Drugs Q & A

Does Immunocal Really Work: What are the Dangers?

What is immunocal?

Immunocal is a specially formulated undenatured whey protein isolate type of supplement. It holds several patents in the USA and worldwide and is listed by the FDA in the category of GRAS (generally recognized as safe). It assists the body in maintaining optimal concentrations of glutathione (GSH) by supplying the precursors required for intracellular glutathione synthesis. It is clinically proven to raise glutathione values.

Glutathione is a tripeptide made intracellularly from its constituent amino acids L-glutamate, L-cysteine and glycine. The sulfhydryl (thiol) group (SH) of cysteine is responsible for the biological activity of glutathione. Provision of this amino acid is the rate-limiting factor in glutathione synthesis by the cells since bioavailable cysteine is relatively rare in foodstuffs.

Immunocal is a bovine whey protein isolate specially prepared so as to provide a rich source of bioavailable cysteine. Immunocal can thus be viewed as a cysteine delivery system.

The disulphide bond in cystine is pepsin and trypsin resistant but may be split by heat, low pH or mechanical stress releasing free cysteine. When subject to heat or shearing forces (inherent in most extraction processes), the fragile disulfide bonds within the peptides are broken and the bioavailablility of cysteine is greatly diminished.

Glutathione is a tightly regulated intracellular constituent and is limited in its production by negative feedback inhibition of its own synthesis through the enzyme gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase, thus greatly minimizing any possibility of overdosage.

Glutathione has multiple functions:

1.        It is the major endogenous antioxidant produced by the cells, participating directly in the neutralization of free radicals and reactive oxygen compounds, as well as maintaining exogenous antioxidants such as vitamins C and E in their reduced (active) forms.

2.        Through direct conjugation, it detoxifies many xenobiotics (foreign compounds) and carcinogens, both organic and inorganic.

3.        It is essential for the immune system to exert its full potential, e.g.

(A) modulating antigen presentation to lymphocytes, thereby influencing cytokine production and type of response (cellular or humoral) that develops,

(B) enhancing proliferation of lymphocytes thereby increasing magnitude of response,

(C) enhancing killing activity of cytotoxic T cells and NK cells, and

(D) regulating apoptosis, thereby maintaining control of the immune response.

4.        It plays a fundamental role in numerous metabolic and biochemical reactions such as DNA synthesis and repair, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis, amino acid transport and enzyme activation. Thus, most systems in the body can be affected by the state of the glutathione system, especially the immune system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and the lungs.


Each sachet of Immunocal contains nine grams of protein. Patients on a protein-restricted diet need to take this into account when calculating their daily protein load. Although a bovine milk derivative, Immunocal contains less than 1% lactose and therefore is generally well tolerated by lactose-intolerant individuals.


Patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy should discuss the use of this product with their health professional. Individuals with the autosomal-recessive metabolic disorder cystinuria, are at higher risk of developing cysteine nephrolithiasis (1–2% of renal calculi).

Adverse Reactions

Gastrointestinal bloating and cramps if not sufficiently rehydrated. Transient urticarial-like rash in rare individuals undergoing severe detoxification reaction. Rash abates when product intake stopped or reduced.

Dosage and Administration

For mild to moderate health challenges, 20 grams per day is recommended. Clinical trials in patients with AIDS, COPD, cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome have used 30–40 grams per day without ill effect. Immunocal is best administered on an empty stomach or with a light meal. Concomitant intake of another high protein load may adversely affect absorption.

How to Reconstitute Immunocal

Immunocal is a dehydrated powdered protein isolate. It must be appropriately rehydrated before use. Ideally consumed after mixing. If it is premixed for later consumption, it should be refrigerated and consumed shortly after mixing. DO NOT heat or use a hot liquid to rehydrate the product. DO NOT use a high-speed blender for reconstitution. These methods will decrease the activity of the product.

Proper mixing is imperative. Consult instructions included in packaging.

How Immunocal is Supplied

10 grams of bovine milk protein isolate powder per sachet.

30 sachets per box.

Storage: Store in a cool dry environment. Refrigeration is not necessary.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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