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Whey protein is a derived by-product from cheese manufacturing and has many health benefits due to its high-level content of bioactive peptides, such as β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, serum albumin, immunoglobulin, and lactoferrin. These proteins have antioxidant characteristics that reduce hypertension, cancer, hyperlipidemia, and virus contagious. In addition, whey protein is utilized to lessen the inflammatory bowel disease. In this review, we highlighted the characteristics, applications, functional properties of whey proteins.
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
Review Article
Therapeutic Benefits and Applications of Whey Protein
Mahmoud E. Ahmed1, Ahmed M. Hamdy1* and Ahmed R. A. Hammam1,2
1Dairy Science Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Assiut University, Assiut, Egypt
2Dairy and Food Science Department, South Dakota State University,
Brookings 57007, SD, USA
*Corresponding author
Whey is a by-product which is produced
during cheese making by coagulating the milk
by acid or enzymes. The typical composition
of bovine milk (Table 1) has approximately
3.5% protein (about 80% of the protein
content is casein, while 20% is whey
Whey proteins have a high nutritional value,
and its composition varies based on the
coagulation method (acid or enzymes).
However, the composition of the final product
is similar which has > 90% water (Table 2).
Using advanced technology, such as
membrane filtration led to the manufacturing
of different whey products (Yalcin, 2006;
Guo and Wang, 2019a) (Table 3).
Whey is a good source of bioactive peptides,
which are produced from whey by enzymatic
hydrolysis during fermentation and
gastrointestinal digestion. These bioactive
peptides are utilized widely to improve
human health and have inevitable roles, such
as anti-hypertensive, anti-oxidative,
immunomodulant, anti-mutagenic, anti-
International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences
ISSN: 2319-7706 Volume 9 Number 7 (2020)
Journal homepage:
Whey protein is a derived by-product from cheese manufacturing and has
many health benefits due to its high-level content of bioactive peptides,
such as β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, serum albumin, immunoglobulin,
and lactoferrin. These proteins have antioxidant characteristics that reduce
hypertension, cancer, hyperlipidemia, and virus contagious. In addition,
whey protein is utilized to lessen the inflammatory bowel disease. In this
review, we highlighted the characteristics, applications, functional
properties of whey proteins.
Ke ywo rds
Whey protein,
therapeutic benefits;
sweet whey, acid
05 June 2020
Available Online:
10 July 2020
Article Info
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
microbial, opioid, anti-thrombotic, anti-
obesity, and mineral-binding agents. It has
been reported that many bioactive peptides
help against inflammatory bowel disease in
mice (Jayatilake et al., 2014).
Recently, whey proteins have been used in
many foods, including ice cream, bread, and
infant formula; moreover, whey proteins can
replace fat in many products (Hammam and
Ahmed, 2019). Furthermore, these dairy
products are also associated with lower risks
of hypertension, coagulopathy, stroke, and
cancer insurgences (Sultan et al., 2018).
Additionally, whey proteins have a significant
role in muscle-structure complement (Lollo et
al., 2011; Josse and Phillips, 2013). Whey
proteins also have other applications, such as
films and coatings (Hammam, 2019a) that are
widely used to enhance the texture and quality
of several foods. This work aims to review
and highlight whey protein products and
functional properties. Furthermore, the health
benefits and applications of whey proteins are
also discussed in this review.
Types of whey
Milk consists of fat globules and casein
micelles that dispersed in the whey solution
(Figure 1). The typical composition of whey
compared to whole milk is shown in Table 1.
Whey is a yellowish or greenish by-product
that derived from coagulating the milk by
using rennet or acid. As a result, the whey is
defined as sweet or acid based on the
coagulation method. The composition of
sweet whey and acid whey is quietly similar
(Table 2) except for lactose, calcium, and pH.
In the acid whey case, the pH is decreased
during fermentation until the isoelectric point
(pH=4.6), and this, in turn, converts the
calcium in calcium casein phosphate complex
from insoluble to soluble, which resulted in
higher calcium content in the acid whey.
Lactose is a soluble component and represents
> 69% of the total solids, while minerals
represent 12-15% and whey protein or serum
protein 8-10% of the total solids.
Manufacturing and applications of whey
protein products
Whey protein can be utilized to produce many
products that have many applications (Figure
2). As mentioned, there are two types of
permeate, namely sweet whey and acid whey.
