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Fermented Dairy Protein – Back to the Future

Throughout the history of human health and well-being, the importance of dietary protein cannot be overstated. Humans are entirely dependent upon dietary sources of protein, including nine essential amino acids (individual protein units) that we simply cannot make on our own. Without the right mix of amino acids we will not grow and thrive.

Since amino acid intake is a matter of survival, our ancestors had to learn how to maximize the availability of protein in times of scarcity, and the fermentation of animal milks is an ancient practice that helped make this possible. There are many examples of fermented milks in the historical records, including koumiss which has been used throughout Asia for centuries. It wasn’t until the 1800s that western physicians began to describe the ability of this fermented milk to prevent muscle wasting.

Today, with the advantage of sophisticated nutritional sciences, we can shed some more light on ancient wisdom. When dairy protein is fermented, its protein efficiency ratio (PER) can rise up dramatically. PER is a scientific assessment of the “real-world” value of protein sources because it doesn’t simply look at the types of amino acids that might be in a protein source, it examines their actual ability to promote growth and development in living creatures. The PER after yogurt fermentation has been noted to be as much as 25% higher compared to the unfermented milk source.

Fermented dairy protein sources are also remarkably rich in other nutrients such as Calcium and Vitamin D. Then we have the microbes that are carried along with the fermented dairy protein. As I have been discussing for several years, these do not need to be living in order to exert important effects on the ecology of the digestive tract. In fact, the administration of yogurt wherein the bacteria had been heat-inactivated was very capable of having a beneficial influence on the growth of other good bacteria just as surely as the yogurt with living bacteria. Our immune system can recognize the structural parts of beneficial bacteria and this can work to our advantage whether or not they are actually alive.

There are many reasons that North Americans supplement with protein, and this might be especially important during periods of rapid growth or through the aging process in order to prevent loss of muscle tissue. Dietary protein also plays a role in support of the immune system, weight management, satiety, physical performance, and promotion/maintenance of lean body mass. Milk proteins are known to be slowly digested and may be particularly effective (relative to whey) in maintaining lean muscle.

Fermented dairy protein – or, yogurt protein – is now an option when supplementation is required or desired for these and other needs. In a throwback to the portability of koumiss in remote parts of Asia, the option of fermented dairy protein in supplement form is a new form of convenience. The nutritional advantages, including various nutrients and the transformation of the raw milk into a fermented product via microbes, may have many benefits to gut ecology and digestion. Another example of microbes working for us, as they have always done.

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Dr. Tracey M. Beaulne, ND, has been a clinician for nearly 15 years. She focuses on complex gut-to-brain and immune connections. Her personal and clinical experience with gut health has shaped her methods of treating the critical internal ecosystems. Dr Tracey can be reached at thetummyclinic.com