Immunocal is a brand name for a hydrolyzed whey protein powder, also known in Canada as Humanized Milk Serum, or HMS-90. Whey, which you may remember as part of Little Miss Muffet’s lunch in the nursery rhyme, is the byproduct that's left after the curds are strained out when making cheese. Hydrolyzed whey protein powder is specially treated to make it more digestible and dried.
Cost and Allergies
Most of the information available about Immunocal comes from sources that are involved in marketing the product, so it is exceedingly positive, but much of it is backed up by scientific research. In general, you can consider it a safe if expensive food supplement — a box of 60 packets, totaling about two ounces of powder, retails for $72 to $90, or about $575 to $720 a pound. So the biggest danger is spending far too much for a protein powder that may do nothing more for you than drinking a quart of milk would.
Immunocal presents few, if any, dangers to most people. It is purified to eliminate more than 99 percent of the lactose (milk sugar) that is in whole whey, and casein, the main protein found in milk, isonly present in trace amounts. For some people, even the small amounts of these substances can cause an allergic reaction, which can be extremely dangerous, even life-threatening, if it’s not treated in time. It’s worth noting that this allergy is very rare.
Transplant and Kidney Patients
Whey powder is touted for boosting the body’s immune system. Those who are taking immunosuppressant drugs after having received an organ transplant or to treat an autoimmune disease should approach Immunocal with caution. People suffering from kidney and liver disease are often told to avoid too much protein, since those organs are involved with filtering out excess protein from your body, and concentrated protein supplements like whey powder can put stress on them. Even people with normal livers and kidneys should beware of overdoing it with protein supplements. Some of the websites selling Immunocal minimize the dangers associated with liver and kidney problems, so the best advice is to check with your doctor if you have any questions about what is safe.
Whey protein can also interfere with certain drugs, including the tetracycline antibiotics. Other antibiotics that might interact with whey protein include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar). L-dopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other conditions, can also have negative drug interactions with whey powders.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images