Heavy Metal Protein Drinks?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A Consumer Reports review in the July issue highlights their recent laboratory findings regarding protein drinks. They tested fifteen drinks using an outside laboratory and discovered some disturbing results. Since we previously provided a review of muscle milk, we thought it would be important to provide you with the recent findings so buyer can be aware.

Performance enhancing supplements remain big business and in some cases, protein supplements are beneficial to augment a balanced nutrition plan. The Consumer Reports review noted that sports nutrition product sales have exceeded $2.7 billion and protein drinks are the category leader. While they may prove beneficial in supporting some fitness goals, if there is an increased health risk when using any product, care and caution are definitely in order. The Consumer Reports review of fifteen protein drinks found increased risk of heavy metal exposure especially with significant supplement use for such metals as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

The lab results revealed there were various amounts of metals present in the three serving samples per protein supplement reviewed. Some samples exceeded the U.S. Pharmacopeia recommendations for safety. Safe intake for arsenic is believed to be 15 micrograms (ug) per day or less and tests on three servings of EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate liquid shake revealed 16.9 ug. EAS Myoplex also contained high levels of cadmium in three servings with 5.1 ug, which meets the maximum recommended safe limit of 5 ug/day. Muscle Milk Chocolate powder also exceeded the maximum level of recommended safety for cadmium providing 5.6 ug in the three serving sample. Muscle Milk chocolate powder was also high in lead with 13.5 ug in three servings compared to the maximum recommended limit of 10 ug/day. Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème powder was also high in lead providing 12.2 ug in three servings.

The Bottom Line

More and more people are using protein supplements in addition to their nutritious diet to help them meet specific fitness goals. This recent finding by Consumer Reports provides an awareness of risk and caution related to what and how much of a supplement you are consuming. If you only use a protein supplement occasionally, there may be little reason for concern. However, if you consume three or more servings of a protein supplement daily or you are pregnant or have children or teens that are using protein supplements on a regular basis, you may want to take a closer look at the report findings to evaluate personal risk.

Why do you use protein supplements? Have you noticed a significant benefit since using them?

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This study is enlightening, yes. So why am I little upset about how they explain this to general public? I am upset because they don't compare the toxicity content next to the every day foods that we eat. Yes, we need to make improvements. But when do we not need to? It's pretty darn impressive that we can create protein powders that have little to no arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead. Many foods have high traces of these toxic metals.

Do me a favor, see how you feel after you read the article below. They should be using this research study to better educate you about what supplements to take and how much of them to take. Instead, they are just trying to scare you.

FUN FACT: A 6 oz can of tuna has about 150 mcg of arsenic. In other words, you have to drink 26 Myoplex drinks to get the same amount of arsenic in one 6 ounce can of tuna.

QUESTION: Is someone trying to soften up the supplement industry with this kind of misinformation so that they can impose increased regulation, as some senators are now trying to introduce?

Here are a few charts for everyone to look at so "we" can all better understand the supplement industry.

h t t p : / / w w w . o p t i m u m n u t r i t i o n . c o m / n e w s . p h p ? a r t i c l e = 8 7 4

A perfect protein powder will provide you much amount of energy and stamina.
As a reference on whey protein powder information,you can visit: http://www.energyfirst.com/Whey-Pro

Do these proteins come from CHINA? I'm amazed at how much of our food is coming from there now and they have NO EPA regulations. I don't buy any fish that comes from China. Report
Heavy metal? I loved Gun N Roses, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin!! I love Muscle Milk Lite, bought a whole case of it, but I won't drink it now. Thanks. I'll stick to the "other" heavy metal. Report
I don't and haven't ever used Muscle Milk or the other one you mentioned. I do, however, use Isopure 100% whey protein powder mixing 1/2 serving (one scoop) in 8 oz. of water daily. I use the Chocolate Mint. As with any other product or food on the market, including produce sprayed with pesticides and meat shot with enhancers, I will have to see more research on all of it. Rolling the dice once again, MaryAnn Report
I do not use protein supplements. I bought my very first packet a few months ago, but I find that I really want the real foods. Report
Where are these heavy metals coming from? Do they come from the milk / whey? If so, do they get more concentrated with processing? Do they come from the other additives? Seems like a lot of important missing information. Report
I struggle to get the suggested protein on "normal" diet, what food (besides meat) has a lot of protein to avoid using supplement? Any ideas? Report
I've read in several health & fitness magazines that milk or chocolate milk is great after a workout. That is what I usually have after my hard workouts. Every protein powder I ever tried was horrible. I try to eat the right foods to get what I need. Report
I've been using Designer Whey for a long time, so this report was alarming. The report also listed a couple that had low or no dangerous additives. I'm going to try one made by Solgar & hope it tastes ok. Report
Wow! How scary. I've used myoplex and switched to muscle milk because I read that it had more caseien (sp?) Don't recall seeing other heavy metals in the ingredients list. I have trouble getting enough protein in everyday. I recently started drinking 2% milk after a workout to keep from being hungry. What are you suppose to use to help with muscle recovery after a workout? Report
I have stopped using protein powder. The supplements are unregulated by the federal government, so there isn't any protection or oversight of these substances and I feel uneasy using them anymore. Report
ummm, "potatoes and other green foods" are not really protein sources so i'm not sure i get the comparison there...

I don't use protein powders. I don't see the point of them. My understanding is that most diets in the US get plenty of protein (going by standard recommendations, although probably not the "high protein" fad diets that aren't really in line with SP anyway!). Even vegetarians. You don't have to eat meat to get protein!

