What Is Casein & What Are The Uses Of It?

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What Is Casein & What Are The Uses Of It?
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Protein is one of the three core nutrients that assist your body in functioning well. Your protein intake must be high when switching to a healthy diet or having pre-workout and post-workout meals. Moreover, it is also likely the most important macronutrient since it promotes muscle growth and repairs cells.

Milk is one of the most nutritious protein sources and contains several essential nutrients for the body to help it grow. Moreover, milk is very helpful for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The nutrients and proteins from milk not only help the new mother but also stimulate healthy cellular growth in infants. This natural beverage contains several vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins. However, it mainly has high fat, water, casein, and whey proteins.

Learning about all proteins and nutrients your body consumes as a part of a healthy meal is vital. So, this article will discuss one of the most common forms of protein: casein. You will find several useful facts about casein protein that could help you plan your daily diet into something healthier. Moreover, you will also learn about the compound’s various benefits, sources, and side effects.

What Is Casein? An Overview:

The Casein molecule is the primary form of protein in milk. Casein makes up nearly 80% of the total protein content in milk. Further, the term casein comes from the Latin word caseus. The Latin term translates to cheese. Casein is also known as a phospho-protein as it contains traces of phosphorus. Although all types of milk are high in casein proteins, the casein content may differ for various reasons. For example, the casein protein in cow’s milk may vary with the cow’s breed or general health condition. You can also use muscle building supplements

The protein has several useful amino acids. However, the positive and negative charges of the amino acids may vary depending on the milk’s pH. Since casein proteins are hydrophobic, they do not mix well with water. Another reason for casein’s poor solubility is that the milk’s pH value usually remains at its isoelectric point, where any substance is least soluble.

How Does It Work?

As we mentioned, casein protein contains hundreds of amino acids that help our body function. Proteins and amino acids work in a regular cycle since the proteins we consume contain essential amino acids that our body absorbs. Further, the body uses them to make more protein. Eventually, the proteins promote maturation, growth, and a strong immune system. These proteins are also vital for repairing tissue cells.

Casein is a complex protein. So, it takes the human body longer to digest it. Casein also makes you feel full for longer. Hence, these milk proteins may reduce your appetite and help you lose weight.

There are four different types of casein proteins. However, the only difference between them is their amino acid count. Namely, these subtypes include αs1-casein, αs2-casein, β-casein, and κ-casein. Each of these subtypes has a unique effect on your body. 

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Casein & The Side Effects:

Casein protein is a complex protein containing various components. The protein content differs in structure, health benefits, and effects on your body. Further, the various amino acids in casein link together in groups of two or more to form complex peptides. When casein is broken down into smaller components, it is called hydrolyzed casein. These smaller pieces of hydrolyzed casein are mainly peptides.  Y

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This milk protein and its peptides affect several parts of your body. However, their most noticeable effects are on your immune, nervous, vascular, and digestive systems. Let us look at how casein affects various bodily systems and their functioning.

Casein Protein and the Immune System

Your immune system is your body’s main defense against diseases and viruses. The entire system is a complex network of various tissues, cells, and organs. Moreover, the system protects your body from harmful bacteria and infections by launching an offensive with fighter cells called WBCs. Researchers are still trying to determine the exact effects of peptides on our immune system. However, various studies show the impact of peptides in improving immunity.

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An infant’s body uses breast milk as its main source of nutrition. New mothers must breastfeed their children for the first few months to improve their immunity and promote healthy growth. This is because breast milk contains various essential compounds that ensure the proper development of an infant. One of the elements that help an infant’s body strengthen is casein protein.

This milk protein also contains peptides that display phagocytic activities. These activities refer to a cell’s ability to defend the body against foreign particles that may be harmful. However, studies have only observed these phagocytic activities in test tubes or in vitro. Another thing scientists noted is that casein peptides could fight off the Klebsiella Pneumoniae bacterium in mice. Several active peptides can function as antiviral agents and boost the body’s immune response. Moreover, other synthetic peptides can suppress or enhance your body’s immune response. This response can greatly help your immune system defend itself against foreign particles.

