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Who should use whey as a protein supplement?

When you were little you probably remember hearing talk about Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey. Well, nowadays bodybuilders or those with milk allergies, rather than little girls in nursery rhymes, are more likely to be concerned with the consumption of whey -- a product of milk and a protein supplement.

Bodybuilders use whey as a nutritional protein supplement because it is marketed as a means to build up lean muscle mass, help the body handle hard workouts, and to aid in weight loss. People with milk allergies may consume whey because when it is processed from milk, the primary protein which triggers milk allergies known as casein is left out.

Caution is advised for both bodybuilders and those with allergies to milk. While whey protein can be a great source of dietary protein for bodybuilders and others, some doctors wonder how much is too much. For those with sensitivities to milk, it is important to understand that as whey is extracted from milk, if the purification process isn't stringent, it is possible for residual casein to be present in the product, setting off an allergic reaction. Additionally, whey can also spur intolerance to lactose.

Whey is a protein that is readily absorbed by the body without added fats. Weightlifters, dieters and those needing dietary protein see value in its nutrition, but most of us do not need to supplement our diets with extra protein.
Whey supplements, sometimes taken in the form of protein shakes, are popular among athletes. (The whey is the watery part of milk, which contains about 20% of milk's protein, while the thicker curds contain about 80%.) There is some evidence that these supplements can enhance muscle growth from resistance training; they may also help muscles recover more quickly after an exercise session, possibly reducing injury. Whey protein supplements are also sometimes recommended for people recovering from certain eating disorders who need protein to rebuild muscle mass.

Researchers have also explored the potential roles of whey supplements in preventing cardiovascular disease. Although there is some evidence showing whey might help lower high blood sugar levels, more study is needed before trying to use it this way. Talk to your doctor before trying a whey protein supplement, or any supplement.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.