Acid whey is a by-product which is more
difficult to utilize and produced from the
coagulation of milk by using acid or starter
cultures without the use of rennet. On the
other hand, sweet whey has advantages as
compared to acid whey, since sweet whey
(milk-derived whey protein) can be utilized in
many applications, particularly making whey
protein isolate (WPI).
Nowadays, membrane technology (Figure 3)
is utilized widely in the dairy industry to
fractionate dairy ingredients, which led to
several whey protein products (Table 3).
When microfiltration (MF) applied to milk;
casein and permeate are fractionated. The MF
permeate could be further concentrated by
using ultrafiltration (UF) to produce whey
protein concentrate (WPC) or whey protein
(WP) and permeate as a by-product. The UF
permeate could be used to produce
fermentation products, or it could be further
nanofiltered (NF) to fractionate lactose. The
NF by-product could be filtered again by
using reverse osmosis (RO) to separate the
minerals from the water. These membranes
could be used individually or combined based
on the required permeate product and its
application (Table 4).
Chemistry of whey proteins
Milk is utilized as feeding for young animals
and humans due to the nutritional value of
whey protein (Miller et al., 2002).
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
Bovine milk contains approximately 3%
protein (Fox and McSweeney, 1998), which
divided into 80% casein (CN) and 20% whey
proteins (Pihlanto and Korhonen, 2003).
Whey protein has different fractions,
including -lactoglobulin (-LG) and -
lactalbumin (-LA), which are the majority of
whey proteins and represent 70-80% of the
whey protein. Also, there is proteose-peptone
that resulted from the proteolysis -casein (-
CN); besides small amounts of bovine serum
albumin, immunoglobulins (Ig), and small
peptides (Whitney, 1988a; Miller et al.,
2002). The amino acid profiles in whey
proteins are completely different from casein
due to their lower content of Glu and Pro and
higher amount of sulfur-containing amino
acid residues (such as Cys and Met).
These proteins are dephosphorylated,
sensitive to high temperature, insensitive to
Ca2+, and liable to the intermolecular bond
formation through disulfide bonds between
cysteine sulfhydryl groups.
Table.1 The composition of whole milk and whey.
Adapted from (Smithers, 2008; Côrtes et al., 2010; Hammam et al., 2017)
Weight (%)
Total solids
6.3 7.0
4.4 4.6
< 0.1
Whey protein
0.6 0.8
Table.2 Typical composition of sweet and acid whey.
Adapted from (Tunick, 2008a; Hammam et al., 2017; Hammam, 2019a)
Weight (%)
Sweet whey
Acid whey
Total solids
6.3 7.0
6.3 7.0
4.6 5.2
4.4 4.6
0.6 1.0
0.6 0.8
0.04 0.06
0.12 0.16
0.1 0.3
0.2 0.45
> 5.6
< 5.6
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
Table.3 Typical composition of whey products; Adapted from (Yalcin, 2006; Tunick, 2008a;
Hammam et al., 2017; Guo and Wang, 2019b; Hammam, 2019a)
Weight (%)
Sweet whey powder
11.0 14.5
63.0 75.0
1.0 1.5
8.2 8.8
3.5 5.0
Acid whey powder
11.0 13.5
61.0 70.0
0.5 1.5
9.8 12.3
3.5 5.0
Demineralized whey
11.0 15.0
70.0 80.0
0.5 1.8
1.0 7.0
3.0 4.0
WPC (34% protein)
34.0 36.0
48.0 52.0
3.0 4.5
6.5 8.0
3.0 4.5
WPC (60% protein)
60.0 62.0
25.0 30.0
1.0 7.0
4.0 6.0
3.0 5.0
WPC (80% protein)
80.0 82.0
4.0 8.0
4.0 8.0
3.0 4.0
3.5 4.5
90.0 92.0
0.5 1.0
0.5 1.0
2.0 3.0
3.0 5.0
WPC=Whey protein concentrate; WPI=Whey protein isolate
Table.4 Application of whey proteins in dairy-based foods; Adapted from
(Mulvihill and Ennis, 2003)
The benefit of whey products
Yogurt, cheese (Quarg, Ricotta)
Yield; nutritional, consistency, curd
Cream cheese and cheese spreads,
sliceable/squeezable cheeses, cheese filling and
Emulsifier, gelling, sensory properties
Soft drinks, fruit juices, powdered or frozen
orange beverages
Milk-based flavored beverages
Viscosity, colloidal stability
Ice cream, frozen desserts coating, frozen juice
Skimmed milk solid replacement, whipping
properties, emulsifying properties, body and
Table.5 The chemical and physiological properties of whey protein fractions and their relative
molecular weight. Adapted from (Whitney, 1988b; Zydney, 1998;
