Here in the Undenatured Whey Protein FAQ section you will find answers to some of the frequently asked questions about this most natural way of improving glutathione levels: how it raises glutathione levels, how it affects your immune health, how to properly handle these fragile proteins, and more.
We did our best to cover most topics concerning this immune health supplement (that we ourselves use daily) and will continue to add to this page as new questions from you, our readers, arise.
If you would like to ask a question please use the contact form at the bottom of this page.
1. What is undenatured whey protein made of?
Undenatured whey proteins are derived from cow's or goat's milk (specifically, the whey component of milk) that has not been subjected to pasteurization, homogenization or any other type of processing that destroys cysteine molecules within these proteins. Cysteine is one of the three glutathione precursors, and it is the most rare of all to find in foods in its undenatured bonded state because heat over 72 C (161.6 F), agitation, oxidation and over-processing destroy the cysteine molecule.
2. How does undenatured whey protein help my immune system?
Undenatured whey protein helps your immune system by supplying your body with bonded cysteine which is the crucial building block for glutathione. Cysteine is very hard to obtain through modern diet when all dairy is pasteurized and cysteine amounts in raw fruit and vegetables are far from being sufficient. Meat sources cannot be taken into account either since you cannot eat raw meat. Cysteine in undenatured whey remains bonded (two cysteine molecules connected with a disulfide bond) and therefore it is highly bio-active. Such bonded cysteine molecule is able to enter the cell undamaged and unaltered ready to participate in glutathione production.
Optimal glutathione levels are mandatory for a healthy immune system, for proper detoxification and antioxidant activity within all cells. It has been scientifically proven that without glutathione cells die (Glutathione efflux and cell death. Franco R, Cidlowski JA. PMID: 22656858).
3. Are undenatured whey proteins safe?
Undenatured whey protein supplements are generally recognized as safe. These supplements are comparable to drinking raw milk minus most of the fat, cholesterol, lactose (milk sugars), and of course, bacteria that are filtered out. Compared to concentrates, isolates usually have zero fat, cholesterol and lactose making isolates a better choice for those who prefer to avoid these components. Protein make-up of undenatured whey proteins is as close as one can get to human breast milk. This is one of the very few supplements that can be given even to babies (however, always consult a pediatrician first).
Important: if you have a medical condition, scroll down to the next question #4 to read about certain precautions, and always consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplements.
4. Who should not take undenatured whey proteins?
Patients who have the following medical conditions should NOT take undenatured whey proteins:
Patients who should exercise caution when taking undenatured whey:
5. Can children take undenatured whey protein?
Yes, children can be given undenatured whey protein as early as 2-3 months old. This immune health supplement is composed of the same basic proteins that are found in human breast milk. Both of our children have been taking undenatured whey protein since they stopped breastfeeding in order to continue the supply of much needed bioavailable cysteine. However, always consult a pediatrician first!
6. How much should I take to see results?
Since undenatured whey protein supplements vary in quality and bio-activity depending on the manufacturing process, it is difficult to recommend a specific dose. Early research done by Dr. Bounous in the 1970-80s indicated that at least 20 grams a day should be taken to maintain glutathione levels. Our personal experience tells us that 40-60 grams a day may be needed to improve immune health. Dosage also depends on a person's age, weight, and overall health.
7. How is undenatured whey protein different from cysteine and glutathione pills, and NAC that are marketed as immune support supplements?
The uniqueness of undenatured whey protein is that it delivers the crucial precursor cysteine into the cell in the form ready for glutathione production directly in the cell. It is made from milk and is as safe as food can be.
It has been shown that taking isolated cysteine (L-cysteine) as a supplement may in fact raise glutathione to some degree. But synthetic cysteine taken this way is potentially toxic. Cysteine toxicity leads to a number of disorders in the body, from heart disease to renal (kidney) disease. Due to the potential for cysteine toxicity, excessive homocysteine and hypercysteinemia, it is not recommended to take L-cysteine supplements without strict supervision from your physician.
Oral glutathione has been shown to raise blood glutathione levels in one study done with a specific brand. For cells to utilize the precursors from oral glutathione, it first needs to bypass degradation in the digestive tract, and then be broken down into its component amino acids. Liposomal glutathione is considered to be the most effective delivery system since glutathione molecules are protected by liposomes which helps avoid breakdown in the stomach. Some precautions about oral glutathione supplementation can be found here.
NAC – N-acetyl-cysteine - is a potent glutathione precursor that has been available as a pharmaceutical drug and also can be found on the shelves of health supplement stores in less potent doses. Some people taking NAC report rash, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. NAC is widely used in hospital emergency rooms on patients suffering from severe acetaminophen toxicity due to overdose in order to quickly boost their glutathione levels and save their lives. These measures often lead to above-mentioned side effects. Also, raising glutathione levels with NAC has only temporary effect that lasts only several hours after which glutathione levels drop, sometimes below the original level (Dr. Jimmy Gutman "Glutathione. Your Key To Health").
