Whey and Casein Protein Primer

Whey and Casein Protein Primer
Whey is a general term that typically denotes the translucent liquid part of milk that remains following the process (coagulation and curd removal) of cheese manufacturing. From this liquid, whey proteins are separated and purified using various techniques yielding different concentrations of whey proteins. Whey is one of the two major protein groups of bovine milk, accounting for 20% of the milk while casein accounts for the remainder. All of the constituents of whey protein provide high levels of the essential and branched chain amino acids. The bioactivities of these proteins possess many beneficial properties as well. Additionally, whey is also rich in vitamins and minerals. Whey protein is most recognized for its applicability in sports nutrition. Additionally, whey products are also evident in baked goods, salad dressings, emulsifiers, infant formulas, and medical nutritional formulas.
Varieties of Whey Protein
There are three main forms of whey protein that result from various processing techniques used to separate whey protein. They are whey powder, whey concentrate, and whey isolate. Table 2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/table/table002/ provides the composition of Whey Proteins.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder has many applications throughout the food industry. As an additive it is seen in food products for beef, dairy, bakery, confectionery, and snack products. Whey powder itself has several different varieties including sweet whey, acid whey (seen in salad dressings), demineralized (seen primarily as a food additive including infant formulas), and reduced forms. The demineralized and reduced forms are used in products other than sports supplements.
Whey Protein Concentrate
The processing of whey concentrate removes the water, lactose, ash, and some minerals. In addition, compared to whey isolates whey concentrate typically contains more biologically active components and proteins that make them a very attractive supplement for the athlete.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
Isolates are the purest protein source available. Whey protein isolates contain protein concentrations of 90% or higher. During the processing of whey protein isolate there is a significant removal of fat and lactose. As a result, individuals who are lactose-intolerant can often safely take these products (Geiser, 2003). Although the concentration of protein in this form of whey protein is the highest, it often contain proteins that have become denatured due to the manufacturing process. The denaturation of proteins involves breaking down their structure and losing peptide bonds and reducing the effectiveness of the protein.
Whey is a complete protein whose biologically active components provide additional benefits to enhance human function. Whey protein contains an ample supply of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine appears to enhance glutathione levels, which has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties that can assist the body in combating various diseases (Counous, 2000). In addition, whey protein contains a number of other proteins that positively effect immune function such as antimicrobial activity (Ha and Zemel, 2003). Whey protein also contains a high concentration of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that are important for their role in the maintenance of tissue and prevention of catabolic actions during exercise. (MacLean et al., 1994).
Casein is the major component of protein found in bovine milk accounting for nearly 70-80% of its total protein and is responsible for the white color of milk. It is the most commonly used milk protein in the industry today. Milk proteins are of significant physiological importance to the body for functions relating to the uptake of nutrients and vitamins and they are a source of biologically active peptides. Similar to whey, casein is a complete protein and also contains the minerals calcium and phosphorous. Casein has a PDCAAS rating of 1.23 (generally reported as a truncated value of 1.0) (Deutz et al. 1998).
Casein exists in milk in the form of a micelle, which is a large colloidal particle. An attractive property of the casein micelle is its ability to form a gel or clot in the stomach. The ability to form this clot makes it very efficient in nutrient supply. The clot is able to provide a sustained slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes lasting for several hours (Boirie et al. 1997). This provides better nitrogen retention and utilization by the body.


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