Cow’s milk contains bovine proteins that can act as vaccine content for antiviral diseases and other infections. Moreover, casein protein can help your body heal and promote muscle growth after an organ transplant. Apart from cow’s milk, you can also get this milk protein from other sources such as camels, mice, porcine species, and even humans.

Casein Protein and the Nervous System

The nervous system is one of the most crucial networks in our body. There are two types of nervous systems: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. While both these networks mainly care for sensory functions and regulate a body’s actions, they do not work the same way. As the name suggests, the nervous system is a wide network of nerves and other tissue.

The nervous system aims to transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Further, it collects data from various sensory organs and delivers them to the brain as stimuli. The main functioning unit of the nervous system is a nerve cell or a neuron. The neuron has two parts, axon and dendrite, which resemble a body and a tail. Moreover, the brain and spinal cord have millions of neurons that form straight lines and transmit messages across the body.

Several diseases can affect the nervous system. Since the nerve cell network ensures your body’s actions, any damage to neurons or nerve tissue has severe side effects. Some autoimmune diseases can even paralyze your body for long periods. One of these diseases, multiple sclerosis (MS), can cause your body to lose its tolerance for bovine casein. So, patients who suffer from MS may develop some antibodies that fight off bovine casein elements. Since your body no longer tolerates this milk protein, intake could cause adverse effects.

When you consume casein after MS, the antibodies try to drive it out of your body. The cow’s milk may interact with some CNS antigens during the process. Further, this exchange could cause more damage to your nervous system and aggravate MS. So, MS patients with no tolerance for bovine milk must try and avoid it.

Casein Protein and the Vascular System

The cardiovascular, or vascular, system consists of your heart, blood, and blood vessels. While the nervous system transmits actions and reactions, the vascular system delivers blood, nutrients, and hormones across your body. Further, this system’s most vital role is delivering oxygen to every cell and organ.

The heart pumps the blood to and from the lungs. As the heart sends blood to the lungs, it collects oxygen and returns to the pumping organ. Further, the heart delivers the blood that contains oxygen to the rest of the body. The blood continues collecting other nutrients and hormones from the body and delivers them to other organs. Blood also carries residual carbon dioxide from metabolic activities to the lungs, where it escapes the body. The vascular system also helps your body remove any waste from the system.

If your vascular system gets damaged, it could result in heart failure or cardiac arrests. Other minor vascular issues include low or high blood pressure and blood clotting. Some studies have found casein protein to be a very effective solution to these issues. Scientists ordered a high-casein diet for rats and noted their blood pressure, water, clotting, bleeding, and weight through the process. This study observed little change in weight gain even though the food intake was less due to calcium caseinate and sodium caseinate. However, researchers noted that there was an increase in blood clotting.

Another study confirmed these effects by using the opposite method. In this study, scientists put the mice on a low-protein diet. As a result, there was a significant decrease in blood clotting with an increase in wound healing time. Although the rats were put on an extra fatty diet, it didn’t compensate for low proteins.

Casein Protein and the Digestive System

The digestive system is the last of the four main systems of the human body. The digestive tract breaks down the food you consume and extracts its nutrients. Moreover, this process starts right at the mouth, where you start chewing. You break down the food into smaller pieces using your teeth and make it softer with saliva. Saliva also contains enzymes that begin breaking down food. So, this makes it easier for your esophagus to carry it down to your stomach. Your stomach and intestines break down the food further and absorb its nutrients. This system also carries waste and fibers out of your body as excretory matter.

The stomach breaks down all the core nutrients in the body using different ways. Casein protein interacts with the digestive system directly. Since it is one of the main milk proteins, it travels past the large intestine to the smaller one. Once there, the microvilli assist it with absorbing all the amino acids and nutrients from the dairy protein. Further, these acids help the body make more proteins for muscle protein synthesis and growth. 

 

One of the protein’s variants, calcium caseinate, is tougher to digest than others due to its complex structure. Hence, most healthcare officials advise against drinking cow’s milk or other dairy products if you have digestive issues. While calcium and sodium caseinate is vital for an infant’s growth, you should refrain from feeding a newborn any bovine milk. The infant can gain the protein it requires from breast milk alone. Moreover, high amounts of casein may also result in respiratory issues like shortness of breath. If you display these symptoms, cut back on dairy products.

