Whey has been used as a functional food for many years in some cultures. As already mentioned, whey contains all of the essential amino acids and is a good source of the BCAAs. It is a protein source that can be used to support anabolism. It also contains colostrums, P-lactoglobulin, a-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin, lacto-ferrin, immunoglobulin, lactoperoxidase enzymes, and glycomacropeptides. It is thought to provide antimicrobial activity and additional immune functions, prevent osteoporosis, increase glutathione, and may lead to better nitrogen retention in elderly women.56

Lactoferrin and glycomacropeptides seem to have bactericidal activity. Lacto-ferrin may be converted to lactoferricin in the stomach after ingestion, which has been shown to inhibit microorganism growth in vitro with mixed results in humans.57 Lactoferrin may also have some antifungal properties. a-Lactalbumin may have a function in immune response as well, and the mechanisms of action are currently being elucidated.58

Whey protein concentrate is a good source of cystine, which is used to make glutathione (GSH).59 GSH is a potent antioxidant and is important in neutralizing reactive oxygen species. There are some case studies that suggest that increased whey protein intake is protective against some cancers.

Immunoglobulins are present in milk and may transfer passive immunity to people who ingest them. Colostrum has the highest component of immunoglobulins and is present in milk, but whey protein still has immunoglobulins.

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