• Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Malnutrition


The Benefits of Whey Protein in ONS for Patients with Cancer


  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Malnutrition

Whey Protein Benefits in Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) - Insights from Nutiani | Nutiani

Whey Protein Benefits in Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) - Insights from Nutiani | Nutiani

Concept Card: Medical Whey Protein Beverage

The incidence of cancer is rising globally, and is predicted to reach 30 million new cases in 2040, an almost 50% increase compared with 2020.1

Patients with cancer are among the most malnourished patient groups suggesting that nutritional interventions should be an integral part of cancer treatment2. Global nutrition societies, including the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) and European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN), recommend the use of Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) for patients who are malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition, and unable to eat adequately.2,3

Patients with cancer are at high risk of malnutrition, as both the symptoms of the cancer and the side effects of treatment can negatively affect their ability to eat adequately2. 

Side effects of cancer treatment can include loss of appetite, taste alterations, dry mouth, mucositis, swallowing difficulties, early satiety and/or abdominal pain. These symptoms should be considered when formulating ONS for patients with cancer for whom certain product features, such as smooth texture, flavour and ease of swallowing and digestion, are as important as nutritional value. High protein content and high caloric density are suitable to address malnutrition, in addition to a nutritionally complete formula that is compliant with regulations. Some brand owners even consider additional ingredients that make the product specifically designed for patients with cancer. For example, studies have shown that anticatabolic and anti-inflammatory ingredients may improve appetite, oral food intake and body weight in patients with cancer.4

Such a product is not easy to create. The right ingredients, years of committed development work and the right technical, nutritional and formulation expertise are needed to formulate products that meet regulatory and nutritional requirements, have stable shelf life and are also palatable ensuring high patient compliance.

Whey protein
is a complete, premium source of protein that has many benefits for patients with cancer such as high levels of essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own.5, 6

Loss of muscle mass in patients with cancer is associated with a higher risk of decreased strength and functional capacity, lower activity levels, impaired quality of life, poor response to treatment and a poorer prognosis.7 Whey protein is high in leucine, an essential amino acid that triggers muscle protein synthesis even in the absence of physical activity. Whey protein is also easy to digest and easy to absorb – all beneficial for patients having trouble with impaired gastrointestinal function. 

In spite of all of these benefits, the number of whey-based ONS products is relatively low due to challenges related to the heat-sensitivity of whey. 

Nutiani’s Medical Whey Protein Beverage is made with heat stable whey NZMP WPC550 allowing whey-based formulations to be taken to the next level.

NZMP WPC550 is a functional, UHT-stable ingredient. Due to the microparticulation of whey proteins it has enhanced heat stability attributes, resulting in a shelf-life stable ONS.⁸ This advanced technology also results in smooth/silky mouthfeel and low viscosity making the final product pleasant to consume and easy to drink. Flavour variety and tasty options are important factors that drive patient compliance, making this a relevant element in the successful nutritional management of malnutrition in patients with cancer. NZMP WPC550 is stable over a wide pH range which opens the door for wider variety of flavouring options, such as berries, lemon or tropical fruits.

NZMP WPC550 can be added to formulations at high concentrations with no adverse effects during processing, so no compromise is needed in terms of texture. Nutiani is happy to provide expert services, such as formulation and technical expertise for customized solutions.


1. Global Cancer Observatory. Available at: https://gco.iarc.fr/. Last accessed: March 2023.

2. Muscaritoli M, et al. Clin Nutr 2021;40:2898–2913.

3. August DA, et al. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2009;33:472–500.

4. Arends J, et al. Clin Nutr 2017;36:1187–1196.

5. Gorissen et al 2018 https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5 Last accessed: April 2023

6. Cereda et al 2019 DOI: 10.1002/cam4.2517 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cam4.2517) Last accessed: April 2023

7. Medical Nutrition International Industry: Better care through better nutrition – Value of medical nutrition in oncology, Evidence Dossier 2020.

8. Gulla, RMR; Schwarzenbach, RR; Cakir-Fuller, E (2013) Dairy product and process, WO/2013/065014


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