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Wednesday, 02 June 2010 22:31

Protein drinks can damage body with heavy metals


A Consumer Reports magazine study, published in June 2010, by an independent laboratory found protein powders and drinks are beneficial for the most part, but risks do exist in the form of too much lead, arsenic, and cadmium.


Consumer Reports magazine asked an independent laboratory to look into popular supplement powders and drinks that help to build muscle by increasing the amount of protein in the body, which promotes efficient growth and repair of muscle tissue.

These protein powders and drinks, sometimes also called bodybuilding supplements, were found to be safe to drink, even by "teenagers and pregnant women." However, risks were found to be associated with their use.

According to the NPR article Heavy Metals in Protein Drinks Raise Concern, the study found that ''¦ one kind of chocolate drink contains more lead and more cadmium than the daily allowances recommended by the U.S. Pharmacopia, the authority on these things.'

According to the United States Pharmacopia (USP) website About USP: 'The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is a non-governmental, official public standards-setting authority for prescription and over-the-counter medicines and other healthcare products manufactured or sold in the United States. USP also sets widely recognized standards for food ingredients and dietary supplements. USP sets standards for the quality, purity, strength, and consistency of these products-critical to the public health. USP's standards are recognized and used in more than 130 countries around the globe. These standards have helped to ensure public health throughout the world for close to 200 years.'

Specifically, Consumer Reports magazine highlighted this problem in its article 'What's in your protein drink,' which was published within the June 2010 issue of the magazine.

Consumer Reports magazine stated, 'Here are the average amounts of metals we found in three servings of these protein drinks. The maximum limits for them in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia are: arsenic (inorganic), 15 micrograms (µg) per day; cadmium, 5 µg; lead, 10 µg; mercury, 15 µg. Amounts at or exceeding those limits are in bold. Experts said three servings a day is common.'

Heavy metals are elements that exhibit metallic properties, including metals often contained in the groups metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Sometimes the term "toxic metal" is used as a synonym for heavy metal.


Humans need varous amounts of heavy metals. For instance, iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc are necessary for a healthy body. However, excessive amounts of such heavy metals can be damaging to the human body.


Other heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, are toxic metals, which do not benefit the human body and, instead, can be detrimental when they accumulate in the body over time.

Page two continues with the Consumer Reports article on heavy metals and protein drinks.



Go to the Consumer Reports webpage for a listing of fifteen different protein powders and drinks and the amount of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury that each contains.

For instance, Muscle Milk Chocolate, which is made by CytoSport, contains 210 grams per three servings (this amount is commonly digested each day by consumers).

Muscle Milk Chocolate also has 96 grams/three servings of protein, along with 12.2 micrograms per three servings (µg/3 servings) of arsenic, 5.6 µg/3 servings of cadmium, 13.5 µg/3 servings of lead, and 0.7 µg/3 servings of mercury.

The NPR article states, 'Andrew Shao, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry group, told Consumer Reports that protein powders and drinks are a safe option, even for teens and pregnant women '” the ones frequently targeted for nutrition boosting.'

The article continues by saying, 'But the extra protein may not outweigh the risks, said Michael Harbut, director of the Environmental Cancer Initiative at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Royal Oak, Michigan. Cadmium can cause serious kidney damage, too much lead cause neurological problems, and we all know why arsenic is a mystery novelist's favorite poison, don't we?'

And, further down in the article it states, 'Kathleen Laquale, a licensed nutritionist and certified athletic trainer, told Consumer Reports: "The body can only break down 5 to 9 grams of protein an hour. Any excess that is not burned for energy is converted to fat or excreted, so it's a ridiculous waste to be recommending so much more than you really need," she says.'

Page three concludes with additional information from outside sources on protein powders and drinks.




For additional information on protein powders and drinks, please read the Mayo Clinic article I'm trying to lose weight. Could protein shakes help? and the LiveStrong article 'Whey Protein Drink Side Effects.'

The LifeStrons article states, "Whey protein is a dietary supplement, a powder derived from cow's milk that is lauded by athletes and bodybuilders for its ability to build hard, lean and strong muscles. The body needs protein as a source of energy, for building and repairing muscles and bones, and to maintain the body's metabolic functions."

"Whey protein contains the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine and valine, essential amino acids for athletes and those who exercise. Whey protein is of high quality. It's easily digested and absorbed into the body."

It also mentions some potentially serious Side effects of the supplement drink. The article states, "Some serious side effects of whey protein may be related to a high protein intake. These include osteoporosis, kidney damage and liver damage. Another serious side effect is an allergic reaction, particularly in people with lactose intolerance."



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