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.
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 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.
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