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
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.
Whey protein has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
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.
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.
People who are allergic to dairy products could react to whey protein and should, therefore, avoid it.2 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.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with whey protein.
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. Wal JM. Cow's milk proteins/allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2002;89(6 Suppl 1):3–10.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.