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Whey protein is the protein contained in whey, the watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese.
Whey protein is commonly used for improving athletic performance and increasing strength, but evidence to support these uses is mixed. Whey protein is also used to reverse weight loss in people with HIV and to help prevent allergic conditions in infants.
How does it work?
Whey protein is a source of protein that might improve the nutrient content of the diet. Whey protein might also have effects on the immune system.
Uses & Effectiveness?
Possibly Effective for
Athletic performance. Most research shows that taking whey protein in combination with strength training increases lean body mass, strength, and muscle size in healthy young adults. Taking whey protein also appears to improve running speed and recovery from exercise in untrained adults. Whey protein seems to work as well as soy, chicken or beef protein for increasing muscle strength.
Eczema. Research shows that infants who consume whey protein by mouth during the first 3-12 months of life have a lower risk of developing red, itchy skin by the age of 3 years.
A condition associated with an increased risk for developing allergic reactions (atopic disease). Research shows that infants who consume whey protein by mouth during the first 3-12 months of life are less likely to be prone to allergies and allergic reactions compared to infants who receive standard formula. However, taking why protein might not be helpful for treating atopic diseases once they develop.
Weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS. Some research shows that taking whey protein by mouth can help decrease weight loss in people with HIV.
Red, scaly skin (plaque psoriasis). Some evidence shows that taking a specific whey protein extract daily for 8 weeks can reduce psoriasis symptoms.
Possibly Ineffective for
A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some research shows that taking a specific whey protein supplement daily for 6 weeks can improve shortness of breath but not lung function or quality of life in people with COPD. Other research suggests that taking whey protein supplements does not improve lung function, muscle function, or exercise in people with COPD.
Osteoporosis. Research suggests that taking a drink containing whey protein daily for up to 2 years does not improve bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
Insufficient Evidence for
Muscle loss in the elderly. Adding whey protein to exercise seems to increase muscle in older people. However, it also works when it is taken with other compounds like creatine, fats, vitamins, or minerals.
Asthma. Early research shows that taking a specific type of whey protein daily for 30 days does not improve lung function in children with asthma.
Cancer. There is some evidence that taking whey protein might help reduce tumor size in some people with cancer that has spread.
Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Early research shows that taking a small amount of whey protein does not improve memory or thinking skills in older adults. However, it might improve memory in older adults that are very tired.
Cystic fibrosis. Early research suggests that taking whey protein daily for 28 days improves lung function in children, but not adults with cystic fibrosis.
Diabetes. Early research shows that consuming a specific drink containing whey protein concentrate immediately before a meal decreases blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, taking whey protein daily and exercising daily does not seem to lower blood sugar over a longer time period.
Asthma caused by exercise. Early research suggests that taking whey protein daily for 10 days improves lung function in people with asthma caused by exercise.
Muscle damage caused by exercise. Whey protein might improve recovery from exercise and muscle damage from exercise. However, it does not seem to work for everyone.
Liver disease (hepatitis). Early research suggests that taking a specific type of whey protein daily for 12 weeks can improve liver function in some people with hepatitis B. However, it does not appear to benefit people with hepatitis C.
HIV/AIDS. Early research suggests that taking whey protein for 4 months does not improve immune function in children with HIV.
Infections developed while in the hospital. Early research suggests that taking a specific whey protein supplement daily for up to 28 days has a similar effect on the rate of hospital-acquired infections as taking a combination of zinc, selenium, glutamine, and metoclopramide.
High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking whey protein daily while participating in weight lifting exercises does not reduce cholesterol levels or body fat in overweight men with high cholesterol.
High blood pressure. Taking 28 grams of whey protein or 20 grams of hydrolyzed whey protein daily for 6-8 weeks can lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. But taking low amounts of whey protein (2.6 grams daily) doesn’t have any benefit.
Muscular disease (mitochondrial myopathies). Early research suggests that taking a whey protein supplement daily for one month does not improve muscle strength or quality of life in people with mitochondrial diseases.