MooScience: the science of milk

Thirteen Health Benefits of Whey:


1) Whey may prevent obesity.

If you are trying to lose weight whey may help. Whey protein stimulates the release of gastrointestinal hormones, such as glucagon-like peptide1 (GLP-1), insulin, peptide YY, cholecystokinin (CCK), ghrelin and gastric inhibitory peptide (GIP) (Baer et al. 2011, Jakubowicz and Froy 2013). These hormones can reduce food intake and make you feel full sooner. Whey protein is more satiating than casein (Hall et al. 2003) or egg protein (Anderson et al. 2004).

It takes more energy to digest proteins, such as whey, than it does to digest other macronutrients. Whey protein increases thermogenesis when compared to fats, carbohydrates or soy protein (Acheson et al. 1984, Acheson et al. 2011). This means it takes more energy to digest, absorb and metabolize whey protein than it does that cinnamon roll. Using more energy to digest the same amount of calories means less potential weight gain from similar caloric intakes.

Several studies have noted that people who consume whey protein lose body fat and retain lean tissue (Aldrich et al. 2011, Frestedt et al. 2008). In a nine month study of men and women, whey protein supplementation during resistance training increased lean muscle mass compared to either soy protein or a carbohydrate drink of similar calories (Volek et al. 2013).

For more on how milk based sports drinks can help you gain muscle while losing fat see our page on milk sports drinks.

2) Whey Protein May Give You a Waist

Tired of the spare tire? Men who consumed 30 grams of whey protein 2-3 times a week after exercise lost more fat off the abdomen than those who consumed either an equal calorie carbohydrate supplement or a protein/carbohydrate supplement (Hulmi et al. 2015).


3) Whey protein reduces metabolic risk factors and cardiometabolic risk factors.

Consuming more dairy foods may protect you from developing metabolic syndrome (Elwood et al. 2008, Pal et al. 2013).

Whey protein addresses several symptoms of metabolic disorder. It combats type 2 diabetes by improving insulin response and normalizing glucose levels (Ma et al. 2009, Akhavan et al. 2010, Pal et al. 2013). Eat over 10 grams of whey protein a day for the best effects (Pal et al. 2013).

Whey reduces cardiovascular risk factors by promoting blood pressure reduction and decreasing arterial stiffness (Pal and Ellis 2010, Aldrich et al. 2011, Pal et al. 2013).

In addition, consuming whey can reduce central obesity and increase lean body mass (Hulmi et al. 2015).


4) Whey protein supplements build muscles and increase strength.

Whey protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree than other proteins such as soy (Phillips et al. 2009, Devries and Phillips 2015). In addition, whey protein supplements maximize upper and lower body strength when compared with non-whey protein or same calories carbohydrate supplements (Naclerio and Larumbe-Zabala 2016).


5) Whey maximizes lean body mass

Whey consumed either alone or with other foods maximizes lean body mass and fat free mass gain (Naclerio and Larumbe-Zabala 2016). Analyzing data from nine different studies, Naclerio and Larumbe-Zabala (2016) reported that consuming whey protein promoted gains in lean body mass when compared to either other protein sources or isocaloric carbohydrate supplements.


6) Whey reduces allergenic symptoms.

According to several large review papers, whey protein reduces the risk of cow's milk allergy and atopic dermatitis in susceptible children and infants (Alexander and Cabana 2010, Szajewska and Horvath 2010).


7) Whey protein helps combat type 2 diabetes.

Whey protein stimulates insulin production (Akhavan et al. 2010), lowers blood glucose and may improve insulin sensitivity (Pal et al. 2010, Jakubowicz and Froy 2013). This can improve type 2 diabetes symptoms (Pal et al. 2013).

In diabetic rats, dietary supplementation with whey protein enhances the healing process by several processes including enhancing glutathione and normalizing cytokines involved in wound healing (Ebaid et al. 2011).


8) Whey protein prevents gut inflammation in newborns.

