Whey Protein and Glycomacropeptides

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

January 17, 2022

Whey Protein and Glycomacropeptides
Protein has been a popular topic for decades, yet many still have questions. How much do you need? Aren’t all protein sources the same? What are the benefits of protein? As diet trends change over time, we find what works and what doesn’t. Whey protein, which has garnered attention for decades, still stands the test of time. This functional food provides an excellent source of quality protein, is easily digested, works great for muscles and tissue repair, and provides a special compound called glycomacropeptides.

Protein Quality

Not all protein is equal. Whey protein provides proven exceptional quality and properties. One advantage is its bioavailability, or the digestibility and usability of the protein. Plant proteins contain fiber, phytic acid and other compounds that decrease the digestibility of the protein. Animal proteins also generally have a larger variety and percentage of the core building blocks of protein called amino acids. Some of these amino acids cannot be built by your body and must be consumed from foods. Unlike plant proteins, whey protein contains high amounts of all these essential building blocks.

Scientists use a formula to measure and score protein quality called Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Scores (DIAAS). Higher scores reflect higher quality and balance of amino acids.

Many plant-based proteins, such as wheat, score less than 0.8, whereas soy protein has a DIAAS score of 1.0. Whey protein tops the list with scores of 2.3 – 3.3, as it is especially rich in the amino acids leucine, lysine, methionine, and tryptophan and has high bioavailability. Plant-based proteins have considerably lower levels of amino acids and less bioavailability, thus the lower DIAAS scores.

Muscles, Vital Organs, and Daily Repair Needs

Muscles and other protein rich organs in your body are in a daily cycle of turnover. Ongoing cellular rebuilding (anabolic) and tear down (catabolic) in muscles, tissues, and organs occurs to remove old worn out cells and replace them. An estimated 250 – 300 grams of protein/amino acids are used everyday in this natural process in healthy adults. Adequate consumption of daily protein and the protein reserves in your muscles and organs provides for this rebuilding process.

Stress, illness, fasting, injury, and age-related muscle loss contribute to a higher need for dietary proteins to provide for this ongoing remodeling. If the protein needs are not met, protein/amino acids are pulled from muscles and shunted towards your vital organs for their needs. This is one of the reasons why your muscles may feel weak and wimpy after an illness or fasting.

mTOR and Protein Needs

Whey protein provides excellent support for building skeletal muscles and repair because it is high in the amino acid, leucine. Leucine triggers a skeletal muscle repair compound called mTOR. This mTOR compound directs signals related with insulin and repair hormones, AMPK (a master fat burning enzyme) and ATP production, physical activity, and balance of amino acids used within muscles for repair and rebuilding.

Leucine – A Trigger for mTOR

In times of stress, illness, and fasting, mTOR is downregulated. When dietary intake of protein resumes, especially proteins rich in leucine, then the process shifts back to building new muscle (anabolic) and tissue repair. Research shows it takes 2.5 grams of leucine in a protein rich meal to trigger mTOR and muscle repair process.

To get 2.5 grams of leucine and trigger the mTOR remodeling, you need about 30 grams of animal protein or 35-40 grams of plant-based proteins at one meal. One scoop of Daily Protein Unflavored provides 2.8 grams of leucine and 26 grams of protein. Daily Protein Plus (any flavor) provides 2.2 grams of leucine and 21-22 grams of protein per scoop.

Dietary protein recommendations for a healthy adult are generally 0.8 g/kg body weight. A middle age adult who weighs 150 pounds or 68 kg needs a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. Older or obese individuals, athletes, those with digestive difficulties or under high stress or recovery may need a minimum of 1 gm/kg of protein. That equates to at least 68 grams of protein per day in a 150 pound adult. Even higher amounts may be warranted pending individual needs.

Here are some examples of protein content. Animal proteins have higher leucine content.

Cottage cheese, ½ cup, 14 grams protein
Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat, 5 oz, 12-18 gm
Egg, 1 large, 7 gm
Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Lamb, Fish, Tuna 1 oz, 7 gm
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp, 7 gm
Kidney, Navy, or Black beans ½ c, 8 gm
Tofu, 1 oz, 3 gm


Whey protein provides other beneficial compounds including glycomacropeptides (GMP). Glycomacropeptide is a milk-derived bioactive peptide released during the making of cheese. It is not naturally found in other plant or animal proteins. GMP is rich in branch amino acids essential for tissue growth and repair. GMP has a small molecular weight, is water soluble, which makes it easily absorbable.

