What Are the Benefits of Taking Whey Protein?

Whey protein can enhance appetite control, lean muscle mass and heart health.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Milk does more than make your bones strong. Whey protein, which derives from cows' milk, is highly absorbable and linked with a variety of health benefits. Learning more about these advantages could help you decide whether investing in whey products is worth your buck. Although whey protein is generally considered safe for adults who tolerate dairy products, says the Mayo Clinic, studies are ongoing. For best results, seek pre-approval from your doctor or dietitian regarding supplements.

Appetite Control

Whey protein may help take the edge off excessive hunger pangs, leading to enhanced portion and weight control. In a study published in "Appetite" in April 2011, 46 overweight and mildly obese women consumed water or water containing 1, 2 or 4 percent whey protein before lunch. Researchers found that whey protein significantly reduced the women's appetites promptly and for up to two hours after. Whey protein also reduced the amounts of calories participants consumed at lunch by up to 8 percent. Protein improves blood sugar control, which could explain the satiating properties of whey.

Healthy Weight Gain

Whey protein can also help restore undesirable lost weight if your appetite and food intake have dropped due to surgery, illness or stress. Liquids are easier to consume when solid foods seem daunting, and whey protein provides a simple way to increase a food's calories. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recommends adding powdered milk, which contains whey protein, to beverages and soups for added nutrients and calories. You can also add whey protein or milk powder to smoothies, hot cereal and mashed potatoes.

Improved Strength and Toning

Whey is the most nutritionally complete protein you can consume, according to Dean Sommer, a cheese and food technologist at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. This is why bodybuilders rely on whey protein for increased muscle mass, he told the "Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel" in October 2012. Increased lean mass promotes bone health and staves off osteoporosis, a disease marked by weak, brittle bones, in women. Lean tissue also increases your metabolism, easing the process of weight control. For best results, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends partaking in strength training exercise routinely and increasing your protein to 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Drinking whey protein shakes after workouts could improve muscle recovery and tone.

Reduced Risk for Heart Disease

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for adults in the United States. Research conducted at the University of Connecticut published in January 2011 showed that a substance in whey protein could fend off cardiovascular problems. In the study, 41 adults -- a mix of young and older adults -- consumed whey protein or a placebo for two weeks. Blood tests revealed that whey protein lowered the heart disease markers significantly two hours after meals. Limited studies have also linked whey protein with improved blood pressure levels, which can guard against heart disease. Other factors important for avoiding heart disease include regular exercise, not smoking and eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

the nest