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Processing Methods and Their Effect on Whey Protein



Two main methods are used to separate the protein from the rest of the whey, namely, filtration or ion exchange.

Processing whey protein by filtration can be done using a filter with a pore size of about one micro, i.e., microfiltration, or using a filter with a pore size about 250 nanometres (0.25 microns) large, i.e. nanofiltration.

In ion exchange, proteins are separated based on their electrical charge. Hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide are used during this process. Because of this, whey protein fractions that are sensitive to pH are denatured, e.g. glycomacropeptides, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and alpha lactalbumin. This means that the structure of the protein is changed, so that its biological activity is reduced or completely eliminated.

Ion exchange is considerably cheaper than microfilatration or ultrafiltration, and it is very effective in getting rid of fats and carbohydrates. However, some beneficial protein fractions, as mentioned above, are lost, which is not the case for filtration methods. Whey protein isolates obtained by microfiltration also retains more calcium, phosphorus, and potassium than those obtained by ion exchange.