Hammam et al., 2017; Hammam, 2019a)
Whey protein
Concentration (g/L)
MW (kDa)
Isoelectric point (pI)
3.0 4.0
0.7 1.5
4.7 5.1
Bovine serum
0.3 0.6
4.7 4.9
IgG, IgA, IgM
0.6 0.9
150 1000
5.5 8.3
0.05 0.35
0.5 1.0
4 20
0.0 1.5
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
Solution of whey
protein and lactose
Fat globule
d lactose
Liquid whey
Condensed or
Infant food
agent, sweet
Human food,
animal feed,
Figure.1 Milk contains fat globules and casein micelles colloidal in a solution of
whey protein and lactose
Figure.2 Liquid whey processing (Marwaha and Kennedy, 1988; Siso, 1996; Tunick, 2008b)
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
Casein micelle
Whey protein
0.1-10 µm
(100 nm)
0.01-0.1 µm
(10 nm)
(<1 nm)
0.001-0.01 µm
(1-10 nm)
Figure.3 Filtration spectrum and size of major components in milk
Therapeutic applications of whey proteins
Whey protein has a high amount of bioactive
components, including -lactalbumin, -
lactoglobulin, bovine serum albumin,
immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and
lactoperoxidase (Table 5). These proteins
have been used as ingredients in
pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and
cosmeceuticals applications (Pihlanto and
Korhonen, 2003; Etzel, 2004) due to their
bioactive characteristics (Korhonen and
Pihlanto, 2003). Many studies have been
reported that these bioactive peptides have
many health benefits, such as improving the
immune system (Mann et al., 2019),
inhibiting infections due to the antiviral
activity of lactoferrin (Drago-Serrano et al.,
2017; Hammam, 2019b), reducing oxidative
stress and human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV) infection (Gupta and Prakash, 2017),
anticancer activity (Patel, 2015; Hammam et
al., 2017), lessen anxiety (Yalcin, 2006),
assist with the reduction in blood pressure
(Fekete et al., 2018), positive effects on
hepatitis (Ng et al., 2015), reduce
cardiovascular risk (Pal et al., 2019), and
osteoporosis (Mangano et al., 2019).
Nutritional applications of whey protein
Whey protein products are widely used in
many applications, including infant formulas,
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2020) 9(7): 337-345
dietetic foods, and animal feeds (Fitzsimons
et al., 2008). Polymerized whey protein,
which has different commercial names, such
as preheated whey protein, process whey
protein, heat-denatured whey proteins, or
denatured whey proteins (Vardhanabhuti et
al., 2001), has shown improved functional
properties, including gelatin agents, films
(Hammam, 2019a), thickness agents,
stabilizers, microencapsulation, and coatings
that are widely used to enhance the texture
and quality of several foods, such as sausages,
dairy products, desserts, bakery products, cold
sauces (Elofsson et al., 1997; Hammam,
2019a), beverages, bars, and fruits (Ferreira et
al., 2007).
Milk whey or whey protein has tremendous
therapeutic properties, including
antimicrobial, anticancer, anticarcinogenic
effects, immune-enhancer, prebiotic property,
anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive actions,
binding of toxins, cardiovascular, antioxidant
activity, gastro-intestinal health, physical
strength, obesity control and weight-
management, HIV, diabetes, anti-viral effects,
promotion of cell growth, platelet binding,
appetite suppression, ageing, and wound
healing. Several whey products are available
nowadays in the market, which can be utilized
as attractive health-promoting food
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How to cite this article:
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.
... Peptides represent a functional food because they not only satisfy the nutritional needs, but also help to reduce the risk of health problems [80]. Whey represents 95% of milk weight so it is a good source of bioactive peptides that can be produced by hydrolysis by applying different methods: enzymatic action, chemical treatment (acid or alkaline), microbial fermentation with proteolytic bacteria, ultrasound, thermal process, and others ( Figure 1) [81,82]. gestive, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. ...
