Say No Way! to Whey!

by Barrie Carlsen

Whey Protein has become a major category in health food stores and has been extensively promoted as a superior protein for health and fitness. But does whey protein live up to the claims and does whey protein belong in stores that are supposed to be promoting good health along with environmentally sound farming practices including organic products whenever possible?

Most store owners and staff accept at face value the marketing statements made by the producers and formulators of whey protein, but what these whey protein producers do not tell you is just what is whey protein, how is it obtained and the proven health risks associated with it.

First of all, whey is a by-product of the cheese industry. After cheese is made, the clear liquid whey is left. At one time this material had little commercial value and was usually provided to hog farmers for the cost of removing the material from the cheese factories. Whey contains a small amount of protein aptly named whey protein. This protein is extracted from the whey by various 'cross flow extraction and micro-filtration technologies'. The producers make much of this 'advanced technology' diverting attention away from the real properties of whey. Whey is composed of bovine blood proteins, serum albumen, lactalbumen, dead white blood cells and hormonal residues including estrogen, progesterone and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor 1).

Moving backward, whey protein is derived from whey, the by-product of cheese making. Cheese is produced from milk. The cheese industry is the largest consumer of 'factory farmed' milk. The majority of the milk used in the making of cheese is produced from milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone (rBGH), along with a vast array of antibiotics and other drugs. Many of these cows are cancerous, and the milk from these cancerous cows still finds its way into the general production.

Most of these cows are fed genetically modified soy and corn, as 80% of the production of GMO grains is for animal feed. Health food stores make a big issue of insisting on non-GMO foods for sale to the public, but what about second-hand GMO foods such as beef, pork, milk, cheese, products containing casein (another milk protein) and whey protein? Because whey protein is such a big money earner for health food stores, this distinction is ignored. The dilemma is similar to the question of drug stores selling tobacco products in spite of the overwhelming evidence that smoking is harmful. Many drug stores, especially the smaller independent stores, voluntarily stopped selling tobacco because in spite of the loss of income, they could not in good conscience, justify the practice in a store that was supposed to be concerned with people's health. Milk and milk by-products are also linked to cancer and a host of other diseases, and the dilemma is a similar one faced by drug stores regarding tobacco.

The following article which is posted on , summarizes many of the concerns with milk proteins along with references from scientific journals.

Say No Way ! to Whey!

After fat and casein are removed from milk, dairy processors are left with whey protein. Whey is composed of bovine blood proteins, serum albumen, lactalbumen, dead white blood cells and hormonal residues including estrogen, progesterone and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor 1).

The body's reaction to a foreign protein is to destroy that antigen-like invader with an antibody. For those individuals unfortunate enough to possess a genetic pre-disposition to such an event, the antibody then turns upon one's own cells. That is what is known as an auto-immune response.

In the case of diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), the body's response to whey proteins is to attack the outer membrane protecting nerve cells, or the myelin sheath.

It has long been established that early exposure to bovine proteins is a trigger for insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Researchers have made that same milk consumption connection to MS. The July 30, 1992 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine first reported the diabetes autoimmune response milk connection:

"Patients with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus produce antibodies to cow milk proteins that participate in the development of islet dysfunction...Taken as a whole, our findings suggest that an active response in patients with IDDM (to the bovine protein) is a feature of the auto-immune response."

On December 14, 1996, The Lancet revealed:

"Cow's milk proteins are unique in one respect: in industrialized countries they are the first foreign proteins entering the infant gut, since most formulations for babies are cow milk-based. The first pilot stage of our IDD prevention study found that oral exposure to dairy milk proteins in infancy resulted in both cellular and immune response...this suggests the possible importance of the gut immune system to the pathogenesis of IDD."

The Multiple Sclerosis Milk Connection

The April 1, 2001 issue of the Journal of Immunology contained a study linking MS to milk consumption.

