Whey protein is claimed to be useful for various purposes, such as for controlling weight, preventing infections, and treating heart disease. Although there is insufficient evidence supporting these claims, it is thought that whey protein may decrease the risk of food allergies and help people with HIV or AIDS to gain weight. Possible side effects include headaches, fatigue, and thirst.
What Is Whey Protein?Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese manufacturing. Essentially, it is protein from cow's milk. It is frequently used as a dietary supplement, especially by bodybuilders. It is also claimed to be helpful for numerous other uses, such as for weight control. Whey protein is also used to make many types of baby formula.
(Click Benefits of Whey Protein for more information on what the supplement is used for.)
How Does It Work?Whey protein contains a mixture of different compounds, depending on the purity of the whey protein. Some types are minimally processed and filtered, leaving some carbohydrates (including lactose) in with the protein. Other forms are highly filtered and refined, leaving just the protein.
There are numerous different proteins in whey protein, including some immunoglobulins (antibodies), which might help prevent infections or have other effects on the immune system. Whey protein also contains a compound that the body uses to make glutathione, an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage due to a variety of different stresses. This activity might also provide some benefit for cancer prevention.
Some researchers think that whey protein might be beneficial for heart disease, as some forms of this protein might work like a class of blood pressure medications known as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors).
Lastly, there is some interest in using whey protein as part of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate weight loss diet.