Pasteurized versus pasture-raised whey

May 20, 2011

Whey protein is well-known to be a high-quality protein supplement which is derived from cow’s milk. Cow’s milk has two kinds of protein: Casein (roughly 80%) and Whey Protein (approximately 20%). Of the two, whey protein is considered to be the “Gold Standard” of protein as it is very easily processed by the body.

          Protein is an important nutrient that is made up of essential and non-essential amino acids, which are the “building blocks” for strong and healthy bodies. It repairs body cells, builds and repairs muscles and bones, provides a source of energy, and controls many of the important body processes for increasing metabolism. It actually helps in the preventing diseases such as cancer and also reducing ones blood pressure levels.

          Although there are many well-written articles describing the benefits of whey protein, too much protein consumption can have adverse affects. There can be severe side effects like kidney or liver failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women need about 46 grams of protein per day while men need about 56 grams.  

However, while the quantity of protein consumed certainly needs to be managed, the quality of the protein also needs to be considered. The ingredients used to make protein supplements vary widely as does the quality of the whey protein itself. It is counterproductive, for example, to consume a whey protein with lots of added sugars or highly processed additives.   

And, as contaminants can attach themselves chemically to amino acids, you need to be very careful about the quality of the raw milk (original source of whey) and the processing. 

This article will discuss the 3 major areas to consider about the quality of the whey protein itself.  

Heavy Metals

In July 2010, a report made by Consumer Reports entitled, “Health Alert: Protein Drinks” included tests conducted on 15 different ready-to-drink and protein powders for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Such results were compared to the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s proposed limits for heavy metals in dietary supplement products. 

          Results showed that at least one sample of each contained surprisingly high levels of one or more of the following heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Three supplement products namely EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake, Muscle Milk Chocolate powder, and Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème were found to have the highest levels of these toxic heavy metals.  

Ready-to-drink EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake provides an average of 16.9 micrograms (µg) of arsenic, exceeding the proposed USP limit of 15 µg per day. It also has an average of 5.1 µg of cadmium, which is just above the USP limit of 5 µg per day. Muscle Milk Chocolate powder has the highest levels of heavy metals in their tests with an average cadmium levels of 5.6 µg in three daily servings slightly exceeded the USP limit of 5 µg per day, an average lead level of 13.5 µg also surpassed the USP limit of 10 µg per day, and average arsenic level of 12.2 µg was approaching the USP limit of 15 µg per day. Lastly, daily servings of Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème contained 12.2 µg of lead, exceeding lead limits, and 11.2 µg of arsenic. 

          According to Michael Harbut, director of the Environmental Cancer Initiative at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Cadmium is a high toxic metal which can accumulate in and can damage the kidneys, the same organs that can be damaged by excessive protein consumption. 

          What makes these findings particularly troubling is that these products are intended to be used on a regular basis at relatively high volumes.   


Just recently in March, Nutrition Express of Torrance, CA voluntarily recalled specific products rich in whey protein. They found out that these products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and those who have weakened immune systems. Persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. 

Moreover, new tests made by found most protein powders, shakes, and drinks were contaminated with lead (6 to 18 mcg per day). These products are used for body building, meal replacement, sports recovery/endurance, and dieting. Todd Cooperman, President of, states adults need about 60 grams of protein per day and more if physically active. 

Most vendors that sell whey protein supplements which have industrial food additives as ingredients including mineral casseinate, whey protein concentrate, powdered oils, thickeners, and synthetic sweeteners. It is clear from the ingredients of these supplements that such ready-to-drink products are made similar to junk foods.   

These similarities to junk food are particularly noteworthy for a product that is targeted to health conscious consumers as a supplement to vigorous exercise. 


           A lot of whey protein products are manufactured with heat processes such as pasteurization, ion exchange, hydrolysis or hydroxylation of whey protein, and high-temperature drying. This high temperature processing denatures the fragile natural ingredients of whey protein. It literally kills good enzymes, bacteria and other pro-biotics.

          Denatured whey proteins are made using higher temperatures. It goes through acidifying process which changes the pH level of milk. This causes structural changes and denatures the milk.

            This creates unhealthy products that could cause proteins to be deformed into unnatural shapes which are not recognized by the body. Proteins are broken into free amino acids where enzymes are destroyed and the immune system benefits of raw milk are eliminated. 

        The reason that most commercial whey proteins are denatured is that it is cheaper (and most consumers aren’t aware of the implications of this shortcut).  By using cheaper “industrial milk” from unhealthy cows (cows raised on grains, anti-biotics and/or steroids), they have to ultra-pasteurize the milk to kill the dangerous micro-organisms that often are found in the milk of unhealthy cows (Michael Pollan’s books are great sources to learn more about the problems with animal products from industrial farms).   

       The alternative to this is to use milk from healthy – pasture-raised (grass-fed) – cows.  By doing this, manufacturers can produce products that don’t have to be ultra- pasteurized.  They can be safely processed without denaturing the whey.

                 Health experts suggest non-denatured whey proteins supplements instead of denatured. The non-denatured whey protein helps regulate the metabolic activities and protects our body system from the toxic effects of the environment. It reinforces immune system and helps to eliminate toxic substances from the body. It restores the glutathione levels and cysteine which is essential for healthy cell function. It has conjugated linoleic acid and recycles vitamin E and vitamin C. It has inherent linoleic acid which helps fight against cancer causing agents and boost the antioxidant properties. Many have recognized non-denatured whey protein as a great nutritional support because it also has less lactose. It likewise prevents muscle catabolism with its higher amounts of branched chain amino acids.

          And, healthy cows don’t have exposure to the heavy metals and other chemicals found in industrial farms.  So, whey from their milk doesn’t contain the dangerous levels of these toxins that most store-bought, denatured whey protein supplements do. 


Consumer Reports magazine: July 2010. Retrieved on May 2, 2011, from


Whey protein recalled due to Salmonella contamination. Retrieved on May 3, 2011, from

Tests of Protein Powders and Drinks Show Some Lead Contamination. Retrieved on May 3, 2011, from

Nikolov, I. (2011). Information About Whey Protein – The Hard Facts. Retrieved from

Undenatured Whey Protein. Retrieved on May 3, 2011, from


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply