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
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. Whey protein might help to increase how much muscle older people have. However, it only seems to work when it is taken with other compounds like creatine or some fats, or with vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D. Also, it is not known if whey protein helps build muscle in women or if it helps to increase strength.
Asthma. Early research suggests that taking a specific type of whey protein daily for 30 days does not improve lung function in children with asthma.
Athletic performance. Some 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. But it does not appear to improve running speed or recovery in trained athletes. Taking whey protein also doesn’t seem to improve strength or muscle mass in overweight men with high cholesterol.
Cancer. There is some evidence that taking whey protein might help reduce tumor size in some people with cancer that has spread.
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 before a meal decreases blood sugar in people with diabetes.
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.
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.
Liver disease not due to alcohol use (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, NASH). Early research suggests that taking whey protein daily for 12 weeks can improve liver function in patients with NASH.
Parkinson's disease. Some research shows that taking whey protein doesn't help Parkinson's disease symptoms.
An ovary disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Early research suggests that taking a supplement containing whey protein daily for 2 months can reduce body weight, fat mass, and cholesterol in people with ovarian cysts. However, whey protein does not improve blood sugar and seems to decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol.
Aching and stiffness caused by inflammation (polymyalgia rheumatica). Early research suggests that taking whey protein in a here dairy product twice daily for 8 weeks does not improve muscle function, walking speed, or other movement tests in people with polymyalgia rheumatica.
Weight loss. The effects of whey protein on weight loss seem to vary depending on whether it is used alone or along with dieting or exercise. Taking whey protein along with dieting might prevent the loss of lean muscle and increase the loss of body fat in people who are obese or overweight. This might improve overall body composition. But taking whey protein while dieting doesn’t seem to increase overall weight loss in most people who are obese or overweight. It’s too soon to know if taking whey protein without dieting improves weight loss. When used along with exercise, whey protein doesn’t seem to improve weight loss compared to exercise alone. In overweight teens, drinking a whey protein beverage for 12 weeks seems to increase weight and body mass index (BMI).