Whey protein, the immune system and health; Research review

Whey protein, the immune system and health; Research review

Whey protein is a genuine superfood; it helps to boost the immune system, heal IBS, reduce blood pressure, restore weight, counter cachexia, boost energy, inhibit infections and prevent osteoporosis. And maybe a few more!!

Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production by natural acid or enzymes. Importantly, it is non-hormonal. There can be over 200 proteins in whey but the most important include α-lactalbumin, β-lactoglobulin, serum albumin, lactoferrin and immunoglobulins.

Amino acids and bioactive peptides

Whey protein contains substantial amounts of essential amino acids that you need for health; and it contains substantial amounts of bioactive peptides. Minerals are also well represented. It usually comes as a powder and can be blended with fruit or green juices. It is typically used by athletes and people with nutritional deficiencies. There are two types of whey protein, sweet or acid, depending upon how it is made.

Bioactive peptides play many important roles in health. Research shows whey peptides play roles including anti-hypertensive, anti-oxidative, immunomodulant, anti-mutagenic, anti-microbial, opioid, anti-thrombotic, anti-obesity, and mineral-binding agents (1). They also regulate the way the body processes iron.

These peptides have also been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS in mice (2). In fact they have been shown to help in a number of ‘auto-immune’ diseases including Colitis, Crohn’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis and lupus because the peptides stimulate certain gut bacteria.

Not surprisingly, whey peptides have many benefits; for example, whey peptides:

  • Reduce Blood pressure (3)
  • Reduce cardiovascular risk (4)
  • Help prevent osteoporosis (5)
  • Boost the immune system (6)
  • Inhibit infections (7)
  • Have anti-cancer activity (8)

No hormonal activity

Importantly, top quality whey protein contains no hormonal ingredients, no GMO, no added sugars or sweeteners and no artificial compounds. The Mayo clinic reports that giving young children whey protein rather than standard infant formula milk, reduces allergies and eczema. Whey protein is also helpful for people recovering from wounds, operations and burns.

Whey protein and cancer

Whilst replacing missing peptides is being studied in Israel, Germany and elsewhere as an anti-cancer therapy, and clearly the immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and peptides have important immune boosting benefits, the research is inconclusive.

Whey protein subfractions in vitro and in vivo have been shown to have effects against cancer, particularly, alpha-lactalbumin, human α-lactalbumin and lactoferrin, which  are whey protein subfractions with the potential to hinder tumour pathways. Such effects are principally supported by studies performed in vitro and/or in vivo using high doses of individual compounds. However, in clinical practice, normal whey protein consumption doesn’t really produce strong anti-cancer effects (9).

Whey protein can also donate cysteine to stimulate GSH glutathione production, and thus help detoxify the cellular microenvironment..

Lactoferrin and health

Lactoferrin is a multi-functional, iron-binding glycoprotein. It seems to help generate and regulate the bone marrow in the infant and boost the whole innate immune defence. When macrophages were cultured with lactoferrin, they produced high levels of Tumour Necrosis Factor (10).

Lactoferrin is a Macrophage Activating Factor (MAF). Macrophages are lymphokines controlling antigens on the surface of macrophages, resulting in cells that can attack and kill cancer tumours. (You may have heard of GcMAF – the Gc refers to the stimulation by a vitamin D binding protein).

Lactoferrin is used as ‘medicine’ – it is used for treating stomach and intestinal ulcers. It is used as an antioxidant, as an immune stimulant and an anti-ageing supplement.

It is known to stimulate levels of good bacteria in the gut, reduce levels of the bad, and prevent constipation and diarrhoea. Lactoferrin stimulates an important first line defence against pathogens, yeasts and even viruses.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and a founder of  CANCERactive added, “We use Whey protein where patients have lost weight and/or have cachexia, or are weak, and/or need a boost. Anybody can use it, even Er+ve breast, prostate, ovarian and womb cancer patients, because it is hormonally inert. It is very useful and can also boost the immune system, increase GSH and help fight cancer. It’s also good for people on immunotherapy.”

Go to: Missing peptides normalise cancer cells


"Looking for a top quality, organic, non-hormonal Whey Protein? See what OUR NATURAL SELECTION has chosen for you, CLICK HERE"



  1. Mahmoud E. Ahmed, Ahmed M. Hamdy and Ahmed R. A. Hammam. 2020. Therapeutic Benefits and Applications of Whey Protein. Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci. 9(07): 337-345. doi: https://doi.org/10.20546/ijcmas.2020.907.036

  2. Jayatilake, S., K. Arai, N. Kumada, Y. Ishida, I. Tanaka, S. Iwatsuki, T. Ohwada, M. Ohnishi, Y. Tokuji, and M. Kinoshita. 2014. The effect of oral intake of low- temperature-processed whey protein concentrate on colitis and gene expression profiles in mice. Foods 3:351–368

  3. Fekete, Á.A., C. Giromini, Y. Chatzidiakou, D.I. Givens, and J.A. Lovegrove. 2018. Whey protein lowers systolic blood pressure and Ca-caseinate reduces serum TAG after a high-fat meal in mildly hypertensive adults. Sci. Rep. 8:5026. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23333-2

  4. Pal, S., J. McKay, M. Jane, and S. Ho. 2019; Dairy Whey Proteins and Obesity. 

  5. Mangano, K.M., Y. Bao, and C. Zhao. 2019. Nutritional Properties of Whey Proteins. Wiley Online Books.

  6. Mann, B., S. Athira, R. Sharma, R. Kumar, and P. Sarkar. 2019. Chapter 14 - Bioactive Peptides from Whey Proteins. H.C. Deeth and N.B.T.-W.P. Bansal, ed. Academic Press.

  7. Drago-Serrano, M., R. Campos-Rodríguez, J. Carrero, and M. de la Garza. 2017.Lactoferrin: Balancing Ups and Downs of Inflammation Due to Microbial Infections. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 18:501.doi:10.3390/ijms18030501

  8. Hammam, A.R.A., A.A. Tammam, Y.M.A. Elderwy, and A.I. Hassan. 2017. Functional Peptides in Milk Whey : An Overview. Assiut J. Agric. Sci. 48:77–91. doi:10.21608/ajas.2017.19875.

  9. Whey protein in cancer therapy: A narrative review; Filipe J Teixeira, Heitor O Santos, Scott L Howell, Gustavo D Pimentel. Pharmacol Res, 2019 Jun;144:245-256.  doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2019.04.019. 

  10.  The amazing power of Colostrum and Lactoferrin - https://chriswoollamshealthwatch.com/your-illness/gut-health/the-amazing-power-of-colostrum-and-lactoferrin/ 



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