Michael Dosch, M.D., and his team of researchers determined that multiple sclerosis and type I (juvenile) diabetes mellitus are far more closely linked than previously thought. Dosch attributes exposure to cow milk protein as a risk factor in the development of both diseases for people who are genetically susceptible. According to Dosch:

"We found that immunologically, type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis are almost the same - in a test tube you can barely tell the two diseases apart. We found that the autoimmunity was not specific to the organ system affected by the disease. Previously it was thought that in MS autoimmunity would develop in the central nervous system, and in diabetes it would only be found in the pancreas. We found that both tissues are targeted in each disease."

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis affects approximately 300,000 Americans. Two-thirds of those diagnosed with MS are women. Most researchers believe that MS is an autoimmune disease. Auto means "self."

Who Does Not Get MS?

It is interesting to note that Eskimos and Bantus (50 million individuals living in East Africa ) rarely get MS. Neither do those native North and South American Indian or Asian populations who consume no cow's milk or dairy products.

Who Gets MS ?

The British medical journal Lancet reported that dairy-rich diets filled have been closely linked to the development of MS. (The Lancet 1974;2:1061)

A study published in the journal Neuro-epidemiology revealed an association between eating dairy foods and an increased prevalence of MS. (Neuro-epidemiology 1992;11:304Â12.)

MS researcher, Luther Lindner, M.D., a pathologist at Texas A & M University College of Medicine, wrote:

"It might be prudent to limit the intake of milk and milk products."

Women are targeted by dairy industry scare tactics that offer misinformation regarding osteoporosis. Two-thirds of MS victims are women. As milk and cheese consumption increase along population lines, so too does an epidemic number of MS cases. The numbers add up. The clues add up. The science supports epidemiological studies. Got diabetes? Got MS? The milk connection has been established.

Whey Also Contains Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1)

On January 23, 1998 researchers at the Harvard Medical School released a major study providing conclusive evidence that IGF-1 is a potent risk factor for prostate cancer. Should you be concerned? Yes, you certainly should, particularly if you drink milk produced in the United States . IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor 1 is an important hormone that is produced in the liver and body tissues. It is a polypeptide and consists of 70 amino acids linked together. All mammals produce IGF-1 molecules very similar in structure and human and bovine IGF-1 are completely identical. IGF-1 acquired its name because it has insulin-like activity in fat (adipose) tissue and has a structure that is very similar to that of pro-insulin. The body's production of IGF-1 is regulated by the human growth hormone and peaks at puberty. IGF-1 production declines with age and is only about half the adult value at the age of 70 years. IGF-1 is a very powerful hormone that has profound effects even though its concentration in the blood serum is only about 200 ng/mL or 0.2 millionth of a gram per milliliter (1-4).

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) in humans and cows are identical. Like a key fitting into a lock, this hormone is a perfect match between two species of animal and exerts powerful growth effects. IGF-I is the most powerful growth hormone in the human body. Every sip of milk, every bite of cheese, every whey protein drink contains IGF-I.

IGF-1 and Cancer

IGF-1 is known to stimulate the growth of both normal and cancerous cells(2,5). In 1990 researchers at Stanford University reported that IGF-1 promotes the growth of prostate cells(2). This was followed by the discovery that IGF-1 accelerates the growth of breast cancer cells(6-8). In 1995 researchers at the National Institutes of Health reported that IGF-1 plays a central role in the progression of many childhood cancers and in the growth of tumours in breast cancer, small cell lung cancer, melanoma, and cancers of the pancreas and prostate(9). In September 1997 an international team of researchers reported the first epidemiological evidence that high IGF-1 concentrations are closely linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer(10). Other researchers provided evidence of IGF-1's link to breast and colon cancers(10,11).
The January 1998 report by the Harvard researchers confirmed the link between IGF-1 levels in the blood and the risk of prostate cancer. The effects of IGF-1 concentrations on prostate cancer risk were found to be astoundingly large - much higher than for any other known risk factor. Men having an IGF-1 level between approximately 300 and 500 ng/mL were found to have more than four times the risk of developing prostate cancer than did men with a level between 100 and 185 ng/mL. The detrimental effect of high IGF-1 levels was particularly pronounced in men over 60 years of age. In this age group men with the highest levels of IGF-1 were eight times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with low levels. The elevated IGF-1 levels were found to be present several years before an actual diagnosis of prostate cancer was made(12). The evidence of a strong link between cancer risk and a high level of IGF-1 is now indisputable. The question is why do some people have high levels while others do not? Is it all genetically ordained or could it be that diet or some other outside factor influences IGF-1 levels? Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of Illinois is one scientist who strongly believes so. His 1996 article in the International Journal of Health Sciences clearly warned of the danger of high levels of IGF-1 contained in milk from cows injected with synthetic bovine growth hormone (rBGH). He postulated that IGF-1 in rBGH-milk could be a potential risk factor for breast and gastrointestinal cancers(13).

