Whey protein is generally found to be faster digested and to promote faster and higher increases in plasma amino acid concentrations during the immediate ~60 min following protein ingestion compared to casein. The aim of the present study was to compare three different whey protein hydrolysates with varying degrees of hydrolysis (DH, % cleaved peptide bonds) to evaluate if the degree of whey protein hydrolysis influences the rate of amino acid plasma appearance in humans. A casein protein was included as reference. The three differentially hydrolysed whey proteins investigated were: High degree of hydrolysis (DH, DH = 48 %), Medium DH (DH = 27 %), and Low DH (DH = 23 %). The casein protein was intact. Additionally, since manufacturing of protein products may render some amino acids unavailable for utilisation in the body the digestibility and the biological value of all four protein fractions were evaluated in a rat study. A two-compartment model for the description of the postprandial plasma amino acid kinetics was applied to investigate the rate of postprandial total amino acid plasma appearance of the four protein products. The plasma amino acid appearance rates of the three whey protein hydrolysates (WPH) were all significantly higher than for the casein protein, however, the degree of hydrolysis of the WPH products did not influence plasma total amino acid appearance rate (estimates of DH and 95 % confidence intervals [CI] (mol L(-1) min(-1)): High DH 0.0585 [0.0454, 0.0754], Medium DH 0.0594 [0.0495, 0.0768], Low DH 0.0560 [0.0429, 0.0732], Casein 0.0194 [0.0129, 0.0291]). The four protein products were all highly digestible, while the biological value decreased with increasing degree of hydrolysis. In conclusion, the current study does not provide evidence that the degree of whey protein hydrolysis is a strong determinant for plasma amino acid appearance rate within the studied range of hydrolysis and protein dose.
Keywords: Degree of hydrolysis; Plasma appearance; Whey protein hydrolysate.