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Effects of whey protein supplements on metabolism: evidence from human intervention studies

Graf, Sonjaa; Egert, Saraha; Heer, Martinab

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: November 2011 - Volume 14 - Issue 6 - p 569–580
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834b89da
Functional foods: Edited by Nathalie M. Delzenne and Peter Stehle

Purpose of review Epidemiological studies indicate that the consumption of milk and dairy products is inversely associated with a lower risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases. In particular, whey protein seems to induce these effects because of bioactive compounds such as lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, glutamine and lactalbumin. In addition, it is an excellent source of branch chained amino acids. This review summarizes recent findings on the effects of whey protein on metabolic disorders and the musculoskeletal system.

Recent findings We identified 25 recently published intervention trials examining chronic and/or acute effects of whey protein supplementation on lipid and glucose metabolism, blood pressure, vascular function and on the musculoskeletal system. Whey protein appears to have a blood glucose and/or insulin lowering effect partly mediated by incretins. In addition, whey protein may increase muscle protein synthesis. In contrast there are no clear-cut effects shown on blood lipids and lipoproteins, blood pressure and vascular function. For bone metabolism the data are scarce.

Summary In summary, whey protein may affect glucose metabolism and muscle protein synthesis. However, the evidence for a clinical efficacy is not strong enough to make final recommendations with respect to a specific dose and the duration of supplementation.

aDepartment of Nutrition and Food Science, Nutritional Physiology, University of Bonn, Bonn

bProfil Institute for Metabolic Research GmbH, Neuss, Germany

Correspondance to Martina Heer, Profil Institute for Metabolic Research GmbH, Hellersbergstr. 9, 41460 Neuss, GermanyTel: +49 2131 4018 253; fax: +49 2131 4018 553; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.