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Whey protein is a mixture of some of the proteins naturally found in milk. The major proteins found in whey protein include beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin. Whey protein has one of the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS; a measure of protein bioavailability) and is more rapidly digested than other proteins, such as casein (another milk protein). 1
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
20 grams daily up to 1.2 grams of per 2.2 of pounds body weight per day
Animal studies suggest that whey protein can increase gains in lean body mass resulting from exercise. One study found that people taking whey protein improved their performance on a test of short-term intense cycling exercise.
Animal studies suggest that whey protein can increase gains in lean body mass resulting from exercise.2 A controlled trial found that six weeks of strength training while taking 1.2 grams of whey protein per 2.2 of pounds body weight per day resulted in greater gains in lean body mass, but improved only one out of four strength tests.3 Another controlled study found that people taking 20 grams per day of whey protein for three months performed better on a test of short-term intense cycling exercise than people taking a similar amount of milk protein (casein).4 However, a double-blind trial found that men taking 1.5 grams per 2.2 lbs of body weight per day of predigested whey protein for 12 weeks along with a strength training exercise program gained only half as much lean body mass and had significantly smaller increases in strength compared with men using a similar amount of predigested casein along with strength training.5 A controlled study of HIV-infected women found that adding whey protein to strength training exercise was no more effective than exercise alone for increasing strength or improving body composition.6
3 to 4.5 grams twice per day
In one trial, supplementing with whey protein improved blood measures of liver dysfunction in people with hepatitis B.
A preliminary trial found 24 grams per day of whey protein improved blood measures of liver dysfunction in people with hepatitis B, but not those with hepatitis C.7
HIV and AIDS Support
Refer to label instructions
Whey protein is rich in the amino acid cysteine, which the body uses to make glutathione, an important antioxidant. Supplementing with it may improve immune function.
Whey protein is rich in the amino acid cysteine, which the body uses to make glutathione, an important antioxidant. A double-blind trial showed that 45 grams per day of whey protein increased blood glutathione levels in a group of HIV-infected people.8 Test tube9 and animal10 studies suggest that whey protein may improve some aspects of immune function.
Refer to label instructions
Whey protein appears to improve some aspects of immune function. One trial showed that whey protein increased blood glutathione levels in a group of HIV-infected people.
A double-blind trial showed that 45 grams per day of whey protein increased blood glutathione levels in a group of HIV-infected people.11 Test tube12 , 13 and animal14 studies suggest that whey protein may improve some aspects of immune function.
Refer to label instructions
Whey protein may aid weight loss due to its appetite-suppressing effect.
Whey protein may aid weight loss due to its effect on appetite. In a preliminary study, people were given 48 grams of either whey protein or milk protein (casein). Whey consumption resulted in more hunger satisfaction and reduced the amount of food eaten 90 minutes later compared with casein consumption.15 However, a double-blind study found that men taking 1.5 grams per 2.2 lbs body weight per day of whey protein for 12 weeks along with a low-calorie diet and a strength training exercise program lost the same amount of weight and body fat as did a control group that followed a similar program, but took a casein supplement instead of whey protein.16
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Some whey proteins may reduce bone loss. Milk basic protein (MBP) is a mixture of some of the proteins found in whey protein and has been shown to promote bone density
Some whey proteins may reduce bone loss.17 Milk basic protein (MBP) is a mixture of some of the proteins found in whey protein. A preliminary trial found that 300 mg per day of MBP improved blood measures of bone metabolism in men, suggesting more bone formation was occurring than bone loss.18 A double-blind trial found that women taking 40 mg per day of MBP for six months had greater gains in bone density compared with those taking a placebo.19 No osteoporosis-related research has been done using complete whey protein mixtures.
How It Works
How to Use It
Some benefits of whey protein have been demonstrated with as little as 20 grams per day. For athletes in training a commonly used amount is 25 grams of whey protein per day, and shouldn’t exceed 1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds body weight. Most clinical research has used similar amounts of whey protein.
Where to Find It
During the process of making milk into cheese, whey protein is separated from the milk. This whey protein is then incorporated into ice cream, bread, canned soup, infant formulas, and other food products. Supplements containing whey protein are also available.