What Is The Relation Between Casein & Whey Protein? 

Casein and whey proteins are both the main proteins in cow’s milk and other dairy products. While these proteins share a common source, they vary greatly in their functions and benefits. This section provides a detailed analysis of the key differences between the two dairy proteins. However, before you read about these differences, you must learn more about whey protein.

Whey Protein Origin and Overview

Whey protein is rich in healthy amino acids and offers various physical benefits. This protein makes up nearly 20% of the total protein in a cow’s milk. Further, whey protein is a collection of several proteins that come from whey. Whey is a by-product of cheese and is one of the most common dairy products. Whey proteins split from casein when the cheese is being made. Moreover, whey’s lactose and protein content can vary due to the making process. Some other nutrients that whey includes are carbs, fats, minerals, and lactose. Whey protein is also a common element in most dietary supplements. Whey protein contains several full-spectrum essential amino acids or EAAs. This element can play a major role in promoting protein synthesis and balancing body insulin.

Initially, people started taking liquid whey in Ancient Greece. These Greeks believed the liquid whey could help boost one’s immune status and also prevent major ailments. Hence, they began producing various drinks or “serums” using whey protein and supplied them to the crowds. Later, 16th-century Swiss people uncovered several health benefits whey protein offers and spread the word. The farmers that noticed their poultry animals gaining more energy and growth from whey also drank it. Further, several cheese makers disposed of the whey residue after making cheese. They threw the excess whey in the river, after which the farmers realized the protein waste. So, these farmers collected the residue whey and used it to make high-protein animal feed.

Once the world recognized whey as a popular protein source, scientists conducted various studies to determine its exact nutritional value. People often compare whey to other nutrients like soy protein and meats. While soy protein from plant milk is a good option for vegan diets, whey protein contains more EAAs and BCAAs.

Types of Whey Protein

Whey Protein Isolate

WPIs are the most popular form of whey intake. You can find WPIs in several protein bars and dietary supplements. Further, whey isolates cost much more than regular dairy products since they contain the highest amount of pure whey protein. Makers also remove fat and lactose from these isolates. The isolate contains over 90% pure protein and less than 1% lactose. Moreover, whey isolates contain nearly no fats.

WPIs are very easy for your body to absorb and, hence, take effect much faster than other forms of whey, casein, or soy protein. There are three types of WPIs, which vary mainly on the making process. The difference in their structures may also affect muscle protein synthesis in the body.

Whey Protein Concentrate

WPCs also contain high levels of protein. However, they also contain other core bioactive elements like carbs, fats, and lactose. The protein content in WPCs may vary. For example, some WPC bars have 36% protein while others may contain up to 80% protein. Moreover, WPCs with higher protein content are usually available as protein powders.

Hydrolyzed Whey Protein

There are two types of HWPs: isolates and concentrates. Hydrolysis helps cleave AA bonds in HWP concentrates. Moreover, these HWPs can make up to 80% of the total protein content. The fat content here may vary as the protein varies. Similarly, HWP isolates can make up to 90% of the total protein content. Lastly, HWPs are easier for the body to absorb due to hydrolysis. However, this might make the proteins very bitter in taste.

Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey contains the most BCAAs of any protein source. You can pair milk with meats or nuts with soy protein to get the same number of BCAAs. However, no single protein source has a BCAA concentration as high as whey. Your body generally loses BCAAs in great amounts when you exercise. This is because the body uses these BCAAs to conduct metabolism. So, whey can make for an ideal post-workout meal. You can regain all the proteins you lost during your workout from a single food item.

Whey can also play a major role in supporting your immune system. The protein can enhance your body’s GSH production. Since GSH is one of the strongest antioxidants in your body, it could boost your immune system.

Whey proteins contain some elements that resemble the effects of opioids. This could help reduce muscle pain and relieve some tension in your body after intense workouts or lifting weights. Whey is a common food choice for athletes due to its various benefits. The protein does not interfere with your routine as it is quick and easy to digest. Moreover, it is soluble and has great amino acid prole. So, after training, athletes prefer eating or drinking whey foods as the protein source allows them to train again shortly.