... Peptides represent a functional food because they not only satisfy the nutritional needs, but also help to reduce the risk of health problems [80]. Whey represents 95% of milk weight so it is a good source of bioactive peptides that can be produced by hydrolysis by applying different methods: enzymatic action, chemical treatment (acid or alkaline), microbial fermentation with proteolytic bacteria, ultrasound, thermal process, and others ( Figure 1) [81,82]. Hydrolysis of proteins by chemical processes using an alkaline or acidic media commonly using NaOH, KaOH, HCl at different concentrations is more difficult to control and generates hydrolysates with modified amino acids. ...
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Epidemiological studies show an inverse association between dairy consumption and blood pressure (BP) but there are few data on the postprandial effects of milk proteins. This study examined their effects, compared to maltodextrin, on postprandial BP and other CVD risk markers in volunteers with mild and pre-hypertension over an 8 h period. In this double-blinded, randomised, cross-over, controlled study 27 adults ingested a high-fat, isoenergetic breakfast and lunch with 28 g whey protein, 28 g Ca-caseinate or 27 g maltodextrin. Whey protein reduced systolic BP compared with Ca-caseinate (-15.2 ± 13.6 mmHg) and maltodextrin (-23.4 ± 10.5 mmHg) up to 5 h post-ingestion. There was an improvement in arterial stiffness after whey protein compared with maltodextrin (incremental Area Under the Curve- iAUC0-8h: +14.4 ± 6.2%). Despite similar glucose levels after both whey protein and Ca-caseinate, whey protein induced a higher insulin response than Ca-caseinate (iAUC0-8h: +219.5 ± 54.6 pmol/L). Ca-caseinate induced less suppression of non-esterified fatty acids than whey protein (iAUC0-5h: -58.9 ± 135.5 μmol/L) and maltodextrin (iAUC0-5h: -106.9 ± 89.4 μmol/L) and induced a smaller postprandial triacylglycerol response than whey protein (iAUC0-8h: -1.68 ± 0.6 mmol/L). Milk proteins co-ingestion with high-fat meals may have the potential to maintain or improve CVD risk factors.
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Milk whey—commonly known as cheese whey—is a by-product of cheese or casein in the dairy industry and contains usually high levels of lactose, low levels of nitrogenous compounds, protein, salts, lactic acid and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Milk whey contains several unique components like immunoglobulins (Igs), lactoferrin (Lf), lactoperoxidase (Lp), glycomacropeptide (GMP) and sphingolipids that possess some important antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Some whey components possess anticancer properties such as sphingomyelin, which have the potential to inhibit colon cancer. Immunoglobulin-G (IgGs), Lp and Lf concentrated from whey participates in host immunity. IgGs binds with bacterial toxins and lowers the bacterial load in the large bowel. There are some whey-derived carbohydrate components that possess prebiotic activity. Lactose support lactic acid bacteria (such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli). Stallic acids, an oligosaccharide in whey, are typically attached to proteins, and possess prebiotic properties. The uniqueness of whey proteins is due to their ability to boost the level of glutathione (GSH) in various tissues and also to optimize various processes of the immune system. The role of GSH is very critical as it protects the cells against free radical damage, infections, toxins, pollution and UV exposure. Overall GSH acts as a centerpiece of the body’s antioxidant defense system. It has been widely observed that individuals suffering from cancer, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome and many other immune-compromising conditions have very poor levels of glutathione. The sulphur-containing amino-acids (cysteine and methionine) are also found in high levels in whey protein. Thus, the present review will focus on the therapeutic potential of milk whey such as antibiotic, anti-cancer, anti-toxin, immune-enhancer, prebiotic property etc.
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Whey protein is a by-product derived from the production of cheese and it has many benefits for human health that what the recent research work has shown, so it is known as a functional food. It is known that there are salt whey and sweet whey depending on the process of making cheese. Whey protein is absorbed and digested rapidly. Whey protein contains a number of bioactive components including β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, serum albumin, immunoglobulin, and lactoferrin. These components have positive effects on health such as immune improving and antioxidant characteristic that reduce hypertension, cancer, hyperlipidemia, and virus contagious. The transformation of the amino acid cysteine to glutathione can partially these effects. In addition, whey protein can cure inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Moreover, whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids, which are particularly good for athletes and sarcopenic cases. In this review, we conclude the characteristics of whey protein and the latest results related the effects of whey protein on specific conditions for human health.
