Effects of Whey Protein Supplementation on Aortic Stiffness, Cerebral Blood Flow, and Cognitive Function in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Findings from the ANCHORS A-WHEY Clinical Trial

Nutrients. 2020 Apr 10;12(4):1054. doi: 10.3390/nu12041054.


ANCHORS A-WHEY was a 12-week randomized controlled trial (RCT) designed to examine the effect of whey protein on large artery stiffness, cerebrovascular responses to cognitive activity and cognitive function in older adults.

Methods: 99 older adults (mean ± SD; age 67 ± 6 years, BMI 27.2 ± 4.7kg/m2, 45% female) were randomly assigned to 50g/daily of whey protein isolate (WPI) or an iso-caloric carbohydrate (CHO) control for 12 weeks (NCT01956994). Aortic stiffness was determined as carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (cfPWV). Aortic hemodynamic load was assessed as the product of aortic systolic blood pressure and heart rate (Ao SBP × HR). Cerebrovascular response to cognitive activity was assessed as change in middle-cerebral artery (MCA) blood velocity pulsatility index (PI) during a cognitive perturbation (Stroop task). Cognitive function was assessed using a computerized neurocognitive battery.

Results: cfPWV increased slightly in CHO and significantly decreased in WPI (p < 0.05). Ao SBP × HR was unaltered in CHO but decreased significantly in WPI (p < 0.05). Although emotion recognition selectively improved with WPI (p < 0.05), WPI had no effect on other domains of cognitive function or MCA PI response to cognitive activity (p > 0.05 for all).

Conclusions: Compared to CHO, WPI supplementation results in favorable reductions in aortic stiffness and aortic hemodynamic load with limited effects on cognitive function and cerebrovascular function in community-dwelling older adults.

Keywords: blood pressure; older adults; vascular stiffness; whey protein isolate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aorta / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cognition*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Elasticity*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Whey Proteins