Another one of the food item’s benefits includes its aid to human heart health. Whey can likely balance your cholesterol by stimulating LDL-making processes in your body. Moreover, its antiviral properties and the ability to defend the body against bacteria offer several health benefits. Whey can also boost the immune system and regulate blood pressure. Lastly, whey can assist the body in conducting its digestive functions and reduce the risk of liver damage.

Key Differences Between Casein and Whey Protein

As we mentioned earlier, both whey and casein protein come from milk. Moreover, their isolates are both residues from making cheese. Generally, when milk is at its average pH level, its total protein content includes nearly 20% whey and 80% casein protein. However, even though they come from the same source, casein protein is more complex than whey.

Casein contains calcium and sodium that could make the protein tough to digest. Hence, the protein has a slower digestion process than whey. Moreover, doctors advise patients to avoid casein when feeling under the weather. This is because when you are sick, it weakens your digestive and immune systems. So, your body may feel some strain while trying to digest casein.

Another key difference between the two is that whey is better for building muscles than casein protein. Since whey has a higher BCAA content, it promotes better protein synthesis.

Lastly, while casein protein contains mainly bioactive peptides, whey contains various active proteins.

What Is Casein Useful For

Casein protein interacts with nearly all major systems and networks in the human body. Thus, it impacts our body in several manners. While there are some drawbacks to taking too much casein, the protein offers various health benefits. Here is a list of some of the benefits of casein:

  • Casein has a very high EAA count. These acids help the body grow. So, the protein could be very helpful for toddlers and growing children.
  • This protein also promotes muscle repair and growth. It is an ideal food choice for athletes.
  • Casein could also help you lose weight. The protein has very little fat content and gives you the feeling of being full. So this could help you avoid eating frequent meals and curb your hunger.

Side Effects of Casein

Casein is generally safe, but some people may display potential side effects to the protein source. If you do not have a very high tolerance for casein and other milk proteins, whole milk may affect you adversely. Some common casein side effects include wheezing, hives, or itchy skin. While most of these are minor symptoms with no big threats, you may experience more serious symptoms. A potential reaction to casein is anaphylaxis. You may require urgent treatment if you display any signs of the ailment.

One of the reasons your body negatively reacts to casein is that you may be allergic. If you feel that is the case, you can visit a doctor for further treatment. The doctor may conduct various stool and blood tests to confirm that you are allergic to the protein. 

Micellar Casein Overview

Micellar casein is a form of casein that has undergone very little processing. While casein protein comes directly from cow’s whole milk, micellar casein is a by-product of the cheese-making process. Other casein subtypes like alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and kappa use various chemicals in their making. Micellar casein is also slower to digest than most protein sources. However, their nutritious effects also last far longer than other sources. 

Micellar casein might also offer more benefits than casein micelles do. Casein micelles are structures the four major casein types combine to form. A casein micelle is also known as a super lipoid. However, while a casein micelle requires a lot of chemicals to make, micellar casein uses very little.

What Is the Difference Between Casein and Micellar Casein?

Casein and micellar casein fall under the same type of proteins. As mentioned, casein is found in whole milk and other dairy products. Micellar casein is a subtype of the former protein that one obtains as a by-product of the cheese-making process.

Is Micellar Casein Safe?

Yes, micellar casein is fully safe for use, and there are no proven side effects of the casein subtype yet. However, if you are allergic to casein or other dairy products, you may also experience some discomfort due to micellar casein.

Conclusion: How To Use Casein And Why? 

Casein is one of the most common protein sources, and you can find this protein in milk and other dairy products. The main source of casein is bovine milk, but several other kinds of animal milk can offer this protein.

If you are a new mother, an athlete who wants better muscle repair, or a growing child, casein could be very useful. Milk also contains another protein source: whey and people often compare these two proteins. Both casein and whey have several health benefits to offer. While casein is rich in EAAs, whey has more BCAAs.

After reading this article, you can include the correct amount of casein in your diet for a healthier life.

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