Casein - The Slow Digesting Protein - Not So Fast
In a previous post, I talked about how milk can be pasteurized at different temperatures, and that the higher temperature processing, while giving the resultant product a longer shelf life, may negatively impact the quality of milk.
So let’s take that information and apply it to the many dairy powders we find in the nutritional products industry.
It has been repeatedly shown that dairy processing involving high temperatures and harsh chemical processing can denature proteins and produce many compounds which are known to be toxic, and I think it’s important for the consumer of nutritional supplements to realize that these toxic components are found not only milk, but many milk-based protein powders as well.
When proteins are altered from their native structure, (the way Mother Nature made them) they are said to be denatured, and denatured proteins often lose much of their functional benefit, and many can potentially be harmful to our health.
While whey proteins are the more fragile of the two, both proteins in milk, whey AND casein, are both prone to denaturation by harsh processing.
The lesson here is to choose foods and supplements which are minimally processed, and which contain compounds in as close to their natural state as possible. Our CFM® Whey Isolate, for example is filtered at low temperatures with the highest quality ceramic filters available to give you a whey protein which is over 99% undenatured, and with minimal amounts of lactose fat and cholesterol.
That brings us to the topic of this blog article: The so-called “slow digesting” casein protein so widely touted as a nutritional supplement.
As alluded to earlier, milk is comprised of two proteins: casein, which makes up 80% of milk protein, and whey, which comprises the other 20%. While whey is digested rapidly, casein interacts with acids in the stomach and precipitates, forming curds, causing casein protein to be digested rather slowly.
If you’ve looked at any of the marketing for protein supplements over the past decade, you are no doubt familiar with the concept of “fast” and “slow” proteins already.
You may have even been persuaded by this marketing to take a protein supplement which supposedly contains casein, to achieve a “time-release” effect of your protein supplementation.
If that’s the case you may want to read this closely. There are several things wrong with so-called “casein” supplements that the supplement companies surely don’t want you to know.
First off, the VAST majority of so-called “casein” supplements on the market are comprised not of casein, but an overly processed variant of casein called calcium caseinate.
Calcium Caseinate IS NOT Casein
The production of caseinate protein begins with skim milk which has been pasteurized at 72 C (162 F) for 15 – 20 seconds. This starting material is similar to what you would find in skim milk from your grocery store for example.
When you read about all of the additional processing which this milk undergoes to make caseinate powders, you should ask yourself if there are any harmful changes that take place when protein goes from fresh milk to a powder sitting on a shelf at your local supplement store. There’s a lot of wishful thinking in the food processing industry, and they’d like you to believe that their processed foods are as safe and nutritious as whole fresh foods. But when you know how these products are made, you may come to different conclusions.
So, this skim milk is first processed with acid (usually hydrochloric acid) to coagulate and separate the casein protein from the watery whey.
Then this “acid casein” as it is called, is washed and often dried. By this time in the production, protein denaturation has already begun.
Then, this casein is reacted with more chemical reagents (alkali, not acids this time) to produce mineral caseinates. Sodium caseinate is made by reating acid casein with sodium hydroxide (or lye), and calcium caseinate is made by reacting acid casein with calcium hydroxide (or lime).
In buffering the acid casein, these potentially harsh chemicals can cause even more of the protein to become denatured, transforming them into potentially toxic compounds.
Studies regarding the effects of alkali-treated proteins:
The product is then spray-dried into powders and sold in many nutritional supplements as calcium or sodium caseinate.
So, the supplement industry wants you to believe that casein and caseinates are the same thing, but after being washed, dryed, and treated with harsh chemicals, powdered caseinate supplements stand little chance of offering the same nutrition as the casein from milk, or cheese.
Caseinates and Free Glutamate
As an example of the effect of processing on casein, Dr. Russell Blaylock M.D., in his book Excitotoxins The Taste that Kills, lists calcium and sodium caseinates as food additives which ALWAYS contain free glutamate.