8. What is the difference between taking undenatured whey protein and antioxidants such as vitamins C or E?
Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant working to lessen oxidative stress, neutralize pollutants and thus strengthen the immune system. In one trial, blood glutathione levels rose nearly 50% in healthy people after taking 500 mg of vitamin C per day for two weeks. Vitamin C raises glutathione by helping the body manufacture it. Vitamin E acts in a similar way as vitamin C - it recycles glutathione and depends on it itself for proper function and recycling as well. Vitamin E is essential as an antioxidant and provides protection for the cells against free radical damage. Its role is particularly important in protecting fats, cell membranes, DNA and enzymes against damage. This vitamin is crucial for the maintenance of a healthy immune system as it protects the thymus gland and circulating white blood cells.
Although vitamins C and E play a role in raising glutathione levels, they act as co-factors of glutathione production, not as the main source of it, and they depend on glutathione, the master antioxidant, for their own proper functioning.
Without the three precursors of glutathione production - amino-acids glutamate, glycine and cysteine - cells cannot make glutathione, no matter how much vitamin C and E is available. Out of these three amino-acids cysteine is the most crucial because it is rare in foods in the form that can enter cells. Quality undenatured whey protein concentrate or isolate delivers this crucial precursor cysteine into the cell in the form ready for glutathione production.
9. Are there any side effects associated with taking undenatured whey proteins?
Some people, especially those who have been exposed to high levels of environmental toxins and whose glutathione levels are low, may experience a mild temporary reaction as the liver is removing concentrated toxins. This reaction may manifest itself as a rash or a headache. It means that undenatured whey proteins are working in your body. Usually, reducing the dose will allow these temporary side effects to go away. In this case the solution would be to increase the dose of an undenatured whey supplement slowly starting with the smallest dose that the body accepts well - 10 or even 5 grams at first, and work your way up to a dose that provides the best result. Also, it is important to drink enough water to facilitate detoxification.
10. Are there any known interactions between undenatured whey protein and prescription medications?
Yes, but only with one class of medications - the immunosuppressants. Quality undenatured whey proteins taken at an appropriate dose help improve your immune system and should not be taken if you are on any kind of immunosuppressant, for example after an organ transplant surgery, because undenatured whey may counteract such medication.
There are no known interactions between undenatured whey protein supplements and any other prescription medications that I am aware of.
If you are taking any prescription medications, you should always consult your doctor before starting any supplement!
11. Are there any known interactions between undenatured whey protein and other nutritional supplements?
To my knowledge, there are no known interactions between undenatured whey proteins and other nutritional supplements such as vitamins, antioxidant vitamins and juices, or herbs.
In fact, improved glutathione levels help enhance the action of antioxidant vitamins (C and E in particular) and other vitamins as well, so there is no need to take 10 times the recommended daily amounts of these vitamins, if you take a quality undenatured whey protein supplement at an appropriate dose.
12. What is the best time of day to take undenatured whey?
It is best to take undenatured whey protein when there is no other protein in your stomach because whey supplements are 70-90% pure protein. This makes the first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to bed ideal times.
In all cases undenatured whey protein should not be taken for 2 hours after consuming any other protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese) or having any large meal. Also, do not take more than 20 grams at a time because the body can absorb efficiently only a certain amount of protein at any given time.
13. What denatures undenatured whey protein? How to keep it bioactive?
In the late 1970s, when Dr. Gustavo Bounous was studying the newly discovered immuno-enhancing properties of undenatured whey protein, he came to a road block - the whey protein powder he had been receiving from a European supplier stopped exhibiting these amazing results.
For two long years Dr. Bounous struggled to replicate the immune boosting results and find an answer as to why the whey protein powder had stopped working. Finally he learned that the requirements of cheese making had changed in Europe and the whey powder was now pasteurized at above 72 C (161.6 F). Heat was destroying the fragile disulfide bonds in cysteine molecules denaturing whey protein and rendering it useless for raising glutathione.
In order to keep whey protein undenatured and bioactive when mixing it there are several DO NOT tips to keep in mind:
Following these simple instructions will ensure that you are consuming undenatured whey protein in its unaltered form with bioactive cysteine intact.
14. How to mix undenatured whey protein the easy way, and with what liquids?
Undenatured whey protein is a fine powder, similar in texture to pastry flour or starch, and it will clump and become a nightmare if mixed with too much liquid. But clumping is actually a good sign of a quality undenatured whey supplement that underwent only minimal processing. If your supplement dissolves in liquid as fast and smooth as instant coffee, there may be not much bioavailable cysteine in it.
This is how to re-hydrate undenatured whey protein properly, the fast and easy way:
15. What should diabetics mix undenatured whey protein with?
First of all, diabetic patients should choose undenatured whey protein isolates, not concentrates, because concentrates usually have some lactose (milk sugar) in them. Isolates are typically sugar-free. And of course, there shouldn't be any added sweeteners either (check the label).
