Lactose Intolerance
Hidden Lactose
What Is Whey?
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Eating Out
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Way Too Much Whey!

What is Whey?

Whey is a essentially a by product of cheese making.  Milk has rennet added to it which causes it to curdle, which leaves lumps which are called curds.  The liquid that is left over is whey.  Remember the children's poem about Little Miss Muffet "eating her curds and whey"?  That's what she had - a bowl of curdled milk.  Today, with some processing, we know this product as "cottage cheese".  (The name probably comes from the fact that it was an easy type of cheese for anyone to make at home, or in the cottage.)  Most cheese is made from the curds, and the whey was discarded. 

But the clever dairymen figured out that whey could be used as a food additive to give foods some of the properties of milk, but without milk's cost.  Besides, any profit they made from the whey was a bonus.  When the water is removed from the whey, what we are left with is proteins, minerals and lactose.  A lot of lactose - up to 75%.

The dairy industry seems to have convinced the food industry that whey is a miracle product.  The list of supposed benefits it gives to food is as long as your arm.  Some of the benefits may be real, others I'm convinced are pure marketing.

Whey is also a great way to add sweetness to a product without having to list sugar as an ingredient as whey contains up to 75% lactose.  And it sounds healthy.  After all, Miss Muffet ate it.  But most people have no clue what it is.

What are the types of whey?

Whey comes in many forms.  Below are some of the forms you're likely to see whey in.  For each type I've listed the approximate lactose percentages.  Note the word "approximate".  There's no way to know exactly how much lactose any given whey product has.  But suffice it to say that almost all whey products have a lot of lactose.  So much so that if you have Lactose Intolerance, seeing whey on the ingredients list should send up a red flag to you.  That product likely contains a lot of lactose.

Dried whey:  This is the most common form of whey.  You'll see it sometimes listed just as whey.  Other euphemisms for it are dairy whey, sweet dairy whey and whey powder.  They all contain up to 75% lactose, maybe even more.

Lactose reduced whey:  Still has well over 50% lactose.  I wonder why they bothered.

Liquid whey:  This is pretty rare, but you see it sometimes.  Lactose content could vary a lot.

Non-dairy whey:  I've seen this on ingredient lists but I cannot find out any information about it.  One would guess this is lactose and proteins that are derived from non-dairy sources.  Until I hear otherwise, you can assume this is no better for you than dairy whey (unless you have milk allergies).

What about Whey Protein?

Whey protein supplements are a popular product in health food stores right now.  Yes the proteins in whey are good for you, but along with the proteins you're getting a big dose of lactose - over 50% in most cases.  If you have LI, the whey protein supplement will seem anything but healthy to you!  There are soy protein supplements that are dairy-free. 

Whey protein isolate is just what it says.  Most of the proteins have been isolated from the whey, leaving very little lactose (usually about 0.5%).  This is not what comes in the big cans!

I see a lot of ads for 100% whey protein products.  Some have as little as 1% lactose, some don't say.  Proceed with caution.