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Is Your Protein Powder Toxic?

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Is Your Protein Powder Toxic?

Written by Randy Fritz

When Consumer Reports found dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in protein shakes, they raised some important questions:

1. Is my protein powder toxic?
2. Is protein powder healthy?
3. Is protein powder necessary?

In 2010, Consumer Reports purchased 15 protein powders and drinks mainly in the New York metro area or online and tested multiple samples of each for arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.

They found that at least one item from each product line contained detectable levels of cadmium, arsenic, lead or mercury. The three most toxic brands contained levels of heavy metal toxicity above the safe allowable limits proposed by U.S. Pharmacopeia. Many others contained levels in the low to moderate range.

Manufacturer’s Response

Manufacturers denied the danger, citing independent analysis by non-profit NSF International. According to NSF, the products in question passed their own standard called the American National Standard for Nutritional/Dietary Supplements, or NSF/ANSI.

Consumer Response

Consumer Reports counters that there is significant variation between samples even within a given product line, and one satisfactory sample does not exonerate the entire line.

The results were disturbing, considering how many people consume these highly processed food products and how much they consume per day.

Personally I would not find even low to moderate exposure acceptable considering how many other toxic products we find in our environment. We have enough health considerations just dealing with life without wondering about a product we specifically consume for health or fitness!

Cadmium exposure is particularly scary because it accumulates in and can damage the kidneys, the same organs that can be damaged by excessive protein consumption. It can take 20 years for the body to eliminate even half the cadmium absorbed today. All toxic metals such as the ones discussed here typically accumulate in your body over time where they can cause irreparable damage.

Imagine what will happen to the large group of teenagers and twenty-somethings wanting to bulk up today. They are the ones who eat a lot of these products and who may be in for a very unpleasant surprise in the future.

“This (cadmium) is a highly toxic metal, and while there are some cases where decisions have to be weighed against relative risks, accepting that you have to be exposed to any cadmium at all in your protein drink after your workout is definitely not one of them,” says Michael Harbut, M.D., director of the Environmental Cancer Initiative at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Royal Oak, Mich.

You can read the complete findings (5 pages) at Consumer Reports.

Next: Is Protein Powder Healthy?

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Diana Herrington

Diana Herrington turned a debilitating health crisis into a passion for helping others with healthy, sugar-free, gluten-free, eating and cooking. After testing and researching every possible healthy therapy on her delicate system she has developed simple, powerful principles which she shares in her recent book Eating Green and Lean, and as host to Care2 groups: Healthy Living Network and Healthy Cooking. She is the head chef at Real Food for Life, where she shares recipes and tips. Sign up for the Real Food for Life weekly newsletter or catch her on Facebook or Twitter (@DancinginLife).

64 comments

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11:01PM PDT on May 30, 2013

A good nutritional powder should have more than one type of protein in it; it should have fiber, minerals, and vitamins; and it should be GMO-free. It really needs to have a pleasant taste and it needs to be affordable relative to a comparable amount of solid food to achieve the same level of nutrition. Such a nutritional powder can be safely used either as a meal replacement for weight loss, or as a supplement for muscle building. Healthy snacks and at least one solid meal a day is recommended no matter what.

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting, but I would be suspicious of a highly processed powder and prefer protein in other forms. Love tasty red quinoa not to mention kasha (buckwheat groats).

Dr. Mercola is known but is fairly controversial within medical circles. I did subscribe to his newsletter which talked a lot about toxins but gave it up as he was always flogging his own stuff for sale-things that are unaffordable on a tight budget-sticking to the conventional sources. He also goes on about how whole grains, especially wheat is toxic to mental health-everything is getting toxic to eat everyday which is frustrating. For those allergic to gluten avoiding wheat is fine but one likes breads and whole grains and now to hear these are bad?

There is a study for everything depending on what one chooses to believe, will stick to quinoa, small portions of meats, veggies-non GMO, fruits, nuts and other tasty things! Powder, no thanks!

11:52AM PDT on May 31, 2012

Thanks for sharing

6:22PM PDT on May 28, 2012

huh.., protein powder?

10:14PM PDT on May 12, 2012

Thanks, fresh and natural can't really do better than that.

2:13PM PDT on May 12, 2012

I eat good organic home grown and wild meat..never store bought. I'm 55 years old and very healthy! I believe, judging from our physiology that we are naturally omnivores but can live healthy on a variety of diets.I don't believe that we should be ingesting anything processed like these protein powders. If it's not from my garden, neighbors farm or from the wild (where I live) then I don't touch it. Here's a bit of interesting info about why I believe we are naturally omnivores. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/674/are-humans-meat-eaters-or-vegetarians-by-nature

and no matter what you harvest...be kind and give thanks ♥

1:59AM PDT on May 12, 2012

Thank you for those important reminders..........
No wonder we have so many people who never experience optimal health

3:40PM PDT on May 11, 2012

Eat an egg.

12:10PM PDT on May 11, 2012

scary finding--much like the testing done on many vitamin lines. Choosing something that meets pharmaceutical standards (cleaner manufacturing environment) can help minimize risks

10:12AM PDT on May 11, 2012

Don't do protein powders.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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