People who do not include dairy foods in their diets do not consume whey protein. However, the amino acids in whey protein are available from other sources, and a deficiency of these amino acids is unlikely.
People who do not include dairy foods in their diets do not consume whey protein. However, the amino acids in whey protein are available from other sources, and a deficiency of these amino acids is unlikely. In fact, most Americans consume too much, rather than too little, protein.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
People who are allergic to dairy products could react to whey protein and should, therefore, avoid it.20 As with protein in general, long-term, excessive intake may be associated with deteriorating kidney function and possibly osteoporosis. However, neither kidney nor bone problems have been directly associated with consumption of whey protein, and the other dietary sources of protein typically contribute more protein to the diet than does whey protein. The possibility that certain proteins in milk may contribute to the development of diabetes in children is controversial. But since whey proteins include some of the same milk proteins, people who are avoiding milk because of concerns about the risk of diabetes should not consume whey protein either.
1. Dangin M, Boirie Y, Guillet C, Beaufrere B. Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects. J Nutr 2002;132:3228S-33S [review].
2. Bouthegourd JC, Roseau SM, Makarios-Lahham L, et al. A preexercise alpha-lactalbumin-enriched whey protein meal preserves lipid oxidation and decreases adiposity in rats. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002;283:E565-72.
3. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, et al. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2001;11:349-64.
4. Lands LC, Grey VL, Smountas AA. Effect of supplementation with a cysteine donor on muscular performance. J Appl Physiol 1999;87:1381-5.
5. Demling RH, DeSanti L. Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:21-9.
6. Agin D, Gallagher D, Wang J, et al. Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body cell mass, muscle strength, and quality of life in women with HIV. AIDS 2001;15:2431-40.
7. Watanabe A, Okada K, Shimizu Y, et al. Nutritional therapy of chronic hepatitis by whey protein (non-heated). J Med 2000;31:283-302.
8. Micke P, Beeh KM, Buhl R. Effects of long-term supplementation with whey proteins on plasma glutathione levels of HIV-infected patients. Eur J Nutr 2002;41:12-8.
9. Wong KF, Middleton N, Montgomery M, et al. Immunostimulation of murine spleen cells by materials associated with bovine milk protein fractions. J Dairy Sci 1998;81:1825-32.
10. Minehira K, Inoue S, Nonaka M, et al. Effects of dietary protein type on oxidized cholesterol-induced alteration in age-related modulation of lipid metabolism and indices of immune function in rats. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000;1483:141-53.
11. Micke P, Beeh KM, Buhl R. Effects of long-term supplementation with whey proteins on plasma glutathione levels of HIV-infected patients. Eur J Nutr 2002;41:12-8.
12. Wong KF, Middleton N, Montgomery M, et al. Immunostimulation of murine spleen cells by materials associated with bovine milk protein fractions. J Dairy Sci 1998;81:1825-32.
13. Cross ML, Gill HS. Modulation of immune function by a modified bovine whey protein concentrate. Immunol Cell Biol 1999;77:345-50.
14. Minehira K, Inoue S, Nonaka M, et al. Effects of dietary protein type on oxidized cholesterol-induced alteration in age-related modulation of lipid metabolism and indices of immune function in rats. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000;1483:141-53.
15. Hall WL, Millward DJ, Long SJ, Morgan LM. Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. Br J Nutr 2003;89:239-48.
16. Demling RH, DeSanti L. Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:21-9.
17. Toba Y, Takada Y, Yamamura J, et al. Milk basic protein: a novel protective function of milk against osteoporosis. Bone 2000;27:403-8.
18. Toba Y, Takada Y, Matsuoka Y, et al. Milk basic protein promotes bone formation and suppresses bone resorption in healthy adult men. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2001;65:1353-7.
19. Aoe S, Toba Y, Yamamura J, et al. Controlled trial of the effects of milk basic protein (MBP) supplementation on bone metabolism in healthy adult women. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2001;65:913-8.
20. Wal JM. Cow's milk proteins/allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2002;89(6 Suppl 1):3-10.
Last Review: 05-28-2015
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