Sodium Caseinate


Sodium caseinate is one of those ingredients on food labels that may give you some clue as to what it is, without really being self-evident. Let’s take a look at what it is, what it does, and how it might--or might not--be a beneficial part of your current diet and exercise regime.

What Is It?

Sodium caseinate [1] is the biochemical name for casein protein that has been extracted from milk using sodium as a binder.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Many of the uses for sodium caseinate are nonnutritive. This means that the ingredient is used to produce better taste or texture rather than boost nutritional value of a product. It works as an emulsive ingredient, meaning it helps blend oils and liquids together--and keeps them from separating after being packaged.

It also adds body and texture to foods for a better mouthfeel. Aside from its nonnutritive uses, it does add protein content to foods and is absorbed in much the same way as whole casein protein. It does have added sodium which is not always positive, and just as sodium, in large amounts can have undesired effects on blood pressure levels and increase risks for heart disease.

On its own, casein proteins [2] are broken down as part of the digestive process, and absorbed by our bodies to help fuel and repair our muscles. This digestion process takes varying amount of time depending on the type of protein involved.

With casein protein it takes a bit longer for the protein to be broken down into its constituent amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream compared to other protein sources. Once it is absorbed, though, it stays in the body for a relatively long time as well.

Some studies have shown that casein protein traces can be found in the body up to 7 hours after consumption. While this is a positive biological effect, sodium caseinate is typically found in highly processed foods, which tends to negate the nutritional value.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Sodium caseinate is a common ingredient in sports drinks and nutritional bars favored by those who tend to spend a lot of time in the gym. In this context they provide a significant amount of the protein content in the products.

The added sodium is not necessarily bad for athletes, either. Depending on how much sodium is in the rest of their diet, consuming sodium in the form of food or sports drinks after working out can actually be beneficial. Sweating for extended periods of time causes the body to lose electrolytes, including sodium.

Depleting the body’s sodium store too much causes just as many negative side effects as too much sodium. Therefore, fitness enthusiasts who consume sodium caseinate from “healthier” sources such as these rather than ultra-processed foods may reap the nutritional benefits of increased protein intake, muscle repair and support, and electrolyte replacement.

What Foods Contain It?

A popular food additive due to its wide variety of uses, sodium caseinate can be found in many processed foods. Protein or meal replacement bars, sports drinks, coffee creamers, yogurts, ice creams, and cheeses all contain sodium caseinate, depending upon the brand.

Its properties make it useful in different types of food, but not absolutely necessary. Whether or not a specific food contains sodium caseinate is going to depend largely upon the brand/manufacturer, so it is best to read the ingredients list to determine if this additive is present.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

There is no officially recognized requirement for sodium caseinate, though it can contribute to your daily total protein intake. Protein requirements vary based on size and activity level.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

While the FDA has not released any warnings regarding excess consumption [3] of sodium caseinate, they have instructed manufacturers to use the ingredient in the smallest amount required to achieve the desired result.

This implies that it is not meant to be consumed in large quantities. Lactose intolerant individuals may also react poorly to product containing sodium caseinate.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Sodium caseinate is not considered a necessary part of a nutritionally sound diet. Limiting your consumption will not produce negative side effects, as long as you ensure you are meeting your protein needs through other sources.

Final Take

Whether or not this ingredient is “good” or ”bad” for your diet depends largely upon your lifestyle and what else is included as part of your regular diet. If consumed in moderate amounts, sodium caseinate may be a good way to boost protein intake.

References:

[1] Bond,Owen. What Is Sodium Caseinate?. Livestrong.com, 2015.

[2] Carson, Tara. Five Stages of Protein Digesion. Livestrong.com, 2015.

[3] Us Department of Food and Agriculture. Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). US Department of Health and Human Services, 2014.