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Lactoferrin (Lf) is a glycoprotein of the primary innate immune-defense system of mammals present in milk and other mucosal secretions. This protein of the transferrin family has broad antimicrobial properties by depriving pathogens from iron, or disrupting their plasma membranes through its highly cationic charge. Noteworthy, Lf also exhibits immunomodulatory activities performing up- and down-regulation of innate and adaptive immune cells, contributing to the homeostasis in mucosal surfaces exposed to myriad of microbial agents, such as the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Although the inflammatory process is essential for the control of invasive infectious agents, the development of an exacerbated or chronic inflammation results in tissue damage with life-threatening consequences. In this review, we highlight recent findings in in vitro and in vivo models of the gut, lung, oral cavity, mammary gland, and liver infections that provide experimental evidence supporting the therapeutic role of human and bovine Lf in promoting some parameters of inflammation and protecting against the deleterious effects of bacterial, viral, fungal and protozoan-associated inflammation. Thus, this new knowledge of Lf immunomodulation paves the way to more effective design of treatments that include native or synthetic Lf derivatives, which may be useful to reduce immune-mediated tissue damage in infectious diseases.
Cheese is a dairy-product and obtained from milk by using starter cultures and enzymes to coagulate the milk through a chemical process. Cheese has one of the highest growth rates among dairy products manufactured in many countries. Cheese could be divided into two major categories based on the fat content, including full-fat cheese and reduced or low-fat cheese. The low-fat cheese term differs within cheese varieties, countries, and other factors. Generally, cheese with fat content less than the full-fat version is considered low-fat cheese for consumers. The consumption and marketing of low-fat cheeses have accelerated over the last two decades. Fat is important due to its major contribution to the flavor, body and texture of the cheese. Numerous low-fat cheeses are characterized as mild flavor, weak body and texture, and less functional characteristics. Intensive research on low-fat cheese has developed three basic strategies for addressing fat-related problems, such as modifications of procedures, adjunct cultures, and fat replacers. This work aim is to highlight and review the characteristics of two types of low-fat cheeses, such as low-fat process cheese (LFPC) and low-fat Cheddar cheese (LFCC).
Whey (sometimes called milk serum) is a yellowish to greenish clear solution strained from milk curd coagulated by either rennet or acid. The typical whey solid components include lactose, protein (mainly whey protein), and minerals. Acid whey is a by‐product of acid coagulated milk including acid casein and Greek yogurt. Lactose is the most abundant ingredient obtained from whey by crystallization. It is widely used in infant formula, confectionary, bakery, and pharmaceutical products. The most common whey protein concentrate (WPC) include WPC34, WPC60, and WPC80, which contain 34 percent, 60 percent, and 80 percent of protein, respectively. Whey protein isolate (WPI) has an exceptional functionality including gelling, emulsifying, and foaming properties. Permeate from WPC and WPI manufacturing contains mainly lactose and ash that can be spray dried to permeate solids. Both permeate and milk salts are excellent source of minerals and can be used for feed and food ingredients.
Dairy products are associated with numerous health benefits. They are good source of nutrients like carbohydrates, protein (bioactive peptides), lipids, minerals and vitamins which are essential for growth, development and maintenance of the human body. Accordingly, dairy bioactive peptides are one of targeted compounds present in different dairy products. Dairy bioactive compounds can be classified as anti-hypertensive, anti-oxidative, immmunomodulant, anti-mutagenic, anti-microbial, opoid, anti-thrombotic, anti-obesity and mineral-binding agents depending upon biological functions. These bioactive peptides can easily be produced by enzymatic hydrolysis, during fermentation and gastrointestinal digestion. For the reason, fermented dairy products like yogurt, cheese and sour milk are gaining popularity worldwide and considered excellent sources of dairy peptides. Furthermore, fermented and non-fermented dairy products are associated with lower risks of hypertension, coagulopathy, stroke and cancer insurgences. The current review article is an attempt to disseminate general information about dairy peptides and their health claims to scientists, allied stakeholders and certainly readers.