Research Article| Volume 367, P162-170, August 15, 2016

Biochemical and clinical effects of Whey protein supplementation in Parkinson's disease: A pilot study


      • This is the first, placebo-controlled study to investigate biochemical and clinical effects of Whey protein in PD patients.
      • Whey supplementation at 20 g/day for 6 m significantly increases plasma reduced glutathione, and decreases homocysteine level.
      • No significant improvement in clinical outcomes was demonstrated with Whey supplementation in this study.
      • Further studies are needed to evaluate of clinical effects of Whey protein involving larger number of patients.



      Parkinson's disease (PD) is an oxidative stress-mediated degenerative disorder. Elevated plasma homocysteine (Hcy) is frequently found in the levodopa-treated PD patients, is associated with disease progression and is a marker of oxidative stress. Whey protein is a rich source of cysteine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). It has been shown that supplementation with Whey protein increases glutathione synthesis and muscle strength.

      Objectives and methods

      In this study, we conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind study (NCT01662414) to investigate the effects of undenatured Whey protein isolate supplementation for 6 months on plasma glutathione, plasma amino acids, and plasma Hcy in PD patients. Clinical outcome assessments included the unified Parkinson's disease rating scale (UPDRS) and striatal L-3,4-dihydroxy-6-(18)F-fluorophenylalanine (FDOPA) uptake were determined before and after supplementation. 15 patients received Whey protein, and 17 received Soy protein, served as a control group.


      Significant increases in plasma concentration of reduced glutathione and the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione were found in the Whey-supplemented patients but not in a control group. This was associated with a significant decrease of plasma levels of Hcy. The plasma levels of total glutathione were not significantly changed in either group. Plasma BCAA and essential amino acids (EAA) were significantly increased in the Whey-supplemented group only. The UPDRS and striatal FDOPA uptake in PD patients were not significantly ameliorated in either group. However, significant negative correlation was observed between the UPDRS and plasma BCAA and EAA in the pre-supplemented PD patients.


      This study is the first to report that Whey protein supplementation significantly increases plasma reduced glutathione, the reduced to oxidized glutathione ratio, BCAAs and EAAs in patients with PD, together with a concomitant significant reduction of plasma Hcy. However, there were no significant changes in clinical outcomes. Long-term, large randomized clinical studies are needed to explore the benefits of Whey protein supplementation in the management of PD patients.


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