You’ll remember from our whey protein article that free glutamate (glutamate separated from protein) is a known excitotoxin, and can be toxic to the neurons of the brain, and the entire nervous system. It is free glutamate which makes the infamous food additive MSG (or monosodium glutamate) so dangerous.
Casein is one of nature’s richest sources of glutamate, but the relatively stable and slow digesting casein micelle (curd) probably protects us from glutamate-induced neuronal damage if we eat milk and cheese based FOODS.
On the other hand, harsh acid and alkali processing in the production of calcium and sodium caseinate powders likely denatures the casein, freeing up glutamate in the process, a phenomenon that would NOT take place in minimally processed milk or cheese.
As a side note, it is possible to produce a non-denatured casein powder, but very few supplement companies would use such an ingredient because of its high price.
I can’t stress enough: READ THE INGREDIENTS on your supplements. A product that is advertised as “Casein” will usually contain minimal amounts (if any) undenatured casein, and large amounts of the cheaper caseinates.
Where have we heard this story before? Why, with whey, of course. Companies often use high amounts of the cheaper whey protein concentrate, with absolutely miniscule amounts (if any) of quality whey protein isolate in their products.
Are you starting to see a trend here?
The bottom line is that most supplement companies pray that you don’t know what the heck you’re putting in your body. If you knew what they were trying to sell you, how it was made and what it really does, you’d have no part of it.
As it stands now, however, many supplement companies still rely on consumer ignorance to be able to sell the cheapest ingredients at inflated prices.
The whole issue of fast versus slow proteins has been completely blown out of proportion by the supplement industry to sell you more processed powders. The fact is that any “real food” source of protein will digest slowly enough to supply a sustained release of amino acids into the body over a longer period of time. If a supplement company doesn’t tell you this, chances are they’re trying to sell you a cheap caseinate powder, which is a very poor replacement for real food.
Remember: Nothing beats real food.
Unlike other supplement companies, Integrated Supplements is dedicated to the concept of integrating supplements with real, minimally processed food.
Rather than sell you another powder to replace real food, our recommendation is this:
Not only should low quality caseinate powders be avoided, but casein and caseinates don’t need to be supplemented in the first place. If you want casein, there are too many other real foods that are much better sources of it.
Unlike quality whey proteins which are completely denatured in dairy processing, undenatured casein proteins are very common in the food supply. Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, kefir, etc. all contain much better sources of casein than any powder, and are potentially loaded with other nutrients which aid in protein utilization. (Nature has a habit of supplying us with all of the nutrients we need through real food. It’s when we process the heck out of things that we get in trouble.)
Sometimes it seems as if it’s the job of the supplement industry to divert your attention away from real food, and toward their processed powders. If they had their way, you’d be eating protein shakes and bars morning noon and night. Don’t fall for it. Mother Nature still knows best. Your health and performance will suffer greatly if you believe that most of the junk food that passes as nutritional supplementation these days is as valuable as real food.
So, if you want to reap the benefits of “fast” and “slow” proteins, try this:
1 scoop of Integrated Supplements 100% Natural CFM® Whey Protein Isolate mixed with
8 oz of the highest quality real milk you can find
And if you’re on the go, mixing the Whey Isolate into one of those single-serving organic yogurts would be a good choice too.
With these simple and tasty concoctions you’ll get:
• A balanced ratio of protein, fat and carbs
• A sustained release of amino acids into the bloodstream
• None of the potentially harmful components of whey concentrates or caseinates
• The satisfaction of knowing you weren’t duped again by the supplement industry
Sometimes a little common sense goes a long way.
You can read more about the production of casein and caseinates here:
And if you’re looking to track down some of the highest quality milk, check out these sites:
Or ask your local store for organic, unhomogenized milk from your area. In homogenized milk, the milk fat is dispersed throughout the milk, potentially damaging delicate fats and fat soluble nutrients. Unhomogenized milk will have the cream at the top, just the way nature intended.