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The Power of Whey Protein: Strengthening Your Immune System Naturally

The Power of Whey Protein: Strengthening Your Immune System Naturally

Whey protein is a popular dietary supplement that is commonly associated with muscle building, sports recovery, and physical growth and development.


However, research has also shown that whey protein has immune-enhancing benefits. These benefits are due to whey protein’s content of specific proteins called whey fractions and specific amino acids, such as cysteine, glycine, and glutamine, which have been shown to support the immune system (1).


In this article, we will explore the immune-enhancing benefits of whey protein and how it can be used to support immune function.


What are Whey Protein fractions?


To understand how whey protein supports immunity, we first need to talk about whey protein fractions.


Whey protein is composed of different types of proteins that make up the whey protein complex. These different types of proteins are called protein fractions


Some of the most important whey protein fractions for immunity are immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and lactalbumin. They are present abundantly in whey proteins. 


  • Immunoglobulins are antibodies that play a key role in our immune system. They help to recognize and neutralize harmful pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Whey protein contains various types of immunoglobulins, including IgG, IgM, and IgA. These immunoglobulins help to boost our immune response and protect us from infections (2)


  • Lactoferrin is another important whey protein fraction that has immune-enhancing properties (3). It is a protein that helps to bind and transport iron, which is essential for immune function. Lactoferrin also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, which can help to protect against infections (4).


  • Lactalbumin is a third whey protein fraction that has immunosupportive benefits. It contains various amino acids that are important for immune function, including cysteine, glutamine, and tryptophan. These amino acids help to support the production of immune cells and antibodies, which are key components of our immune system (5).


Amino Acids in Whey Protein


Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and some amino acids that are naturally present in whey proteins have been shown to have immune-supportive properties. Whey protein is particularly rich in three amino acids that have a link to immunity: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine.


  • Cysteine is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect cells from oxidative damage (6). Studies have found that cysteine can enhance the function of immune cells such as T cells and natural killer cells (7)


  • Glycine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (8). Studies have found that ensuring an adequate intake of glycine can help reduce inflammation,  improve immune function, and reduce viral invasiveness by reinforcing the mechanical barrier of cells (9)


  • Glutamine is a primary fuel source for immune cells such as lymphocytes and macrophages. Studies have found that glutamine supplementation can enhance the function of immune cells and improve the immune response to infections. Glutamine is also important to improve gut barrier function and reduce intestinal permeability, which can help to prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and causing immune reactions. Additionally, glutamine has been shown to support the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can further enhance immune function (10, 11)



In conclusion, whey protein is a powerful tool for supporting the immune system. Its unique composition of immunosupportive whey fractions and specific amino acids, such as cysteine, glycine, and glutamine, can help to enhance the body’s natural defenses and promote overall health and wellness. Incorporating whey protein into a teen’s daily routine can provide a range of benefits for maintaining a strong immune system. So, next time you’re looking for a tasty and convenient way to support your teen’s health, consider reaching for a whey protein shake or snack!



  1. Khan, I.T., Nadeem, M., Imran, M., Ullah, R., Ajmal, M. and Jaspal, M.H. (2019). Antioxidant properties of Milk and dairy products: a comprehensive review of the current knowledge. Lipids in Health and Disease, 18(1).
  2. Justiz Vaillant, A.A. and Ramphul, K. (2020). Immunoglobulin. [online] PubMed.
  3. Actor, J.K., Hwang, S.-A. and Kruzel, M.L. (2009). Lactoferrin as a Natural Immune Modulator. Current pharmaceutical design, [online] 15(17), pp.1956–1973.
  4. Lu, J., Francis, J., Doster, R.S., Haley, K.P., Craft, K.M., Moore, R.E., Chambers, S.A., Aronoff, D.M., Osteen, K., Damo, S.M., Manning, S., Townsend, S.D. and Gaddy, J.A. (2020). Lactoferrin: A Critical Mediator of Both Host Immune Response and Antimicrobial Activity in Response to Streptococcal Infections. ACS Infectious Diseases, 6(7), pp.1615–1623.
  5. Layman, D.K., Lönnerdal, B. and Fernstrom, J.D. (2018). Applications for α-lactalbumin in human nutritionNutrition Reviews, 76(6), pp.444–460.
  6. Handy, D.E. and Loscalzo, J. (2022). The role of glutathione peroxidase-1 in health and disease. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, [online] 188, pp.146–161.
  7. Sikalidis, A.K. (2014). Amino Acids and Immune Response: A Role for Cysteine, Glutamine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan and Arginine in T-cell Function and Cancer? Pathology & Oncology Research, 21(1), pp.9–17.
  8. Razak, M.A., Begum, P.S., Viswanath, B. and Rajagopal, S. (2017). Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, pp.1–8.
  9. Meléndez-Hevia, E., de Paz-Lugo, P. and Sánchez, G. (2021). Glycine can prevent and fight virus invasiveness by reinforcing the extracellular matrix. Journal of Functional Foods, 76, p.104318.
  10. Cruzat, V., Macedo Rogero, M., Noel Keane, K., Curi, R. and Newsholme, P. (2018). Glutamine: Metabolism and Immune Function, Supplementation and Clinical Translation. Nutrients, [online] 10(11), p.1564.
  11. Newsholme, P., Diniz, V.L.S., Dodd, G.T. and Cruzat, V. (2022). Glutamine metabolism and optimal immune and CNS function. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, pp.1–20.

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