The Magic Protein
By Vera Tweed
From weight loss to immunity, whey offers a host of health benefits

whey protein powderIf there’s a bullet among proteins, whey is the one. Studies have shown that it helps the human body stay lean, maintain a healthy heart, reduce risk for diabetes, and boost our resistance to illness.

According to reviews of available research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and Alternative Medicine Review, whey enhances the human body’s production of glutathione—our most important internal antioxidant—which increases our ability to withstand toxic assaults from the environment and even slows down the aging process. Glutathione is difficult to absorb as a supplement, but your body can make its own from whey.

Whey can help you stay lean because it’s rich in the branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which preserve muscle and help it grow. Research shows that in a weight-loss program, whey can lead to greater loss of body fat than other proteins.

In addition, whey helps control inflammation and aids the immune system in resisting bacterial and viral infection. Individual studies have also found that it improves bone growth, blood pressure, cholesterol, mood, blood sugar, and wound healing.

Whey can also help us deal with day-to-day stress. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that whey with high tryptophan content improved mental reaction time in people with high stress levels. The tryptophan in whey also improves mood, sleep, and morning alertness—benefits most of us would appreciate.

What's in Whey?

Whey naturally contains a combination of different types of proteins. The exact amount of each one will vary among products, and per today's labeling regulations, these are not listed as ingredients. If you are looking for a specific benefit, look for a product designed for that purpose, such as overall health, immunity, or increased muscle mass. If in doubt, ask for help in your local health food store.

Whey Component % of Whey Protein Benefits
(Type of Protein)
Beta-lactoglobulin 35—55% An excellent source of essential and branched chain amino acids that preserve muscle during and after exercise. Binds with fat-soluble vitamins, increasing their bioavailability. Has inhibited cancer cells in animal research.
Alpha-lactalbumin 12—25% The primary protein found in human breast milk, it is an excellent source of essential and branched chain amino acids. Protects against infection, improves alertness in the morning,
and helps remove toxic metals. High in the amino acid tryptophan, it helps regulate sleep, mood, and stress.
Immunoglobulins 8—15% Only found in undenatured protein. Enhances immunity among people of all ages.
Lactoferrin 1—2% Only found in undenatured protein. It has antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Promotes growth of bone and beneficial bacteria, and contributes to healthy immune function. Regulates iron absorption. May help prevent cancer and improve chemotherapy results. Controls inflammation and allergic responses.
Lactoperoxidase 0.5% Only found in undenatured protein. Inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Serum Albumin
Cell studies have shown that it inhibits estrogen-positive breast cancer and helps control blood pressure.
Glycomacropeptide 10—15% Inhibits formation of dental plaque and cavities. Inhibits colitis in infants.
Proteose Peptone 12% Enhances the production of antibodies that protect against infection.

Chart compiled from studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and Alternative Medicine Review.

Shopping Guide

Whey protein powders vary somewhat in their exact composition, so you can choose one that fits your needs. Most studies use 30—90 g of whey daily.

To buffer against stress and improve morning alertness, mood, and sleep, look for a higher tryptophan content per serving. For morning alertness, have some whey in the evening.

To support lean muscle after exercise or during a weight-loss program, look for branched chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. To support muscle growth, consume approximately 25 g of whey protein within an hour of doing resistance exercise.

To improve immune function, look for "undenatured" or "non-denatured" whey. This means that less heat was used in the manufacturing process, preserving more immune-supporting components. Undenatured whey also contains naturally occurring proteins not found in other types of whey protein.

Sweeteners: Flavored whey proteins may contain sugar or a variety of alternative sweeteners, including stevia. "Natural" flavors are usually not sweetened.

Other options: Whey proteins may be lactose-free, gluten-free, and/or derived from cows that were not given growth hormone. Brands in health food stores are usually free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Go Shopping!

whey proteins

Biochem 100% Whey Protein is rich in beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, and other bioactive fractions. Available in Chocolate Fudge, Peaches 'n' Cream, Caramel Swirl, and Vanilla.

Processed in low temperatures that leave the protein intact, Bluebonnet 100% natural whey protein isolate is sourced from grass-fed cows that are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones..

solgar whey to go protein powder in Natural Vanilla has whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrates with free-form L-glutamine and branched chain amino acids to support muscle tissue.

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