Whey, a component of milk, is co-product of cheese-making and casein manufacture in the dairy industry. Nowadays, whey is recognized as a value-added ingredient in many food products. Whey and whey components are viewed as value-added ingredients in infant formulas, sports nutrition foods and beverages, and other food products. Recognition of whey as a source of diverse biologically active compounds with unique physiological and functional attributes provides opportunities for the food industry to develop functional foods or foods that have potential health benefits. Whey-derived bioactive components have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and enhance immune defense and bone health, and improve antioxidative activity, and help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease, and enhance the performance of physically active individuals, among other benefits. The present review is an attempt to cover scientific aspects of whey proteins’ health benefits and critique some of the important research findings associated with them to date.
Antimicrobial and Antiviral Activities
Milk proteins contain many biologically active proteins. Protein and peptides, in milk, specifically whey, show promise as antibacterial and antiviral modifiers. Whey contains several components which may protect against toxins, bacteria, and viruses.
Immune Modulating Activity
Whey products and its components are shown to participate in host immunity. Whey contains bioactive components that may offer protection against infections and viruses, enhance immunity, protect against some cancers.
Whey proteins potentially improve cardiovascular health. Milk peptides help lower high blood pressure individuals. These amino acids provide an energy source during endurance exercise which allows athletes to train more intensively for longer periods of time.
Other Health Benefits
An imbalance in brain serotonin levels is a possible factor manifesting the negative effects of chronic stress, fatigue, and delirium. α-LA, a whey protein in cow’s milk with a high content of tryptophan (a precursor of serotonin) improves cognitive performance (i.e. memory scanning) in stress-vulnerable individuals. α-LA rich whey protein increases serotonin activity.
Cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy often have difficulty in meeting their daily nutritional requirements due to nausea and lack of appetite. Whey protein is an excellent protein choice for cancer patients as it is very easy to digest and very gentle to the system.
Whey and whey components offer several benefits for individuals with physically active lifestyles according to a review. Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), containing the highest known levels of any natural food source. BCAAs are important for athletes since unlike the other essential amino acids, they are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and these are the first ones used during periods of exercise and resistance training. Whey protein provides the body with BCAAs to replenish decreased levels and start repairing and rebuilding lean muscle tissue.
Studies show that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can add years to your life and help prevent weight related complications, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Diet plays a key role in any weight management program and adding whey protein often helps make a positive difference. Whey protein is a good choice for diabetics who need to carefully manage food intake. It has potential as an added component in dietary plans and in functional foods aimed at control of appetite and body weight and in the management of the metabolic consequences of excess body fat. It has potential as physiologically functional food component for persons with obesity and its co-morbidities.
Milk contains several components effective for is often the preferred choice for high protein products recommended by physicians following surgery or burn therapy. Whey protein contains many of the same components found in human breast milk and for this reason, it is a key ingredient in a wide variety of infant formulas, including those for premature infants. In addition, whey protein is an excellent protein choice for the expectant mother who needs increased amounts of protein. Whey protein concentrate protects gastric mucosa from ethanol damage. The protective properties are due to sulfhydyl compounds, stimulators of glutathione synthesis. Whey protein is digested quickly and provides a quick rise in plasma amino acids.
The health benefits of whey protein and whey proteins have been a subject of growing commercial interest in the context of health-promoting functional foods. Whey components, particulary the proteins and peptides, will incresingly be preferred as ingredients for functional foods and nutraceuticals as active medical agents. They built upon the strong consumer trends for health and wellbeing, and continuing discovery and substantiation of the biological functionalty of whey constituents. As a result, we are likely see major developments by the food and healthcare sectors in the widespread application of whey proteins and their associated peptides as functional food ingredients, nutraceuticals, and dietary supplements.
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Health Benefits of Whey Protein: A Review
Article (PDF Available) · March 2012 with 12,472 Reads DOI: 10.17265/2159-5828/2012.03.001