diet clinic
Dietician Sheela Seharawat
Whey Protein - Benefits and side effects

Whey Protein is obtained from the liquid which is separated from milk curd while making cheese. It is mostly used by body builders and athletes as an energy source and to increase their lean body mass. Whey protein is categorized into three types on the basis of amount of protein it contains.
Types of whey protein:
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is the cheapest of the three and has the lowest amount of protein ie, 29% to 89% of its weight comes from protein. This type has higher amount of bioactive compounds and lactose.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) has on average 95% of its weight coming from protein, with minimal lactose and fat. This is more expensive than concentrate.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is a further degraded protein that digests very quickly in the body and has about 99% of its weight coming from protein. This is the most expensive of the three types. This type of whey is less allergenic as compared to other types.

Benefits of having whey protein:
While it is difficult to replace a diet of whole, natural, unprocessed foods, with a supplement, whey protein can be useful for people with a very busy lifestyle as a supplement to their normal diet.
Here is a list of benefits associated with whey protein. It helps in:

Helps in weight gain

  • Increasing muscle mass
  • Treatment of cancer
  • Increasing Glutathione levels ( The body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
  • Decreasing HIV symptoms
  • Decreasing the levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the body
  • Increasing the immune system function
  • Decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training
  • Improving athletic or sports performance
  • Whey protein is used as a food supplement
  • Whey protein is a good alternative to milk for people with lactose intolerance as the content of lactose in whey protein is very less.
  • replacing or supplementing milk-based infant formulas

When can Whey protein be taken:
Since Whey protein is quickly digested the most suitable time to take it should be 30 to 60 minutes after a strength-training exercise. In case you want it to be digested slowly then you need to take it with other foods. Suppose you need to gain weight and need extra protein in Breakfast but you are allergic to eggs then you can add whey protein powder to a bowl of oats and milk.
In case you want to have a quick snack you can have a whey protein shake with Nuts to slow down the digestion of the protein. The combination of fats with protein slows down the digestion of protein thus maintaining the body’s insulin levels and also stimulating CCK (cholecystokinin), a hormone that gives you a feeling of satiety or fullness.


Side effects of whey protein:
Whey protein is an ideal protein supplement but when taken in excess can cause some side effects:

  • Allergic reaction – When people who are lactose intolerant consume Whey protein it can cause some allergic reactions like diarrhoea, flatulence, abdominal pain because whey is also taken from milk. However, whey has very less amount of lactose when compared to milk so the allergic reactions are not severe.
  • Kidney damage – Some medical professionals suggest that consuming high protein supplements like whey protein for long time can cause kidney damage. No medical research has been conducted to prove this yet. However, people already suffering from kidney damage or chronic renal failure should not consume high protein diet as the kidneys may not be able to handle the elimination of products of metabolism.
  • Liver damage – Some people believe that taking a high protein diet on a daily basis may lead to liver damage. But, studies have shown that whey protein has beneficial effects on conditions like viral hepatitis and other liver problems due to the presence of Glutathione which increases immunity and improves stamina.
  • Osteoporosis – Another side effect from consuming whey protein which some people believe is osteoporosis or bone weakness. It is believed that consuming high amount of whey protein causes mineral imbalance in the bones which causes loss of bone density leading to osteoporosis. Although there is no scientific research to prove this. Studies show that whey protein contains lactoferrin which promotes bone growth and increase the number and type of osteoblasts (bone cells).

Whey protein is a safe and healthy protein supplement when taken in appropriate quantity However, some minor side effects can occur when it’s taken in excess but, there is no scientific study to prove any major adverse effects.