People commonly use whey as supplementation, alongside resistance exercise, to help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass. But what is it, and what are the benefits of using it?
Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. Whey protein is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is low in lactose content.
There are many benefits associated with the consumption of whey protein, and researchers are constantly finding new possible therapeutic properties. Here, we explain what the benefits might be, and look at some of the side effects and potential risks.
Fast facts on whey protein:
- Many of the potential benefits are based on single studies and more evidence is required before making definitive judgment.
- Whey protein is a mixture of beta-lactoglobulin, alpha lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin, and immunoglobins.
- Possible benefits include weight loss and lowering cholesterol.
- Possible dangers include nausea and headaches, but at moderate doses, whey protein is not considered dangerous.
Aiding weight loss: In one study of 158 people, published in Nutrition & Metabolism, those who were given whey “lost significantly more body fat and showed a greater preservation of lean muscle compared to subjects consuming the control beverage.”
Anti-cancer properties: Promising results were published in the journal Anticancer Research for the use of whey protein concentrate in cancer treatment. More research is needed.
Lowering cholesterol: A study, published in The British Journal of Nutrition, gave whey supplements to 70 overweight men and women for 12 weeks and measured a number of parameters, such as lipid and insulin levels. They found that “there was a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol at week 12 in the whey group compared with the casein (group).”
Asthma: Whey protein could improve the immune response in children with asthma. One small study involving 11 children, published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, found that children with asthma who were supplemented with 10 gram whey protein twice daily for 1 month had an improved immune response.
Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease: Research published in the International Dairy Journal found that beverages that were supplemented with whey protein significantly reduced blood pressure in patients with hypertension; their risk of developing heart disease or stroke was also lower.
Reducing weight loss in people with HIV: A study published in the journal Clinical and Investigative Medicine found that whey protein may help reduce weight loss among HIV-positive patients.
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