Whey Protein and Bone Loss

A study comparing bone loss in the lumbar spine in perimenopausal women showed that the control group who supplemented the diet with whey protein, significant bone loss occurred. The researchers at Iowa State University concluded the regular consumption of milk proteins such as whey could increase the lifetime risk of osteoporosis. Am. J Clin. Nutr . 2000; 72:844-52

"BGH-treated milk is safe because it is indistinguishable from normal milk."
Executive Branch Report on rbGH, February 9, 1994

"Milk from cows given supplemental bovine somatotropin is the same as any other milk... Unfortunately, a few fringe groups are using misleading statements and blatant falsehoods as part of a running campaign to scare consumers about a perfectly safe food."
Statement of C. Everett Koop on Genetically engineered milk, February 6, 1994

"Five independent authorities, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and ex-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had found rbGH-treated milk to be indistinguishable from normal milk."
Monsanto (manufacturer of rbGH) Press Release, June, 1992

"From 1984 to 1986, Dr. Daughaday was the recipient of a research contract from Monsanto Co., a small fraction of which was paid to Dr. Daughaday as a consulting fee.
JAMA, 264 (8), 8/22/90 (Dr. Daughaday, the author of the JAMA publication was an "independent authority" referred to in Monsanto's Press Release)

"Recombinant rbGH treatment produces an increase in the concentration of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) in cow's milk."
FDA review of genetically engineered milk SCIENCE , 8/24/90, Vol 249

"After somidobove (rbGH) injection, mean IGF-I levels in the treated milk are always higher than those found in the controls."
World Health Organization Report Geneva , Switzerland . June, 1992

"Levels of IGF increase in milk after cows are treated with rbGH."
December, 1990 National Institutes of Health Assessment of Bovine Somatotropin

"A strong positive association was observed between IGF-I levels and prostate cancer risk."
Science , vol. 279. January 23, 1998

"Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, a mitogenic and antiapoptotic peptide, can affect the proliferation of breast epithelial cells, and is thought to have a role in breast cancer."
The Lancet , vol. 351. May 9, 1998

"Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), in particular IGF-I and IGF-II, strongly stimulate the proliferation of a variety of cancer cells, including those from lung cancer. High plasma levels of IGF-I were associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. Plasma levels of IGF-I are patients with lung cancer than in control subjects."
Journal of the National Cancer Institute , vol. 91, no. 2. January 20, 1999.

"Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is expressed in many tumor cell lines and has a role in both normal cell proliferation and in the growth of cancers.
Cancer Gene Ther, 2000 Mar, 7:3

"The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system is widely involved in human carcinogenesis. A significant association between high circulating IGF-I concentrations and an increased risk of lung, colon, prostate and pre-menopausal breast cancer has recently been reported. Lowering plasma IGF-I may thus represent an attractive strategy to be pursued..."
Int J Cancer , 2000 Aug, 87:4, 601-5

"... serum IGF-I levels increased significantly in the milk drinking increase of about 10% above baseline-but was unchanged in the control group."
Journal of the American Dietetic Association , vol. 99, no. 10. October 1999

A study published in the Nov. 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . further implicates whey protein as a factor in postprandial insulin responses, which should caution diabetics about using milk protein and whey in particular.


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