Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Whey protein

Effects on insulin secretion and intestinal health via intestinal peptides

  • 371 Accesses


Ingestion of whey protein has been shown to promote satiety, stimulate insulin release and maintain digestive health. These beneficial effects are linked with stimulation of intestinal proglucagon-derived peptides and rapid digestion and absorption of amino acids from whey protein into the bloodstream. Functional foods that incorporate whey protein may provide health benefits for individuals at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as those with intestinal diseases. The ability of whey protein or whey protein hydrolysate to improve glucose homeostasis and promote healing of the intestinal mucosa is associated with decreased degradation of intestinal peptides via modulation of dipeptidyl peptidase-IV activity in animal models. Further research in human subjects and animal models is needed to more fully understand the effects of whey protein on intestinal physiology and the regulation of glucose and insulin homeostasis.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1

    Zemel MB (2004) Role of calcium and dairy products in energy partitioning and weight management Am J Clin Nutr 79 907S–912S

  2. 2

    Sprong R (2009) Beneficial effect of whey protein on gut health, gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease in animal models Nutrafoods 8 23–28

  3. 3

    Hall WL, Millward DJ, Long SJ, Morgan LM (2003) Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite Br J Nutr 89 239–248

  4. 4

    Drucker DJ, Sherman SI, Gorelick FS, Bergenstal RM, Sherwin RS, Buse JB (2010) Incretin-based therapies for the treatment of type 2 diabetes: evaluation of the risks and benefits Diabetes Care 33 428–433

  5. 5

    Pereira MA, Jacobs DR, Jr Van Horn, L Slattery ML, Kartashov A I, Ludwig D S (2002) Dairy consumption, obesity, and the insulin resistance syndrome in young adults: the CARDIA Study JAMA 287 2081–2089

  6. 6

    Nilsson M, Stenberg M, Frid A H, Holst JJ, Bjorck IM (2004) Glycemia and insulinemia in healthy subjects after lactose-equivalent meals of milk and other food proteins: the role of plasma amino acids and incretins Am J Clin Nutr 80 1246–1253

  7. 7

    Drucker D J (2003) Glucagon-like peptides: regulators of cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis Mol Endocrinol 17 161–171

  8. 8

    Estall JL, Drucker DJ (2006) Glucagon-like Peptide-2 Ann Rev Nutr 26 391–411

  9. 9

    Orskov C, Holst JJ, Knuhtsen S, Baldissera FG, Poulsen SS, Nielsen OV (1986) Glucagon-like peptides GLP-1 and GLP-2, predicted products of the glucagon gene, are secreted separately from pig small intestine but not pancreas Endocrinol 119 1467–1475

  10. 10

    Dube PE, Brubaker PL (2007) Frontiers in glucagon-like peptide-2: multiple actions, multiple mediators Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 293 E460–E465

  11. 11

    Holst JJ (2006) Glucagon-like peptide-1: from extract to agent. The Claude Bernard Lecture, 2005 Diabetologia 49 253–260

  12. 12

    Williams DL, Baskin DG, Schwartz MW (2009) Evidence that intestinal glucagon-like peptide-1 plays a physiological role in satiety Endocrinol 150 1680–1687

  13. 13

    Guan X, Stoll B, Lu, X, Tappenden KA, Holst JJ et al (2003) GLP-2-mediated up-regulation of intestinal blood flow and glucose uptake is nitric oxide-dependent in TPN-fed piglets Gastroenterol 125 136–147

  14. 14

    Vilsboll T, Agerso H, Krarup T, Holst JJ (2003) Similar elimination rates of glucagon-like peptide-1 in obese type 2 diabetic patients and healthy subjects J Clin Endocrinol Metab 88 220–224

  15. 15

    Baggio LL, Drucker DJ (2007) Biology of incretins: GLP-1 and GIP Gastroenterol 132 2131–2157

  16. 16

    Lauritsen K B, Moody AJ, Christensen KC, Lindkaer Jensen S. (1980) Gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) and insulin release after smallbowel resection in man Scand J Gastroenterol 15 833–840

  17. 17

    Kieffer TJ, McIntosh CH, Pederson RA (1995) Degradation of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide and truncated glucagon-like peptide 1 in vitro and in vivo by dipeptidyl peptidase IV Endocrinol 136 3585–3596

