Whey protein powder is without doubt the most popular dietary supplement ever invented. It is the fastest absorbing protein food, before whey was made athletes were consuming a high amount of egg whites as a low calorie fast way to increase daily protein and so promote muscle hypertrophy. Whey is currently the highest quality protein source it is used by those who want to build muscle, get lean, recover from injury or reduce muscle loss. Some even promote whey as an anti-aging substance or as prevention to some diseases. Since it’s so widely used the general public began to question the possibility of long term health side-effects that might be linked to a high protein diet.
Promotion of high protein diets for weight loss in the last decade made whey protein powders even more popular as it is a top ingredient for many of weight loss plans. One of the major benefits of protein shakes compared to solid food is the preparation process and practical ways of transport. Busy people who don’t have time to prepare a lot of meals but want to stay healthy by increasing their protein intake consume whey many times during the day. With such large quantities of whey we begin to wonder if such high concentrated protein source could possibly damage our liver since ever substance that we eat must pass through liver to get absorbed in the main circulation.
Can Whey Protein Cause Liver Damage?
As a whey user myself I was very interested in researching the subject of liver damage caused by whey. After a while I came across a case where a young healthy 27 year old fitness enthusiast was showing symptoms of painless jaundice. Study claims that he wasn’t suffering from any disease that might affect the liver and that he wasn’t using any drugs at that time. He had been only using creatine supplements for 8-9 months and whey protein only 4 weeks prior to developing symptoms. After they removed these supplements from his diet his condition improved so the only logical conclusion is that they were the cause of his problems. However this study doesn’t reveal the dosage the subject used or if he had a liver problem history before using these supplements but this proves that it is always a good idea to consult your physician before adding any supplements to your diet. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18452122
That was the only real case of liver damage where whey was involved that I could find, and even in that case whey was combined with creatine so it is not sure which one triggered the side-effect.
Other researchers like Professor Hairhara Mehendale of the University of Louisiana, USA claim that whey protein supplements can even help repair a damaged liver if used in the right dose. He recommends that you don’t use more than 30g of whey at once. Whey is widely used nowadays to help prevent fatty liver disease and as an immune system booster. Also individuals suffering from type 2 Diabetes can use whey to lower insulin spikes after meals with carbohydrates.
So what’s the conclusion? Is whey good or bad?
They say that the only real difference between medicine and poison is the dose, which might be true when it comes to whey protein powder. Moderate usage is the key of good health, even harmless things in large quantities could have unpredictable side-effects. There is no reason to stop enjoying all the massive benefits provided by whey protein. Just to be sure you avoid all possible side-effects it would be a good idea to limit yourself to 30g of whey in one setting and if you must use more than 30g spread the dosage. If you have a history with liver problems the best course of action is to consult with your personal physician before using any dietary supplements.