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Whey protein: characteristics and use
Whey protein: characteristics and use

Whey protein: characteristics and use

Date: April 12, 2021

What are proteins?

Are the proteins obtained from the remaining part of the milk processing: the better its quality, the higher the quality of the final product.
From the liquid whey obtained from the precious protein load, different types of protein formulations are obtained which differ on the basis of the filtration and processing technology between:

  • concentrated whey proteins
  • isolated proteins

Both types go through filtration processes even if the isolated ones are subject to a more intensified processing which makes them more lactose and fat free than the conncentraded version which still maintains the bioactive nutrient fractions as well.

Side effects of protein deficiency

The body needs protein to perform numerous daily functions and an unbalanced protein intake can be harmful to both immune responses and bone health as it is involved in the production of growth factors such as IGF-1.
Furthermore, an inadequate protein intake during growth is the cause of less bone mass accumulation and sports practice doesn't compensate for the lower bone mass accumulation caused by inadequate protein intake (Bonjour JP; 2016).
In elderly subjects, adequate protein consumption appears to be an important factor in protecting against frailty (Coelho-Júnior HJ et al. 2018).

The benefits of protein intake are:

  • Increased strength
  • increased muscle
  • protein synthesis
  • Sarcopenia prevention
  • Limitation of the accumulation of fat in the body

Another fundamental role of proteins is that played in the prevention of sarcopenia, that is the natural decrease in muscle mass that occurs from the age of thirty that leads to the loss of about 1% of muscle mass per year.
This pathology is correlated with frailty, falls and low quality of life in the elderly (Bo Y, 2017).
Although the optimal dose of protein is not yet clear, several studies confirm the importance of proteins in preventing sarcopenia.

Quality of whey proteins and the advantages of their consumption

The quality of proteins is represented by how much the latter are able to supply amino acids and nitrogen to the body.
Among the most used values ​​for the evaluation of protein quality we find the biological value and the PCDAAS.
The higher these values, the higher the quality of the protein.
The biological value takes egg proteins as a reference because they have a composition considered to be optimal, a value of 100 is attributed to them.
PCDAAS is currently the most used value and the one considered by the FAO to be an optimal system for the classification of proteins.
This value is expressed in a range from 0 to 1, where 1 is the maximum. Whey proteins have a very high biological value of 104 and a PCDAAS of 1 and, therefore, maximum.

Are digested very quickly causing a rapid increase of amino acids in the bloodstream; a very important factor regarding protein synthesis. In addition, contain a greater amount of leucine than both casein and soy proteins and this turns out to be another factor capable of significantly stimulating protein synthesis.

The use of whey protein is also able to support "quality" weight loss.
In fact, it has been observed that, when calorie restriction occurs in conjunction with whey protein supplementation, weight loss takes place by retaining a higher amount of lean mass: more fat is lost than muscle mass (Devries MC, Phillips SM; 2015 ).


In the light of what we have observed, its clear that the use of whey proteins in nutrition is a valid support for maintaining a strong and healthy body not only for athletes but also for adults and the elderly. However, as in any area, rules must be followed in order to benefit from the advantages offered by adopting certain habits.
The consumption of whey proteins must therefore be contextualized in a balanced diet based on the acceptable ranges for the consumption of macronutrients, where the consumption of proteins ranges from 10 to 35% of the total daily calories, considering a higher intake at 20% as high.
The recommended amount for protein consumption for healthy adult subjects is 0.8 g / kg body weight and increases from 1 to 1.6 g / kg body weight for individuals engaging in moderate or high intensity activity.
Consumption of total protein in chronic mode of more than 2 g / kg body weight could cause problems in the digestive system and kidneys (Wu G. 2016).
The best attitude is to become aware of the advantages of consuming this type of protein but to refer to professionals in the field of nutrition to establish the quotas and methods of intake.


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Bo Y, Liu C, Ji Z, Yang R, An Q, Zhang X, You J, Duan D, Sun Y, Zhu Y, Cui H, Lu Q. A high whey protein, vitamin D and E supplement preserves muscle mass, strength, and quality of life in sarcopenic older adults: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2019 Feb;38(1):159-164. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.12.020. Epub 2018 Jan 9. PMID: 29395372.

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Dolan E, Sale C. Protein and bone health across the lifespan. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019 Feb;78(1):45-55. doi: 10.1017/S0029665118001180. Epub 2018 Aug 10. PMID: 30095063.

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