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What Does "Denatured Whey Protein Isolate" Mean?

By Ryan Haas

Whey protein is one of the most used types of protein supplements. Athletes commonly consume whey protein as a muscle-building aid, but people with cancer, HIV and other serious wasting or immune-compromising conditions may benefit from this supplement as well. Denatured whey protein isolate is one type of whey protein supplement you can buy if you need a quick digesting protein.


The amino acids in proteins form a rigid shape through various chemical bonds. Peptide bonds determine the order of the amino acids in the protein, while secondary and tertiary bonds hold the protein together in its helix structure. The manufacturing process of whey protein isolate can break the secondary and tertiary structural bonds of the protein with heat or another catalyst. After these bonds are broken, the protein is called "denatured" and takes a random form like a limp noodle.

Whey Isolate

Denaturation is not the only manufacturing process whey protein must go through before it becomes denatured whey protein isolate. The whey protein also must pass through a microfiltration system that isolates the whey protein from the lactose, minerals and milk fat present in the starting product. By the end of the filtration process, the protein in the whey makes up more than 90 percent of the mixture. Lactose and milk fat combined only make up 1 percent or less after filtration.


The primary benefit of the denaturation process is that the protein is already partially broken down, meaning that it will be easier for you to digest when you consume it. Isolated whey protein increases the concentration of the product so you can consume more protein with your supplement if necessary. It also avoids lactose and excessive calories in the final product if you have allergies or particular dietary objectives.


Denatured whey protein isolate is a rich source of supplemental protein, but that does not mean it is inherently better for you than a standard whey protein supplement. The manufacturing process of whey protein isolate degrades the quality of the protein somewhat. The extensive manufacturing that goes into denatured whey protein isolate also makes it more expensive than a whey protein supplement. You also should speak to a registered dietitian about your protein needs because the high protein concentration of whey protein isolate may provide more of the nutrient than you require in one day.

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