Whey Protein differences

12 02 2010

This is a good article on Whey Protein.

Near the bottom is a comparison of the types of Whey Protein.  If you want the fast and easy, skip to the bottom. (Whey Isolate from XCAP is in the best category)

Due to longevity, I am only posting a portion of the article by Ivan Nikolov

Whey is a byproduct of cheese making. It is the liquid part that is separated from the curd. In its raw form, other than protein, whey contains fat, cholesterol, lactose. Before it reaches our shaker bottles, the fat and lactose (milk sugar) in whey have to be filtered out. More about this in a little while.

Raw whey is rich in protein substances, called native micro fractions. These include alpha lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, glycomacropeptide, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase.

When due to the type of processing used, some of these native micro fractions are destroyed or lost, we say that the whey protein is denatured.

Why are these native micro peptides important?

Some of these proteins are sources of essential amino acids, as well as large amounts of branched-chain amino acids – BCAA’s (BCAA’s are the only amino acids that don’t undergo conversion in the liver, and are immediately available to your muscle cells).

Others have different functions in the body, such as immune system support and modulation, anti-oxidative and cell protecting properties, antibacterial, anti microbial functions, and more.

Let’s look more closely at a few of them.

Alpha lactalbumin, also known as alpha-protein for example is the most abundant protein in mother’s milk.

Serum albumin is a precursor to glutathione – a major antioxidant and detoxifying agent.

Immunoglobulins, also called antibodies, have the function of finding and destroying viruses and bacteria, which makes them primary immune system supporting factors.

Now you can clearly see why it’s important for whey protein to retain its protein micro fractions during the manufacturing process.

What are the different types of whey proteins, available on the market?

Whey Proteins can be divided in three major categories:

concentrates (WPC)


isolates (WPI)

Further, isolates can be sub-divided into ion-exchange isolates and low temperature micro filtered (ultra filtered) isolates.

Whey concentrate (WPC)

Whey concentrate is the lowest grade whey protein. Its actual protein content can range between 35 and 85%. The most common whey concentrate, used in sports nutrition formulations is WPC 80%.

Whey concentrate contains high lactose and fat levels. It also has high cholesterol content. Most commonly WPC is derived using high temperatures, which denature it (destroy its native micro fractions).

The high temperatures, used in the process, also oxidize large part of the present cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the type of cholesterol that can cause hardening of arteries and cardio-vascular problems.

Many of the sports nutrition protein blends are mainly comprised of cheap, denatured whey protein concentrate of low biological value.

Hydrolyzed whey

Hydrolyzed whey is a protein, which has been partially pre-digested. The longer protein structures in it are broken down to shorter ones. The main property of this type of whey is its low allergenicity.

There are two things you should know about hydrolyzed whey.

First, when whey protein is treated enzymatically, its native proteins are partially or fully lost. In other words hydrolyzed whey can be denatured to a large degree, depending on the extend of pre-digestion.

Second, during pre-digestion, its long chain protein structures are broken down and are brought to forms that are very close to the actual amino acids the body can use for repair and tissue building.

There are a couple of amino acids that are naturally present in very large quantities in whey. These are glutamic acid and aspartic acid.

Glutamic acid, or glutamate is a neurotransmitter. It is know as excitotoxin and it serves to enhance one of the five main tastes – umami (savory). Glutamate in large quantities overstimulates certain parts of the brain, which can lead to brain damage.

By the way, I’m sure you’ve heard of MSG – a common taste enhancer and food additive. Well MSG stands for mono-sodium glutamate, a salt of the amino acid glutamate. Now you know when you see MSG or glutamate what the possible consequences could be.

You may think now “Since glutamic acid is the amino acid, which is present in high quantities in whey, what makes hydrolyzed whey worse than concentrate or isolate?”

Well, it’s one thing when the body itself has to break down the protein into amino acids – it metabolizes as much of the protein it needs. But, it’s a different thing when you ingest pre-digested protein and this way you force the body to uptake all of the proteins in a form already available for use.

Whey isolate (WPI) – ion-exchange, microfiltration

Ion-exchange whey isolate

This protein has a high protein content – 90% and more. It has very low (or none at all) amounts of lactose, fat and cholesterol. It sounds good on first reading, but it actually isn’t. Let’s see why.

The process of deriving ion-exchange whey includes separating the protein from the rest of the substances in raw whey using electrical charge. This is done using hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.

The process involves great changes in the pH levels, which destroy most of the important native to whey protein fractions like alpha lactalbumin, glycomacropeptides, immunoglobulins, and lactoferrin.

Beta-lactoglobulin globulin, which is know to cause allergies, can sustain the pH changes, and can become the most predominant native protein structure in ion-exchange whey.

Microfiltered whey isolate

Microfiltered whey isolate is the most undenatured form of whey. Its native protein structures are kept intact to a large degree. It has 90% and higher protein content. It is virtually lactose, fat and cholesterol free.

During the process of microfiltration the undesired particles in whey (fat, lactose) are separated from the protein using ceramic microfilters in a low temperature environment.

After filtration the whey protein is spray-dried again using low temperatures.

Micro- (and ultra-) filtered whey isolate is the protein with the highest biological value of all proteins. Its characteristics are:

It stimulates the production of glutathione

It strengthens the immune system

It has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties

It promotes muscle growth

To recap

Whey protein concentrate (WPC):

Is the cheapest whey protein

Is denatured – the beneficial protein structures are destroyed

Contains higher amounts of cholesterol, oxidized to a large degree

Hydrolyzed whey protein:

Has hypoallergenic properties

Is partially predigested – the degrees of predigestion vary

Its amino acids are more readily available; one of them is known to have excitotoxic properties (glutamate)

May play a role in excitotoxin-induced brain damage

Ion-exchange whey protein isolate:

Has low if any amounts of lactose, fats and cholesterol

Many of the native whey protein structures are destroyed

It is denatured to a large degree

Beta-lactoglobulin globulin is present in higher quantities, which may lead to allergies

Best Choice ********* Microfiltered whey protein isolate:          (XCAP’s Whey Isolate is in this category)

Has low if any amounts of lactose, fats and cholesterol

Retains its native proteins intact

Is twice as expensive as WPC and ion-exchange protein

Promotes muscle repair and growth

Strengthens the immune function

Has detoxifying and antioxidant properties




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