Whey protein and immune function

The immune system works to protect the body from attack by foreign microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and bacteria. The first line of defence is the physical barriers such as the skin and mucous membranes followed by physiological barriers such as temperature and acidity which can inhibit growth of microbes or even kill them. If invaders surmount these defences the body triggers a cellular attack which involves what is commonly known as antibodies.

Possession of a strong immune system guards against disease whereas as a weakening of any part of this complex defense system makes the body susceptible to illness.  Heavy exercise, a busy lifestyle and aging all without good nutritional support are known to compromise immune function. All aspects of the immune system are made up of proteins and a good source of high quality amino acids in the diet is essential. However whey protein has been shown to provide benefits that are over and above supply of the essential amino acids. Studies have shown that whey protein enhances glutathione (GSH) in various tissues which in turn maintains the muscle glutamine reservoir. GSH is the keystone of the body’s cellular antioxidant defense system and regulates many aspects of immune function. Muscle glutamine is the fuel of the immune system. 

It is possible that inadequate protein intake will retard immune function especially with  current recommended protein levels based on minimum requirements intakes may be below that required by active people. Whey protein with its clean flavour and solubility over a wide pH range makes it the ingredient of choice for food manufacturers. Together with the excellent amino acid profile, high bioavailability and immune enhancing properties this is the protein of choice for a diverse range of populations.