Thursday, 9 October 2014

Where does whey protein come from?

Many people have used whey protein before, and this is for good reason. Whey is one of the single best sources of protein available. Not only does it provide extra supplemental protein, but it also benefits muscle gains and weight loss in other ways that other forms of protein simply do not. But where does whey protein come from?

The cheese making process

It may seem strange, but whey protein is a byproduct of the cheese making process. To make cheese, milk is treated with a natural enzyme called rennet, or a food acid can also be used. When heated after adding rennet or acid, the milk begins to curdle and the protein coagulates. It is this solid mass from the milk that is formed into cheese and the liquid whey is separated out.

This liquid whey is far from useless however and can be used to make many products including cottage cheese and yogurt. Whey in this form contains vitamins and minerals, protein, and little fat. One of the other primary uses of the liquid is to make whey protein.

From liquid whey to whey protein

Liquid whey is a mixture of different nutrients found in milk, and this is a far cry from the protein powder you find on shelves. Where does whey protein come from? It comes from the isolation and extraction of the actual protein found in liquid whey. By extracting the protein, you end up with a product that is high in protein whilst still containing other beneficial nutrients.

This isolation can be achieved in a few different ways. The easiest method is of course to simply dry the whey liquid. Evaporating off the water from the solution concentrates everything, including the protein. Whey protein made like this is higher in fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients.

The extraction of the protein alone from whey is used to make whey protein concentrate. To do this, the whey is usually passed through a membrane filtration process to concentrate the protein and remove the other nutrients. Drying this new liquid results in a whey protein that is more concentrated in terms of actual protein content. Taking this further will result in whey protein isolate, which is the most concentrated form of whey protein.

Membrane filtration

Membrane filtration is a useful technique for processing whey protein for several reasons. Firstly, it doesn't heat the liquid whey. This is advantageous because heat production uses more energy and thus the production would cost more. Whey protein is cheap because of innovations like this. It also results in more useful nutrients being preserved in the final product.

Secondly, it doesn't require the use of chemicals or additives. Whey that is concentrated through membrane filtration is a natural product. It retains its nutrients and chemical solvents aren't used to extract the protein. The same can't be said of soy protein, which often goes through a complicated barrage of physical and chemical processing.

Hydrolysed whey protein

Hydrolysed whey protein is another form of whey available that differs slightly to regular whey. This form of whey undergoes more processing in the form of enzymatic digestion. You could say that hydrolysed whey protein is partially digested.

To create this form of whey protein, either regular whey, concentrate, or isolate can be used. Hydrolysing the whey doesn't affect the protein concentration and is primarily done to make it easier to digest. Because the hydrolysed product is partially digested with natural enzymes similar to what are found in the human digestive tract, it is quicker to be absorbed and will cause less trouble for people who are sensitive to milk protein or lactose.

All whey protein contains valuable nutrients and can help you boost your protein intake. Not only that, but the bioactive peptides in whey are able to benefit your health in other ways like reducing high blood pressure. Whey is literally a natural powerhouse product and taking it could benefit your health in a myriad of different ways.

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