Different Effects of Soy and Whey on Linear Bone Growth and Growth Pattern in Young Male Sprague-Dawley Rats

Meytal Bar-Maisels, Chen Menahem, Yankel Gabet, Sahar Hiram-Bab, Moshe Phillip, Galia Gat-Yablonski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this investigation was to determine the better protein for supporting optimal linear growth, as the exact composition and benefits of specific dietary proteins in supporting linear growth is unknown. In the current study, we compared the effect of soy and whey proteins, both proteins contain all essential amino acids and are considered the best proteins in their categories. Young male rats were subjected to multiple feeding protocols using iso-energetic diets containing soy or whey as the sole protein source. The rats were allowed to eat ad libitum for 11, 24, or 74 days in the first set of experiments, and the soy group was pair-fed to the whey group in the second set. The differences in weight gain, food consumption, and humeri length of the soy group that were greater at the beginning of the ad libitum experiments lessened over time. Pair-fed experiments revealed that the increased weight and humeri length resulted from the differences in food consumption. However, other parameters were protein specific. Bone quality, which was better in the soy group at 24 days, was matched by the whey group and even surpassed that of the soy group in the long-term experiment, with a significantly greater bone mineral density, cortical thickness, and growth plate. Although in the short term the levels of insulin like growth factor (IGF)-I were similar between the groups, IGF-I increased with age in the whey group, and the levels at the long-term experiment were significantly higher compared to the soy group. Furthermore, using the pair fed setup made it clear that when the difference in food consumption were no longer playing part, whey was more efficient in increasing IGF-I. There were no indications of metabolic sequelae. Although the use of soy is gaining in popularity as a sustainable protein, our findings indicate a better effect of whey on linear growth by leading to slower growth with better-organized epiphyseal growth plates and bone quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number739607
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
StatePublished - 24 Nov 2021


  • BMD
  • IGF-I
  • catch up
  • growth plate
  • micro CT
  • soy
  • whey


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