Whey Protein Side Effects
Whey protein is a dairy product and a by-product of the cheese making process. It’s very nutritious and an excellent source of high quality protein. Despite the nutritional value and the many benefits of whey protein, a lot of people are concerned about possible whey protein side effects.
I can clearly tell you that some of the side effects that are commonly
discussed on the internet are completely bogus. However, there are a
couple of legitimate concerns about whey protein side effects.
Bogus Whey Protein Side Effects
Many websites that discuss whey protein side effects repeat the same old cookie-cutter nonsense about possible kidney stones or liver damage. They always make a brief mention that there is no proof of these side effects, but they still list them as possible side effects. This is absolute nonsense!
Whey protein is just food – that's all! It fuels your body and your body handles it just like any other food that you eat.
The faulty reasoning behind these warnings is this – they say that digesting a lot of protein makes your blood acidic which causes your body to pull calcium out of your bones which leads to further problems.
Basic physiology and a basic understanding of our digestive system debunks this myth. Everything in your stomach is highly acidic. Everything in your small intestine is highly alkaline. It does not matter if you eat a jalapeño or a piece of toast. Both are processed in an acid bath in the stomach and then an alkaline bath in the small intestine.
Here is the bottom line on this whey protein side effect myth – what you eat does not change the Ph level of your blood. Our bodies have a very intricate and overlapping control mechanism to keep our blood Ph in a very narrow range. What you eat does not translate into a different blood Ph.
The Real Whey Protein Side Effects
There are a couple of legitimate whey protein side effects that are worth discussing. The first is Lactose Intolerance. When a person is lactose intolerant, what they actually suffer from is the inability to digest lactose which is a sugar found in milk.
Whey protein does contain some lactose but much less than you will find in milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. Does this mean that if you are lactose intolerant that you can not enjoy the many benefits of whey protein? No!
However, you do need to understand a little about the different kinds of whey protein. You need to know the difference between whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate has between 5% - 6% lactose while whey protein isolate has less than 1% lactose.
So, the bottom line if you are lactose intolerant, use whey protein isolate.
The isolate is a far superior product in several way as I will describe in a moment. If the isolate still gives you some problems, there are digestive enzyme products like Lactaid that should completely solve this problem.
(More side effects to follow – but if you want the real bottom line, scroll down to the part about un-denatured protein.)
What is Ketosis?
The next possible whey protein side effect is ketosis. This is a condition where the body is burning fat as it’s primary fuel. Sounds like a good idea if you are trying to lose weight. However, it’s hard on your kidneys over a long period of time.
The only time your body is in a state of ketosis is if you severely restrict your carbohydrate intake. This is common on a low-carb diet. In fact, it’s the goal of a low-carb diet. That’s how you burn off the fat.
So, you can’t actually call ketosis a whey protein side effect because it’s actually a restricted carb side effect. It’s just that some people use whey protein while on a low carb diet.
How About Osteoporosis?
There have been some claims that too much protein can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Some early studies seemed to suggest that this was true. So, there is some validity to this concern.
However, more recent studies have strongly indicated that it is a lack of magnesium and potassium in the diet as opposed to higher levels of protein that increased the risks of osteoporosis. The earlier studies were faulty in their design. If someone suggests that osteoporosis is a whey protein side effect, they are referring to old and outdated studies.
Learn About Whey Protein Supplements
When selling whey protein powders, some companies sell blends of concentrate and isolate. Most are very honest and tell you that it’s a blend. However, some companies are unscrupulous and very deceptive.
It is my humble opinion that's the only reason to blend concentrate and isolate is to reduce costs, increase profits and possible to deceive you. Be sure that you are buying a product that is all isolate and not a product that is mostly concentrate with a little isolate thrown in so that they can list it on the label.
Here’s how to be sure. Divide the number of grams of protein per serving by the number of grams in a serving. If the result is less that 0.90 (90%), then you are not getting 100% isolate.
For example, if 1 scoop = 30g per serving and it contains 25g of protein per serving, the math would be 25 divided by 30 = 0.83. Since the result is less than 0.90 (90%), this is not an isolate. Remember, anything with less than 90% protein is not an isolate – despite whatever trickery is listed on the label.
There is one exception to the above calculations. If the whey protein isolate is flavored, the flavoring can reduce the percentage to slightly below 90%. So, 86% to 90% protein is probably OK.
So, is whey protein concentrate bad? No, it’s a great product. But if you are lactose intolerant, you want an isolate because it has less lactose.
The bottom line is that you need to be an informed consumer and know what you are getting. Then, you can make a smart decision based upon what you need.
The Only Major Whey Protein Issue
There is one major whey protein issue that you need to know about. It’s more like the possibility of missing out on some of the major benefits of whey protein supplements.
To fully understand the issue, you have to know that one of the amino acids in whey protein powder is cystine which is used by our bodies to make glutathione. Without going into all the major benefits of glutathione, let’s just say that it’s essential to good health. Your body uses cystine in every single cell to produce glutathione.
Glutathione is the mother of all antioxidants. Some have called it the “master antioxidant”. It supports energy production at the cellular level. Bottom line - if you are over 20 years old, you are short on glutathione!
I’m trying to make this brief but don’t miss the point of how essential glutathione is to your health and that cystine is required to manufacture intracellular glutathione.
Now here is the point – not just any cystine will do the job. You must have un-denatured cystine.
Un-denatured means that the cystine has not been chemically changed while processing the protein. For example, when milk or milk products are pasteurized, the protein is denatured. That means that much of the whey protein that is being sold will not provide un-denatured protein which includes un-denatured cystine.
The good news is that the whey protein and body building industries caught onto this several years ago and you can buy whey protein powders that are un-denatured. However, in order to find a good un-denatured whey protein, you need to know the language used in the industry.
If a product is advertised as “cold filtered”, it’s un-denatured. If it’s advertised as “cross-flow, micro-filtration” processed, it’s probably un-denatured. If the label says anything about “ion exchange”, it's probably not un-denatured.
Confused? Well, it’s easy to get confused with all of the marketing hype. To help you find a good quality product, I’ve selected a few and they are shown up above in the column on the right. If you choose any of these, you can be sure of getting a high quality un-denatured whey protein powder.
Also, some whey protein products are sweetened with aspartame. That
stuff is a neuro-toxin. If you are interested maintaining your health, avoid aspartame. Most of the products that I recommend are sweetened with
stevia which is completely natural and has zero calories.
Whey Protein Side Effects – Drug Interactions
While these are not actually whey protein side effects, there are some drug interactions that you should know about. This information is courtesy of WebMD at the following link: www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements
Levodopa – whey protein can reduce how much Levodopa is absorbed.
Fosamax - whey protein can reduce how much Fosamax is absorbed.
Quinolone – whey protein can reduce how much Quinolone is absorbed.
Tetracycline – the calcium in whey protein can reduce how much tetracycline is absorbed.
Last But Not Least
Many people find that protein supplements can cause some stomach discomfort. I have 2 theories on this. First, they could be lactose intolerant and just not realize that they need some help digesting lactose.
The other theory has to do with lectins. This is a subject that is beyond the scope of this article and the science concerning lectins is developing rapidly. You can read about lectins here: www.krispin.com/lectin.html
Whatever the cause, the best solution to either of these potential issues is to use an un-denatured whey protein isolate. This is the highest quality whey protein available.
The cost is slightly higher but I believe that it’s well worth the extra cost for the biological availability of un-denatured whey protein isolate.
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