Whey protein is a popular diet supplement today but not many are aware of the whey protein dangers. Read on to find out what these negative effects are to help you better understand how this supplement works.
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The Whey Protein Dangers You Should Know About
What Is Whey Protein?
With all the hype around whey protein powders, you may have asked yourself, “Is whey protein really safe?”
To answer that question, we need to first understand what whey protein is and where it comes from.
Whey protein is a by-product of cheese making. The globular protein is a leftover and becomes a waste product for the cheese industry.
Rather than dump the leftovers, the industry has invented a way to market and sell it. But, excessive consumption of whey protein has been linked to several unwanted health conditions most doctors and common people are completely unaware of.
There are three types of whey protein: isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate.
Let’s break up these three types of whey protein and find out how they affect the body.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate typically does not have carbs and is quicker to digest compared to whey protein concentrate.
Isolate contains 90% protein or higher with way less lactose than whey protein concentrate. Then again, whey isolate also lacks way fewer nutrients.
Whey Protein Concentrate
On the other hand, whey protein concentrate is more concentrated and has more nutrients than the other two types, primarily due to the processing method.
It tastes better than the other two as well because it contains more lactose since it’s made from cow’s milk. It contains 70%-80% protein content.
Whey Protein Hydrolysates
The process of whey protein hydrolysates breaks down the building blocks of protein so the body can easily absorb it. It can taste bitter at times because of how it is processed.
It also causes up to a 43% spike in insulin compared to isolates.
Whey protein drinks have different amounts of protein particles and contain different amounts of protein by volume.
All of them have been shown to exhibit negative health effects which may be considered as whey protein dangers.
How Does Whey Protein Work?
When taken, whey protein still functions the same way as the other types of protein in the body. The only difference is the body absorbs whey protein quicker than any other types of protein.
This means the body can use it to help build muscle mass and improve muscle growth faster, which is helpful for physically active people. Bodybuilders usually drink whey protein for muscle mass, growth, and to improve their overall performance in the gym since it contains amino acids and protein.
It also promotes the release of anabolic hormones like insulin. These types of hormones help stimulate the growth of muscles.
For that reason, many people believe adding whey protein into their daily diet helps them bulk up faster.
What about those people who can’t digest lactose? Or those on a plant-based diet?
If taking protein-rich dietary supplements benefits the body, then how can whey protein powders be dangerous to your body? Let’s talk about the dangers this protein shake poses to your health.
Whey Protein Dangers to Your Health
1. Poses a Potential Threat to the Immune System for Those with Dairy Allergy
Whey protein powder can have a dangerous effect on the immune system for those who have even a mild allergy to milk protein. Many people, unknowingly, have a mild dairy allergy and when whey protein enters the bloodstream, the immune system attacks it just like it attacks a pathogen.
Pathogen Definition: A biological agent that can cause illnesses and diseases to its host.
The result is a variety of different symptoms. If the affected system is the respiratory system, runny nose and/or mucus in the lungs are two of the many symptoms that may occur.
If the allergic reaction in the body occurs in the skin, rashes or puffy skin may appear.
2. May Create Digestive Problems to Those Who Are Lactose Intolerant
For those who have even a mild case of lactose intolerance, which is at least 60% of the population, digestive problems are another dark side.
Whey protein concentrate is what remains when liquid whey is dried. It usually contains more than 50% lactose.
For the majority of the human race, the enzyme lactase, which digests the sugar present in cow’s milk, stops being produced between the ages of two and five years old.
When the undigested sugars reach the intestine, they undergo bacterial fermentation, producing gas that can cause bloating, cramping, flatulence, nausea, and even diarrhea in some individuals. Other possible symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, and headaches.
Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerance people have. Though not as serious as an allergic attack, symptoms can become uncomfortable enough to hinder daily activities.
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3. Whey Protein May Weaken Bones
Weakened bones are also one of the whey protein dangers that can occur when consumed every day for extended periods of time without balancing out the acidity with alkaline food.
The acidity of whey protein in the bloodstream can cause alkaline minerals, like calcium and magnesium, to be leached from your bones and used to buffer the pH of your bloodstream.
In the long run, weakened bones may result in serious orthopedic injuries. It may also affect people in their old age.
4. May Add Calories to Your Diet
When you are on a weight loss diet and are aiming to achieve a healthy weight, it is important to monitor foods and beverages you include in your diet. This includes checking how much protein supplement you should take.
One of the whey protein dangers fitness enthusiasts should avoid is taking additional calories. Whey protein contains calories that can cause you to go beyond your required daily caloric intake if you add this supplementation to your high-protein diet.
This can lead to unintended weight gain as you drink it over time. It should be fine if you substitute it for your protein-dense foods, though.
Whey protein brands also contain varying levels of sugar and fat, both of which add more calories to your meals. People who don’t check the nutritional contents of their protein drinks may not be able to see these hidden ingredients.
This is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes as the sugar content may cause their blood sugar to rise.
5. May Contain Contaminants
Another danger of whey protein is there is no approval process under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the manufacturer sells them. This means there might be contaminants and impurities included in the formula that may not be good for your health.
You may want to purchase whey protein dietary supplements from reputable companies, which can lower the risk of exposure to these contaminants, but there is still a chance you'll be exposed to these dangerous substances.
A 2010 Consumer Reports study tested 15 popular whey protein powders and found shocking heavy metal substances in them. Most of the drinks tested contained low to moderate levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and even arsenic, which is a known poison.
Exposure to low levels of toxic substances may not be too much of a health issue but protein powders tend to be consumed one to three times a day, maybe more for those who work out extensively. This means they consume more heavy metals the more they take whey.
Plant-Based Protein Powder Alternatives
To avoid whey protein dangers, it’s better to turn to organic protein sources. If you want to consume the safest protein powder, then look into products containing natural ingredients like pea protein powder.
Plant-based powders do not contain lactose but still offer quality protein as well as other nutrients you need. They also have fewer calories than animal-based protein powders out in the market right now.
Meal replacements should also be gluten-free but full of healthy fats, fiber, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals your body needs.
At Sunwarrior, we strive to offer quality protein powders that aren’t derived from animals. Our clean plant-based protein powders are made from raw brown rice and other natural nutrients to offer the proper protein and amino profiles you need.
Sunwarrior protein is hypoallergenic, easy to digest, has a low glycemic index, and is alkaline-forming. They stack up against the competition but won’t leave you with the negative side effects of whey protein.
Discover the benefits of Sunwarrior’s no whey challenge in this video from Sunwarrior:
Now you have an idea what the whey protein dangers are, you can be more cautious in choosing the healthiest protein powder on the market. Go for one that is grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free to make sure you don’t trigger any allergies you may have.
Sunwarrior leads the way in quality protein products. Why not invest in your health and spend a few dollars more to get a quality product instead of a by-product.
What other whey protein dangers can you add to the list above? Share them in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 7, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Craig B Sommers CN, NDLearn more about Dr. Craig Sommers