Questionable Protein Drinks?

On May 30, 2010, in Protein, by Andrea

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Well.  This is a fun way to wake up.

Consumer Reports did a study on 15 protein drinks and found questionable “additives” in some of them.  Included is the full text of the article, along with a few bullet points.

I find this a bit curious because I DO drink 3-4 protein drinks a day.  While I don’t drink the ones that tested high, it does scare me a bit.  WHY do I drink so much?  Well, to put things in perspective, I still have problems with food somewhat and do better with liquid protein.  We went out yesterday and I ate food mostly.  And my pouch was all “stuck feeling” for most of the day.  So it clearly was not happy with food.  Go figure.

Keep in mind, though, that these additives are tested in extremely high doses in rats and even doses in humans may not matter.

So while it does make me curious?  I’m not about to go out and toss all of my protein, either.  I’ll wait.  It’s too soon, with too little research at this point.

Unclear Labeling May Lead To Excessive Protein Consumption Which Can Pose Health Problems

YONKERS, NY— A new investigation by Consumer Reports, including tests at an outside lab of 15 protein drinks, reveals that some protein drinks may pose health problems over time, especially at a consumption level of three or more servings a day, due to the potential to consume harmful heavy metals and excessive protein. All of the protein drinks tested by Consumer Reports had at least one sample containing one or more of the following contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which can have toxic effects on the body, including several organs. The report is available in the July issue of Consumer Reports and online atConsumerReports

The products, sold as ready-to-drink liquids or powders that are mixed with milk, juice or water to make shakes, attract not just athletes, but also baby boomers, pregnant women, and teenagers looking for a shortcut to a buff body. For most of the drinks tested by Consumer Reports, levels of contaminants detected were in the low to moderate range, but levels in three of the products were of particular concern because consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels of arsenic, cadmium or lead that exceed the maximum limits for one or two of those contaminants in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP).

The USP is the federally recognized authority that sets voluntary standards for health products. Federal regulations do not generally require that protein drinks and other dietary supplements be tested before they are sold to ensure that they’re safe, effective, and free of contaminants, as the rules require for prescription drugs. “We need better government oversight and regulation of this product sector, as well as better quality control practices in manufacturing. Especially for consumers who are using these products regularly– consuming two or three or more times a day– there should be better safeguards to ensure the safety of these protein drinks,” said Urvashi Rangan, PhD., director of technical policy, Consumer Reports.

Proposition 65, a California State law, mandates that manufacturers notify consumers when products contain toxic substances at levels the state says pose even a low cancer or reproductive risk. Eight of the fifteen protein drinks tested by Consumer Reports fall into this category due to their elevated levels of lead. “Those products should be required to carry a warning label if they were sold in California,” said Rangan.

Consuming excess protein can also cause health problems. Teenagers who want to look like the sculpted images they see in fitness magazines are especially vulnerable to the marketing messages trumpeted by the makers of protein drinks. Enticed by the promise of “hope in a can,” teenagers tend to overuse the products, assuming that if one scoop is good, then four to five would be even better. A 2005 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that protein powders and shakes were the supplements most commonly used by those aged 12 to 18. Pregnant women are also vulnerable because heavy metals can pose risks to a developing fetus or a nursing baby. Some protein drinks market directly to these groups while others warn they are not suitable for people under 18 years of age or that pregnant women should consult a physician before use.

What The Tests Found
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. The levels discussed here are based on three servings per day, an amount that experts say is common. The results showed a considerable range, but levels in three products were of particular concern:

• Three daily servings of the ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake provide an average of 16.9 micrograms (µg) of arsenic, exceeding the proposed USP limit of 15 µg per day and an average of 5.1 µg of cadmium, which is just above the USP limit of 5 µg per day.
• The samples of Muscle Milk Chocolate powder contained all four heavy metals, and levels of three metals in the product were among the highest of all products tested by Consumer Reports. Average cadmium levels of 5.6 µg in three daily servings exceeded the USP limit of 5 µg per day, and the average lead level of 13.5 µg also topped the USP limit of 10 µg per day. The average arsenic level of 12.2 µg was approaching the USP limit of 15 µg per day.
• Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème contained 12.2 µg of lead in three daily servings, exceeding the lead limits, and 11.2 µg of arsenic.

The Consumer Reports investigation notes that cadmium raises special concern because it accumulates in and can damage the kidneys, the same organs that can be damaged by excessive protein consumption. And it can take 20 years for the body to eliminate even half the cadmium absorbed today.

How much protein?

Only one of the products tested by Consumer Reports, Six Star Muscle Professional Strength Whey Protein, specifies a maximum daily intake. Others use vague language that could encourage a high level of consumption. Consuming excess protein can also pose health problems, including diarrhea. Although protein is needed for bone development, excessive protein over the long term might also cause calcium to be excreted from the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. And for diabetics or others with kidney problems, it can lead to further complications.

The Consumer Reports investigation notes that consumers can roughly calculate how many grams of protein they need by multiplying their body weight by .4. For athletes, the general rule of thumb is about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. The report provides several examples of better, cheaper ways to bulk up. Case in point: a sandwich with three ounces of chicken and an eight ounce glass of whole milk provides about 40 grams of protein, which is more than half the 72 grams needed by a 180-pound person and most of the 48 grams required by someone weighing 120 pounds.

— 30 —
JULY 2010
© Consumers Union 2010. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports,®® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports.®

These are the ones that tested below dangerous levels. The ones with stars tested with below measurable levels:

BSN Core Series Lean Dessert Protein Shake, Chocolate Fudge Pudding

BSN Core Series Syntha-6 Ultra Chocolate

GNC PRO PErformance AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 Chocolate

Jillian Michaels Natural Whey Protein Vanilla Cream Shake

MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla

*Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro whey Velocity Vanilla

*Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Extreme Milk Chocolate

*Six Star Muscle Professional Strength Whey Protein French Vanilla

*Solgar Whey to Go Natural Vanilla Bean

So it looks like my BSN is pretty safe.  Which is good news to me.  Whew!

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