Horleys ICE WPI: Why it's Superior

Not all Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is created equal. In fact there are several different types of processes employed by dairy manufacturers to produce WPI.

In all cases, ultra-filtration processes are first used to manufacture whey protein concentrates.  When dried, whey protein concentrate powders contain up to 80% protein, but typically still contain 5-7% fat and similar quantities of lactose.  Further processing is required to produce Whey Protein Isolates with over 90% protein content and little or no lactose and fat.

The commonly used commercial processes to obtain WPI are:

  • Cation Exchange
  • Anion Exchange
  • Microfiltration

See milk protein purification processes outlined in this flow diagram.

1. Ion Exchange (Cation Exchange and Anion Exchange)

In ion-exchange processes the overall electrical charge on the whey proteins is manipulated by adjusting the pH of liquid whey protein concentrate.  The pH manipulation does not charge lactose, fat and other unwanted substances present in the whey.  The charged whey is then passed through ion exchange columns of the opposite charge, which bind the whey proteins, but not uncharged lactose and fat etc. These are washed away leaving a very pure whey protein product that is virtually fat and lactose free.

Subsequent pH adjustment reverses the charge on the protein and releases it from the ion exchange columns.  It can then be evaporated and dried to produce a high quality powder containing over 90% protein.

In Cation Exchange processes, the protein becomes positively charged and is bound to negatively charged columns. In Anion Exchange the reverse happens.


2. Microfiltration

As the name suggests this is a filtration process. Unwanted milkfat is retained on a microfiltration membrane, while the valuable whey proteins pass through. This is a similar process to ultra filtration but employs a coarser filter.


Whey Protein Composition

Whey contains a number of distinct proteins (see below). These vary in size, nutritional value and biological activity. Both the source of the whey used (cheese, lactic casein, rennet casein manufacture etc) and the method of manufacture employed (Cation Exchange, Anion Exchange, Microfiltration), determine the relative proportions of the various microfractions present in a whey protein Isolate.


Typical Microfraction Composition of Different Whey Protein Isolates:

  Cation Exchange WPI Anion Exchange WPI Micro-filtered WPI
α-Lactalbumin 18% 5-10% 19%
β-Lactoglobulin 69% 40-50% 46%
Glycomacropeptide 0% 15-25% 17%
Immunoglobulin G 5% 0.2-2.0% 4%
Bovine Serum Albumen 2% 0.5-1.0% 8%
Lactoferrin 1-3% 0.2% 1-3%
Proteose Peptone 1-1.5% 4.5% n/a

The biggest variation between isolates produced by different manufacturing processes is seen the content of β-Lactoglobulin, α-Lactalbumin and Glycomacropeptide. Cation Exchange processes preferentially isolate β-Lactoglobulin and do not retain significant amounts of GMP.  Anion Exchange and Microfiltration processes retain significant amounts of GMP, but much less β-Lactoglobulin.

As the branch chain amino acid content of the microfractions varies (refer table below), the BCAA content of WPI varies with the process employed to produce it. As β-Lactoglobulin has the highest BCAA content (18% more than α-Lactalbumin), WPI produced by cation exchange technology has the highest BCAA content.


Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Content of Major Whey Microfractions:

  β-Lactoglobulin α-Lactalbumin Glyco-macropeptide
BCAA content 25.3% 21.4% 21.5%


Research has determined BCAAs to be the key amino acids involved in the synthesis of muscle protein and the provision of energy during exercise. Horleys believe that the high BCAA content of Cation Exchange WPI, as used in ICE WPI is preferential for athletes and body builders looking to maximise their muscle mass gains.



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