Considerable interest in glycomacropeptides has arisen in recent years as researchers have uncovered its vast benefits and value to health. A review study in the journal Nutrients 2019 described and documented the many different properties of whey protein glycomacropeptides. Here are some of the findings.

Immune Surveillance and Modulation

Glycomacropeptides help protect your gut lining as it impedes bacterial adherence to the wall. It also helps protect your mouth and teeth from bacteria that affect plaque and decay.

GMP aids in protection and reduces the release of cytokines and interleukin from bacteria and their toxic LPS by-products. GMP dampens the release of histamine and other pro-inflammatory immune compounds by cells in response to an allergen.

Prebiotic Properties

Glycomacropeptides increased beneficial gut bacteria, like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and others like firmicutes, bacteroidetes, and actinobacteria. In addition, higher amounts of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) were produced with GMP.

Beneficial bacteria and SCFA are linked with more efficient metabolism and weight management, healthy cholesterol and blood sugar management, improved bowel motility and easier passage of fecal material, immune moderation, mucosal barrier integrity, and far more.

Digestion and Metabolism

GMP reduced levels of ghrelin (appetite stimulating hormone), fasting insulin, and blood sugar levels in animal studies. In addition, research findings showed decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels, reduced weight gain, and suppressed fat cell growth.

Colon Protection

Other animal studies showed that GMP use aided in increased production of the proteins p16 and mucin2. These proteins are found in the colon and are known to provide protection against dysfunctional, rogue cells. GMP modulates the release of inflammatory markers like NF-kappa B in the colon linked with bacterial toxins.

Mineral Absorption

GMP enhances mineral absorption. Dietary intake of glycomacropeptides increased calcium absorption in bone, zinc absorption into cells, and supported mineral content in tooth enamel. Even with a low calcium diet, animal studies showed that calcium content in bone improved in 8-20 weeks with glycomacropeptide intake.

Additional Recent Findings: NSAID protection, Histamine Management

Since the 2019 Nutrients study, additional research has further solidified the benefits of glycomacropeptides. Animal studies demonstrated that GMP helped protect the digestive tract from the harsh effects induced by NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) use.

In this study, rats were given indomethacin, an NSAID, to induce adverse changes to the gut lining. Despite the drug challenge, the GMP supported group maintained healthy hemoglobin and hematocrit levels with substantially less immune activation and inflammatory compounds present compared the control group. It was shown that glycomacropeptidesquenched the release of free radicals induced by the drug.

A recent 2020 animal study showed that GMPs supported and protected gut health even with exposure to allergens. Glycomacropeptide use led to improvement in fecal material consistency, a reduction of tissue swelling in the intestinal tract and lower production of TNF-alpha and interleukins (inflammatory markers). Results also showed GMP use helped protect the villi, the finger-like projections in the intestines that are used for absorption, and other tissues within the gut wall from infiltration of mast cells, eosinophils, and other immune compounds that affect the release of histamine.

Whey protein is unique compared to other proteins with its rich abundance of leucine and glycomacropeptides. Science also points to benefits for immune health and modulation, beneficial flora and intestinal health protection, and even dental health and mineral absorption.

Daily Protein is rich in highly bioavailable proteins, the amino acid leucine and glycomacropeptides help your body repair and rebuild after workouts, convalescence and daily repair maintenance. Our Daily Proteins are also unique in that it comes from cow are raised on small family farms without hormones or antibiotic use, and are grass-fed over 300 days per year!

We know that you have many different protein choices to choose from. Daily Protein and Daily Protein Plus (with fiber) offer a great source of low calorie, no-cholesterol and no sugar, casein-free, gluten-free, high bioavailability non-GMO protein that tastes great, mixes well in a few seconds and doesn’t require you to cook. Try it for a quick easy breakfast or lunch. Mix it with water, milk or dairy alternative, or juice. Have it with some fruit or vegetables, handful of nuts, and granola or toast for a complete meal. It’s easier to digest than cold boiled eggs or a big steak and has better bioavailability than a bowl of beans and rice and wealth of other benefits. Give it a try!

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