Effects of whey protein supplements on metabolism: evidence from human intervention studies

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Nov;14(6):569-80. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834b89da.


Purpose of review: Epidemiological studies indicate that the consumption of milk and dairy products is inversely associated with a lower risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases. In particular, whey protein seems to induce these effects because of bioactive compounds such as lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, glutamine and lactalbumin. In addition, it is an excellent source of branch chained amino acids. This review summarizes recent findings on the effects of whey protein on metabolic disorders and the musculoskeletal system.

Recent findings: We identified 25 recently published intervention trials examining chronic and/or acute effects of whey protein supplementation on lipid and glucose metabolism, blood pressure, vascular function and on the musculoskeletal system. Whey protein appears to have a blood glucose and/or insulin lowering effect partly mediated by incretins. In addition, whey protein may increase muscle protein synthesis. In contrast there are no clear-cut effects shown on blood lipids and lipoproteins, blood pressure and vascular function. For bone metabolism the data are scarce.

Summary: In summary, whey protein may affect glucose metabolism and muscle protein synthesis. However, the evidence for a clinical efficacy is not strong enough to make final recommendations with respect to a specific dose and the duration of supplementation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Glutamine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / pharmacology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lactalbumin / pharmacology
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology
  • Lipids / blood
  • Metabolic Diseases / prevention & control
  • Milk Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Whey Proteins


  • Blood Glucose
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Whey Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Lactalbumin
  • Lactoferrin