Long-term consumption of whey protein increased biomarkers of vitamin B12, a study published in Nutrients this week concluded. Whey protein was found to more effectively boost these biomarkers than either collagen or carbohydrates.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates up to 15% of the general population is vitamin B12 deficient. This deficiency, the NIH warns, “is characterized by megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss” and can also cause neurological symptoms including numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia and poor memory.
While the NIH notes vitamin B12 supplementation via injection or pill/capsule is common, in today’s era of pill fatigue, many consumers are looking to get their vitamin supplementation from other forms. The results of the recent Nutrients study show one such option may be whey.
The study investigated the effect of whey supplementation on biomarkers of B12 status in healthy, older adults. In total, 167 subjects aged 65 years or older where given two daily supplements of either whey, collagen or carbohydrate for one year. Additionally, the whey group was further broken into three groups: heavy resistance training, light resistance training or no training.
At the study’s end, the authors noted three findings: “Fasting conditions influence the concentration of B12 biomarkers; baseline biomarkers of B12 status were relatively low despite a daily B12 intake far above recommendation; and biomarkers of B12 status were improved by whey supplementation, irrespective of addition of training.”
The authors went on to conclude, “long-term daily whey intake increased plasma concentrations of B12 … in older healthy individuals. No increases were observed for intervention with collagen or carbohydrate and no differences were observed between different training regimes in combination with whey supplementation.”
Notably, the authors also concluded “The results support that a significant subset of the elderly have a reduced capacity for absorbing food-derived B12,” meaning as people age it becomes more important to supplement the diet with B12 as more is required to absorb the same amount.
In a time when whey is seeing competition among younger consumers from plant-based sources of both milk and protein, these findings show it may have potential among older consumers as a non-pill, non-injection boost of vitamin B12 for a particularly vulnerable group.