptic peptides. (Selo I, Clement G, Bernard H, Chatel J, Creminon C, Peltre G, Wal J 1999), ‘Three peptides were identified as major epitopes, recognized by a large majority of human IgE antibodies. Numerous other epitopes are scattered all along the Blg sequence’.

An epitope is a localized region on the surface of an antigen (the antigen in this case is Blg.), which is able to bind to immunoglobulin E (IgE), eliciting an immune response. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise when we tell you that Blg is not present in human mothers milk and is therefore alien to our bodies. Large amounts of Blg in cheaper, inferior products, means you are not getting the most out of your protein powder by a long shot! Blg is an antigen and has no place in the human body, meaning that a large portion of the protein you are paying for, is not only a waste of money, but also a potential hazard!

Beta-lactoglobulin cannot be successfully hydrolysed during the digestive process under normal conditions and therefore offers little, if any benefits, in terms of any physiological properties. Supplementing with a specifically formulated enzyme complex, such as Monkey Assimilate  in correct dosage, will take care of this issue, preventing peptide sensitivity and enabling any benefits Blg may offer; at this time not much is known about the biological function of Blg. Possible biological functions of beta-lactoglobulin as a transport protein are suggested by its interactions with retinol and fatty acids and other ligands (Kontopidis et al, 2004).

Our protein is processed using only the most technologically advanced techniques, removing more lactose, fat, ash, heavy metals etc, than any other product on the UK market. By not using heat applications, we can ensure that 100% of the protein and minor peptides remain intact. This allows us to yield the highest amount of undenatured, biologically active protein on the UK market, giving you the perfect ratio of alpha-lactalbumin to beta-lactoglobulin, 0.5% lactoferrin (perfect balance), glycomacropepetide (GMP), immunoglobulin, bovine serum albumin and the retention of other minor peptides, which will otherwise be lost with inferior processing.

The amounts and ratios of subfractions, as well as the retention of minor peptides, are essentially what determines the quality of the powder that you are buying. Alpha-lactalbumin (ALA) is the primary protein in human milk and is composed of 123 amino acids and 4 disulphide bridges. The structure of ALA in cow’s milk is so similar in structure to that of ALA in human milk, that it is said to have a very high homology with its human counterpart. Homology refers to the existence of shared ancestry between a pair of structures, or genes, in different species and importantly, this means that the human body recognises this protein and therefore utilises it, rather than eliciting an immune response.

Alpha-lactalbumin is rich in the amino acids lysine, cysteine and tryptophan, as well as being a calcium-binding protein that may have a role in calcium transport. The strong binding of calcium to ALA is closely related to the regulation of many physiological and functional properties. ALA has a positive influence on growth, strength synthesis, muscle rehabilitation and weight loss.

Other important biological and functional properties of ALA include: antimicrobial activity (Pellegrini et al 1999), opioid activity (Teschemacher et al 1998), antihypertensive action (FitzGerald et al 2004), regulation of cells growth (Sternhagen and Allen 2001), antiulcer activity (Matsumoto et al 2001) and immunomodulation (Cross and Gill 2000). There is also some evidence to suggest that ALA has antitumor activity and may induce programmed cell death in tumor cells, but spares mature cells (Gustafsson et al 2005).

The high content of cysteine in ALA, is important for boosting the immune system and promoting wound healing, whilst particularly high levels of tryptophan help to improve mood, sleep and cognitive performance (Heine et al 1991).

The potential health benefits of alpha-lactalbumin and biological and functional peptides, continue to attract scientific interest for their application in supplements, with particular emphasis on their ability to boost/maintain the immune system, reduce stress and regulate cell growth.

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