There are two types of protein found in milk, casein and whey.
Casein makes up almost 80% of all milk protein.
Casein is the curd that is used to make cheese.
Casein is used as a popular protein supplement.
Casein is rich in amino acids.
It can also slow digestion leaving you to feel full longer.
How is casein used in processed foods?
You can find casein in a variety of processed foods because it easily separated and makes an excellent binder. Casein forms a thick gel consistency that can act like glue in other foods.
Calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate and sodium caseinate are all names you might see for casein. If you have an allergy to milk or casein you will need to avoid all caseinate derivatives.
You can find casein in things like non-dairy creamer and soy cheeses. If you live a vegan lifestyle you may want to avoid products that use casein to enhance their texture, taste, or flavor.
According to the Livestrong website, other places you may find casein are caramel coloring, fruit flavored antacids, canned tuna, vinegar flavored chips, and McDonald’s fries. If wheat products are labeled protein enriched they may contain casein.
How is casein used as a protein supplement?
Unlike other protein supplements casein maintains a steady release of amino acids. It does not reach peak levels until 3-4 hours after consumption and can be maintained in the body for 7 hours. Other proteins like whey peak after 40 minutes.
Protein synthesis and protein breakdown are both essential functions for muscle growth. Casein is responsible the protein breakdown process. This is because of it slow release into the blood stream.
Casein is also an anabolic compound. These compounds stimulate growth. It also protects your body from the damage of hormones like cortisol.
Cortisol is a steroid produced by the adrenal gland. The body releases it to respond to stress but excessive amounts breakdown muscle mass and weaken the immune system.
The key to using casein is when you take it. Casein is the only protein you should take before going to sleep.
This will allow the muscles to absorb the proteins more effectively. The muscles are at rest for the long period of time that casein remains in the blood stream.
Casein can also be used as part of a meal replacement if you will need to go more than 3 hours without eating. The most benefit will come from a mix of casein and whey proteins.
Your best choice is a 50/50 blend of the two. The whey will give you immediate satisfaction and the casein will maintain the feeling of fullness for several hours.
Does casein have any other benefits?
Casein contains a large amount of calcium. According to Harvard Medical School, our bodies need calcium to prevent osteoporosis. It can also lower your risk of developing colon cancer.
In addition to the calcium, casein has been shown to have other properties that protect from colon cancer. Studies showed it provided more protection than soy but the exact reason is unknown. Researchers are still studying casein to find out why it helps.
WebMD listed milk on their top ten foods for healthy hair. The amino acids in casein and the high calcium levels promote growth.
Who should avoid casein?
Anyone with a milk allergy or casein allergy should avoid products that may contain it. Casein allergies are the result of your body mistaken the protein for a harmful substance.
Casein proteins might trigger a release of histamines that will cause symptoms like swelling, skin rash, congestion, coughing, and wheezing. Casein can also trigger a deadly reaction called anaphylaxis.
It is possible to be casein intolerant as well. This is not the same as an allergy even though some symptoms may be the same.
Intolerances and sensitivities create inflammation in the immune system as result of the body not being able to break the casein down properly.
If you have casein intolerance you should avoid all dairy products and foods that may contain milk. Unlike lactose, casein cannot be separated out of the milk and still be in a drinkable form.
There has been a link to casein intolerance and autism symptoms. The University of Maryland says that there is no proof that a casein free diet can help treat autism but that many parents did report an improvement in their child’s symptoms.
You should talk to your doctor if you are considering this diet. Many autism specialists are trained to help you understand the diet better.
Many people who suffer from Celiac disease and gluten intolerance also have casein intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that damages the intestinal lining.
The only cure for Celiac disease is to avoid gluten. Some researchers believe the damaged lining leads to casein intolerance because it cannot break the protein down properly.