Diabetics should not mix undenatured whey protein with any of the juices (neither orange, apple, nor grape juices) to avoid increases in sugar levels in blood or urine. These commercial juices add an average of 8-10 teaspoons of sugar daily if undenatured whey is taken twice a day in 6 oz. of liquid (12 oz. total).
Diabetics should mix undenatured whey protein with unsweetened yogurt, almond or rice milk (make sure there is no aspartame listed in the ingredients), plain kefir, or water.
16. Cancer cells make glutathione too. Will undenatured whey provide cysteine to cancer cells as well, and thus make them stronger?
Because of the nature of cancer cells (greatly reduced ability to self-regulate) providing additional cysteine has a paradoxical effect - the precursors that raise glutathione in normal cells trigger the opposite reaction in cancerous cells. When glutathione production is overstimulated in cancerous cells, they shut down glutathione production in a process called "negative feedback inhibition", making them more susceptible to destruction. Meanwhile, normal tissue uses the precursors to make glutathione, leaving healthy cells with better defenses which is very important while undergoing treatments. (1. Russo A, DeGraff W, Friedman N, et al. Selective modulation of glutathione levels in human normal versus tumor cells and subsequent differential response to chemotherapy drugs. Cancer Res. 46: 2845-2848, 1986; 2. Dr. Jimmy Gutman. "GSH. Your Body's Most Powerful Protector Glutathione". 3rd edition, 2002. Chapter 5. Cancer. pp. 74-75).
Important: cancer patients should not initiate any treatments on their own and should first talk to their treating physician about any glutathione boosting therapies.
17. I am in good health. Will an undenatured whey supplement keep me from ever getting sick?
No. Our immune system is much more complex than that. Undenatured whey protein is not a magic pill. Undenatured cysteine for building up glutathione is only a part, although an essential one, of what keeps us healthier. Optimized glutathione does not mean that you are immune to everything. It does mean, however, that you will make fewer trips to the doctor, heal much faster and be less prone to illnesses.
Other components of a healthy immune system include a healthy, nutritious diet that provides all co-factors of glutathione production and minimizes glutathione depleting agents; optimal vitamin D levels; low stress; at least 8 hours of restful sleep; exercising; and minimal exposure to environmental and household toxins.
18. How can undenatured whey proteins benefit healthy people?
People how are in good general health, including even those under 40 years of age, can definitely benefit from supporting glutathione production with undenatured whey proteins.
Modern diets poor in undenatured cysteine do not provide nearly enough of this crucial glutathione precursor. Even if you eat healthy and read all the food labels to avoid unwanted ingredients, you still do not get hardly any undenatured cysteine. That is unless you are somehow able to eat several pounds of raw broccoli, or drink two gallons of raw milk daily – this is what it takes to provide enough undenatured cysteine to maintain normal glutathione levels.
High stress levels, environmental pollution, food laden with chemicals and poor in undenatured cysteine, antibiotics, bad habits such as smoking - all deplete glutathione, undermine health and will eventually lead to illness. It is just a matter of time.
It is essential to feed your immune system to ensure it stays in tip-top condition as long as possible. But how do you do that? This is where quality, minimally processed undenatured whey protein steps in – it supplies your cells with undenatured cysteine, so that your cells can continue making glutathione.
So, what exactly can 20-30 grams of bioactive, undenatured whey protein a day do for a healthy person?
19. How long before I notice results with undenatured whey protein?
Undenatured whey protein supplement is not a pharmaceutical chemical drug with strict dosages and immediate results. In general, at 20-30 grams a day, it takes up to 2 weeks for undenatured cysteine to get into your system and start improving glutathione levels, and additional 3-4 weeks to raise your glutathione to optimal levels.
For those in good health:
At this point, after 4-5 weeks, you should start noticing an increase in energy, enhanced mental acuity and improved sense of well-being.
If you are an athlete, whether an amateur or professional, your physical performance will improve and recovery time should shorten.
For those with health problems:
You may notice results from taking an appropriate dose of quality undenatured whey after the first week, depending on the severity of your condition, overall health, your age and the amount of time that you have had this particular condition.
Because most diseases are accompanied by low glutathione levels, even a slight initial increase in glutathione levels may bring noticable results. Since undenatured whey does not have strict dosages, depending on the body's response, it may be necessary to increase the dose to 40-60 grams a day to continue on the road to improvement and even possible recovery.
Also, for better results with undenatured whey one must avoid as much as possible everything that depletes glutathione. Read What depletes glutathione?
20. Can I overdose on undenatured whey protein?
To my knowledge, there have been no reports of toxicity associated with overdosing on undenatured whey protein.
Your body cannot overproduce glutathione. The use of undenatured cysteine for intracellular glutathione production is a tightly regulated process through the activity of the enzyme gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. Such ability of the cells to self-regulate glutathione production greatly minimizes the possibility of overdose.
Since the body can absorb only a certain amount of protein, taking more than 80 grams of undenatured whey protein a day may not have any effect on improving immune health.