Health Benefits of Whey Protein

If you’ve ever heard the nursery rhyme of Little Miss Muffet, you’ve heard about whey. “Curds and whey” is another name for cottage cheese, and whey is the liquid. All cheese-making involves separating milk into curds and whey. Whey protein is a powder made by extracting the dairy proteins from this liquid and converting them to a more portable form. As a result, whey protein helps preserve some of the health benefits of milk that would otherwise be lost during the cheese-making process.

Health Benefits

The macronutrients and vitamins in whey protein provide some excellent health benefits. Unsweetened whey protein is an excellent, low-calorie source of protein, which is a critical macronutrient. Protein helps support healthy bones, muscles, hair, and organ function. 

In addition, whey protein can provide health benefits like:

Increased Muscle Growth

Muscle mass is an important indicator of general health. Whether you want to maintain or increase your muscle mass, protein is critical to the process. Protein provides the amino acids your body needs to rebuild damaged muscle tissue and create new muscle. Whey protein has been shown to promote healthy muscles more effectively than plant-based protein supplements.

May Reduce Inflammation

Whey protein may help reduce symptoms from a number of chronic conditions by reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of potential health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. Studies suggest that regularly adding whey protein to your diet can help reduce markers of chronic inflammation, lowering your risk of negative health effects. 

May Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Finally, early studies suggest that whey protein may help lower high cholesterol levels, especially “bad” LDL cholesterol. Since high cholesterol is connected to a higher risk of strokes and heart disease, lowering your cholesterol levels into a healthy range can offer serious health benefits. 

Health Risks

Although whey protein offers many health benefits and supplements your body’s overall function, consuming high amounts of whey protein does carry some risk. 

Because whey protein is a common macronutrient, it’s difficult to consume too much. However, if you experience certain health conditions, it is possible to have negative side effects from whey protein. 

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May Trigger Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Allergies

Because whey protein is taken from dairy, it contains lactose in almost every case. As a result, people who are lactose intolerant may experience symptoms like bloating, nausea, and stomach cramps after consuming whey protein concentrate. However, whey protein isolate is more refined and may not trigger the same symptoms.

Meanwhile, people with dairy allergies should never consume whey protein. Most dairy allergies are linked to proteins in milk. Whey protein consists of very little but milk proteins, so it is very likely to trigger dangerous allergic reactions in people with a dairy allergy. If you aren’t sure whether you have a dairy intolerance or an allergy, consult with your physician. 

May Affect Kidney Disease

High-protein diets are unlikely to affect the kidneys of people without kidney disease. However, high-protein diets can lead to increased internal pressure in the kidneys that can lead to damage in people with kidney disease. If you have kidney disease or reduced kidney function, don’t supplement your diet with whey protein without consulting your physician.

Amounts and Dosage

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or .26 grams per pound of body weight. This is the minimum amount of protein you should get daily. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should be getting about 55 grams of protein every day. 

Whey protein can be added to a variety of foods. It’s easy to add to smoothies, casseroles, shakes, and sauces. You can also get whey protein by consuming more dairy products instead of consuming it as a supplement. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 09, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease.”

Annals of Internal Medicine: “The impact of protein intake on renal function decline in women with normal renal function or mild renal insufficiency.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Harvard Medical School: “How much protein do you need every day?”

Harvard Medical School: “Understanding acute and chronic inflammation.”

Indiana Public Media: “Miss Muffet And Her Curds And Whey.”

Journal of Sports Science & Medicine: “Protein – Which is Best?”

Mayo Clinic: “Milk allergy.”

Mayo Clinic: “Whey protein.”

National Research Council Committee on Diet and Health: “Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk.”

Nutrients: “Effect of whey supplementation on circulating C-reactive protein: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.”

Obesity: “The chronic effects of whey proteins on blood pressure, vascular function, and inflammatory markers in overweight individuals.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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