New research suggests that whey, a byproduct from cheese production, may play a role in helping prevent prostate cancer. When Ohio State University food scientists treated human prostate cells in the lab with whey protein, cellular levels of the antioxidant glutathione increased by up to 64%. Antioxidants such as glutathione have been shown to control cancer-causing free radicals.
“The buildup of free radicals is associated with the onset of many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer,” said Joshua Bomser, a study co-author. “And human prostate tissue is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress.”
The researchers treated human prostate cells with two concentrations of whey protein for 48 hours and then measured the levels of glutathione in the cells. Whey contains the amino acid cysteine, a key ingredient for making glutathione in the body. Surprisingly, both treatments increased the levels of glutathione considerably. The larger dose increased glutathione by 64% and the smaller dose, which was half of the larger dose, increased levels by 60%.
“The small difference in glutathione levels between the two whey concentrations suggests that it may not take much whey protein to get an effect in the prostate cells,” Bomser said. “In diseases like cancer, there’s usually a reduction in the body’s overall capacity to deal with oxidative stress,” he continued. “Keeping antioxidant levels elevated through diet and supplementation may prevent the development of chronic disease.”
Ohio State University, May 27, 2003