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Whey Protein


Whey protein comes from milk. It has been used to help the body recover and build muscle after exercise. Whey protein has also been used to improve fat levels in the blood. Whey protein can be taken as a pill or powder. It is most often combined as a powder with milk or water to make a drink.


20 to 40 grams daily

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Allergic diseases —likely to prevent allergy in children at high risk E

May Be Effective

  • Athletic performance —may help with recovery and improve body composition A1-A4
  • Atopic dermatitis —may lower the risk of in infants when they are not exclusively breastfed D1
  • Obesity —may improve blood fat, insulin levels, cardiovascular risk factors, and body composition C1, C2

Unlikely to Be Effective

  • High cholesterol —unlikely to lower triglycerides B1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take whey protein in small doses for a short time, but worsening of acne is possible. People allergic to milk should not take whey protein. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.



A. Athletic Performance

A1. Miller PE, Alexander DD, et al. Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):163-175.

A2. Davies RW, Carson BP, et al. The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation on the Temporal Recovery of Muscle Function Following Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 16;10(2). pii: E221.

A3. Colonetti T, Grande AJ, et al. Effects of whey protein supplement in the elderly submitted to resistance training: systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017 May;68(3):257-264.

A4. Naclerio F, Larumbe-Zabala E. Effects of Whey Protein Alone or as Part of a Multi-ingredient Formulation on Strength, Fat-Free Mass, or Lean Body Mass in Resistance-Trained Individuals: A Meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Jan;46(1):125-137.

B. High Cholesterol

B1. Zhang JW, Tong X, et al. Effect of whey protein on blood lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(8):879-885.

C. Obesity

C1. Pal S, Ellis V, et al. Effects of whey protein isolate on body composition, lipids, insulin and glucose in overweight and obese individuals. Br J Nutr. 2010;104(5):716-723.

C2. Wirunsawanya K, Upala S, et al. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Body Composition and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Coll Nutr. 2018 Jan;37(1):60-70.

D. Atopic Dermatitis

D1. Alexander DD, Schmitt DF, et al. Partially hydrolyzed 100% whey protein infant formula and atopic dermatitis risk reduction: a systematic review of the literature. Nutr Rev. 2010 Apr;68(4):232-245.

D2. Alexander DD, Cabana MD. Partially hydrolyzed 100% whey protein infant formula and reduced risk of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Apr;50(4):422-430.

E. Allergic Diseases

E1. Szajewska H, Horvath A. Meta-analysis of the evidence for a partially hydrolyzed 100% whey formula for the prevention of allergic diseases. Curr Med Res Opin. 2010 Feb;26(2):423-437.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC  Last Updated: 6/29/2020