  18. 18

    Willms B, Werner J, Holst JJ, Orskov C, Creutzfeldt W, Nauck MA (1996) Gastric emptying, glucose responses, and insulin secretion after a liquid test meal: effects of exogenous glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)-(7-36) amide in type 2 (noninsulin-dependent) diabetic patients J Clin Endocrinol Metab 81 327–332

  19. 19

    Flint A, Raben A, Astrup A, Holst JJ (1998) Glucagon-like peptide 1 promotes satiety and suppresses energy intake in humans J Clin Invest 101 515–520

  20. 20

    Gutzwiller JP, Drewe J, Goke B, Schmidt H, Rohrer B et al (1999) Glucagon-like peptide-1 promotes satiety and reduces food intake in patients with diabetes mellitus type 2 Am J Physiol 276 R1541–R1544

  21. 21

    Buse JB, Rosenstock J, Sesti G, Schmidt WE et al (2009) Liraglutide once a day versus exenatide twice a day for type 2 diabetes: a 26-week randomised, parallel-group, multinational, openlabel trial (LEAD-6) Lancet 374 39–47

  22. 22

    Frid AH, Nilsson M, Holst JJ, Bjorck IM (2005) Effect of whey on blood glucose and insulin responses to composite breakfast and lunch meals in type 2 diabetic subjects Am J Clin Nutr 82 69–75

  23. 23

    Morifuji M, Ishizaka M, Baba S, Fukuda K et al (2010) Comparison of different sources and degrees of hydrolysis of dietary protein: effect on plasma amino acids, dipeptides, and insulin responses in human subjects J Agric Food Chem 58 8788–8797

  24. 24

    Ma J, Stevens JE, Cukier K, Maddox AF, Wishart J M et al (2009) Effects of a protein preload on gastric emptying, glycemia, and gut hormones after a carbohydrate meal in diet-controlled type 2 diabetes Diabetes Care 32 1600–1602

  25. 25

    Rask E, Olsson T, Soderberg S, Holst Jj J, Tura A et al (2004) Insulin secretion and incretin hormones after oral glucose in nonobese subjects with impaired glucose tolerance Metabolism 53 624–631

  26. 26

    Lim GE, Huang GJ, Flora N, LeRoith D, Rhodes CJ, Brubaker PL (2009) Insulin regulates glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion from the enteroendocrine L cell Endocrinol 150 580–591

  27. 27

    Pal S, Ellis V (2010) The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men Br J Nutr 104 1241–1248

  28. 28

    Akhavan T, Luhovyy BL, Brown PH, Cho CE, Anderson GH (2010) Effect of premeal consumption of whey protein and its hydrolysate on food intake and postmeal glycemia and insulin responses in young adults Am J Clin Nutr 91 966–975

  29. 29

    Hageman R, Severijnen C, van de Heijning BJ, Bouritius H, van Wijk N et al (2008) A specific blend of intact protein rich in aspartate has strong postprandial glucose attenuating properties in rats J Nutr 138 1634–1640

  30. 30

    Gunnarsson PT, Winzell MS, Deacon CF, Larsen MO, Jelic K et al (2006) Glucose-induced incretin hormone release and inactivation are differently modulated by oral fat and protein in mice Endocrinol 147 3173–3180

  31. 31

    Liu X, Murali SG, Holst JJ, Ney DM (2009) Whey protein potentiates the intestinotrophic action of glucagonlike peptide-2 in parenterally fed rats Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 297 R1554–R1562

  32. 32

    Conarello SL, Li Z, Ronan J, Roy RS, Zhu L et al (2003) Mice lacking dipeptidyl peptidase IV are protected against obesity and insulin resistance Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100 6825–6830

  33. 33

    Chabance B, Marteau P, Rambaud JC, Migliore-Samour D, Boynard M et al (1998) Casein peptide release and passage to the blood in humans during digestion of milk or yogurt Biochimie 80 155–165

  34. 34

    Liu X, Nelson DW, Holst JJ, Ney DM (2006) Synergistic effect of supplemental enteral nutrients and exogenous glucagon-like peptide 2 on intestinal adaptation in a rat model of short bowel syndrome Am J Clin Nutr 84 1142–1150

  35. 35

    McArdle A H, Wittnich C, Freeman CR, Duguid WP (1985) Elemental diet as prophylaxis against radiation injury. Histological and ultrastructural studies Arch Surg 120 1026–1032

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Denise M. Ney.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ney, D.M., Boehler, C.J. Whey protein. Nutrafoods 10, 17–22 (2011).

Download citation


  • Whey proteins
  • Intestinal Peptides
  • Glycemia
  • Insulinemia