Whey proteins found in both human and cow milk put the brakes on the inflammation process to help protect infants against gut inflammatory disorders (Chatterton et al. 2013). Lactoferrin present in human and cow milk is digested by stomach pepsin. This releases lactoferricin, a powerful antibiotic that neutralizes bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites (Vogel 2012). Lactoferricin promotes a healthy digestive tract by protecting beneficial intestinal microflora (Sherman 2013). In addition, lactoferrin given orally may protect infants from necrotizing enterocolitis. a dangerous disease (Sherman et al. 2014).


9) Whey protein enhances glutathione (GSH) production in humans and rodents.

Those of you with pet rodents take note. Whey may help both you and your pet by promoting production of glutathione, a vital internal antioxidant.

Whey protein increased lymphocyte glutathione (GSH) in humans. Overweight young men who exercised and consumed whey protein isolate had a significant increase in GSH and total antioxidant capacity compared to the control group (Sheikholeslami and Ahmadi 2013). Resistance exercise combined with whey protein produced more cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits than exercise alone. Another study found that people consuming 45 grams of whey protein over 2 weeks had a 24% increase in GSH (Zavorsky et al. 2007).

Whey protein fed to mice enhances GSH concentration and promotes longevity (Bounous et al. 1989). Whey protein supplements given to diabetic rats enhance GSH production while promoting wound healing (Ebaid et al. 2011).

How does whey protein enhance GSH? Alpha-lactalbumin, a whey protein, contains high levels of cysteine, an amino acid used to make glutathione.

Why do we want GSH? GSH is an extremely powerful internal antioxidant that enhances health in numerous ways (Anderson 1997).


10) Whey protein may improve psoriasis symptoms.

Psoriasis vulgaris (PV) means "itching condition". People afflicted by this chronic autoimmune disease have red itchy patches that may be covered with silvery white scaly plaques or pustular spots. These painful itching spots can cover skin, nails and internal organs. Psoriasis vulgaris may be activated by stress or illness. People with PV have systematic inflammation, high oxidative stress and low glutathione concentrations (Woźniak et al. 2007, Prussick et al. 2013). There is no cure for this disorder.

In a very small trial, seven patients received 20 grams of whey protein in addition to their current treatments (Prussick et al. 2013). All the patients showed significant improvement in their PV symptoms as measured by PASI scores, including those who were only taking the whey protein.

Whey protein may help heal psoriasis patients by relieving oxidative stress (Prussick et al. 2013). Whey enhances glutathione production by providing the cysteine amino acids that are its precursors. Glutathione is a powerful internal antioxidant. Whey supplements may also increase glutathione concentrations in a dose dependant manner in people (Zarorsky et al. 2007).


11) Whey protein may enhance mood.

Feeling a little stressed? Whey may help. Stressed out people who consumed alpha-lactalbumin, a protein found in whey, reported feeling less depressed and had better coping skills. In addition, they had increased prolactin concentrations and decreased cortisol concentrations (Markus et al. 2000).

Consumption of alpha-lactalbumin increased people's ratio of plasma tryptophan when compared to other large neutral amino acids (Trp-LNAA ratio). This increases tryptophan availability and may increase serotonin concentrations. Serotonin elevates mood and promotes feelings of calmness. For more on this process see how alpha-lactalbumin elevates mood and enhances sleep.


12) Whey boosts immunity.

Adding whey to your diet may help you fight off that nasty flu bug! Consuming bovine whey proteins enhances secondary humoral antibody responses when compared to other protein sources like soybean protein isolate (Parker and Goodrum 1990). Drinking whey protein for 5-8 weeks boosted cell-mediated immune effects in mice (Wong and Watson 1995).

In plain language, secondary humoral antibody responses are the antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that your body makes when it encounters a microbial threat it has seen before. Antibodies neutralize viruses, bacteria and other microbes to keep the body safe. For example, you already have had the latest strain of blue headed chicken flu but are exposed again at your nephews birthday party when a very cute...and very snotty child launches herself onto you. When your body detects that the dreaded chicken flu has returned it starts making antibodies to combat the virus. Whey protein may speed up this process so that the virus is halted before it can take hold.

13) Whey Enhances Healing

Elderly patients given whey protein supplements (32 grams per day) recovered faster after a hip fracture than patients not given whey (Niitsu et al. 2015). Patients who consumed whey had more strength in their legs and were able to perform basic tasks such as walking and using stairs better.



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