When heavy metals were found in milk and baby formula in China, it was because disreputable suppliers were adding melamine to boost protein content. I wonder if the same is going on here? On the other hand, some of those metals (such as arsenic) occur naturally in the soil and in some water sources, and may be taken in by plants and then animals, so we do ingest some of it. That's why the acceptable levels are not set at 0. It's good to see that the levels are not extraordinarily high (none of them are even twice the normal level) - but even so, it makes you wonder: why are you buying this highly processed and probably unnecessary item when it is contaminated? Report
Wow, this article is quite alarming!

Although, I consume protein drinks; I do not drink pre-mixed protein in bottles or cans. I read the ingredients in the powder and mix my own. Sure, we can obtain protein from food; however sometimes the amount of food you must eat to reach your intake level (for some) it is not always convenient or practical.

Protein supplements are often misunderstood (and all protein supplements are not the same). You must understand why you are consuming more protein; and what is your individual limit. Some protein powders are high in calories; which requires a trade-off. Protein decrease hunger -- so if you have a "self-made" protein shake with added healthy ingredients, it can be used as a meal replacement.

Exercise decreases my hunger (which is problematic) in both losing weight and remaining healthy. Protein drinks provides me some of the nourishment needed (coupled with a combination of "real" food) each day.

In some cases, many are simply drinking protein without a plan. The plan is -- you must understand the why, the when, what are the expected results and seek expert advice before exploring the complex and controversial world of protein supplements.

In final, we should remember there is risk taking is almost everything! In my opinion, I simply educate and evaluate my personal risk tolerance and from there - a "personal" decision is made.

I saw this on TV the other day and what is not mentioned here is that these same metals are found in potatoes and other green foods. I guess my main question is are these metals also in many protein based foods that we're unaware of. Report
how weird! I think that this will only have an effect if you are using these supplements to an extreme level- like 3x a day, every day. Even once a day most likely won't be a problem, so I wouldn't be afraid of some Muscle Milk. Just be reasonable, as always! Report
I'm so glad this was reported. I used to drink 1 EAS Myoplex Lite shake almost everyday! I'm glad I haven't had any in a long time and I will NOT be buying them again! Yikes! Report
I don't use protein supplements. Something weird about them that just doesn't sit well with me. I get plenty of protein from real food! Report
I prefer getting protein from food. Report
I follow a high protein diet, with lots of vegetables and fruit. I've NEVER taken a protein drink. Report
I use protein to supplement my nutrition but like to keep it to only now and then, I am glad they reported this. Report
When I was working out hard, I was taking Muscle Milk. For the period of time that I was taking Muscle Milk, I felt like crap all the time. When I stopped I started feeling better. Needless to say after reading this article, I will never be taking Muscle Milk again. Thanks. Report
I reacted really bad to muscle milk. Never could figure out why, maybe this is it. But I had rashes and general weakness and a fever after drinking it one bottle a day for a week. Report
Three words:
Eat Real Food. Report
Where I work we regularly get public health warnings - a lot of them are about supplements claiming to help people lose weight, and that are laced with contaminants or undeclared medications. These products cater to the understandable desire to have a "magic pill" that helps us reach our goals without too much effort.

Some people with serious health issues may have to rely on protein drinks, and absolutely they need to be up to standards or else pulled off the shelf, but for most of us this is an unnecessary expense. Eating healthy is what it's all about. Report
I generally don't use them; I prefer to get my protein from real food. However, if I was having trouble getting enough protein in, I might consider using a plain soy based protein powder for a short period of time. Or a medically recognized nutritional drink such as Ensure or Glucerna. They can be helpful for those who can't get enough nutrients in their diet for whatever reason, and they are generally recognized as safe, not like the "body building" type of products. Report
The only time I've had to "drink my protein" was after a month long hospital stay. But I prefer chewing my protein - opposed to drinking it. Report
I've read this about baby formula as well...scary isn't it?! Report
Well, as I've said all along, I'm glad I get my nutrition from food, and have not used these products. It's bad enough the food industry is trying to scare us, but to have products available that can kill us, with enough use and repetition, then again I say good thing I don't use this stuff. It's bad enough I consume sugar and fats on a regular basis (trying to cut down, but it's hard to stop completely)! Report
I use atkins protein shakes for breakfast when I am in a rush because they fill me up and keep me satisfied all morning. besides, they taste good. I thought they were healthy. Report
I don't use these. But why are they not pulled off the shelves if indeed they contain more heavy metals than allowed? Report
Just looked at the link: I'm going hrmmm that all the drinks are made with whey. Could it be the contaminated conventional dairy that's causing the issue? Not outside the realm of possibility, IMO.

I make a vegan protein shake in the AM most days. My protein powder is just whole grain brown rice and vanilla, basically. No worries there, IMO. It's even organic and non-GMO. Blended with unsweetened almond milk, a frozen banana and some organic cocoa, it's a good way to get some food in my stomach right when I wake up. I'm always ravenous in the morning since I work out at night. Report
My husband uses protein shakes as meal replacements. I've never thought that this is a good idea and I question whether or not the shakes can give him the results that they claim to give, but he's an adult so I have to let him do what he wants to do. I am definitely going to let him know about this issue, though, because this isn't just something he's doing that I think is stupid. Heavy metals in his protein shakes could seriously affect something he thinks he's augmenting here....his health. Report
I add pea protein to my smoothies, the only ingredient is protein from peas. I don't know how that would compare to the things they tested. Report
I do not use them.

However, I know that nursing homes frequently use that kind of thing for residents who are not eating sufficiently, and since many of them are demented, they don't really have a choice about which ones are used! Report
I don't use supplements and was wondeing if they offer the results people are using it for. I try to get my daily requirements from the foods I eat. I may try it sparingly, thanx for the education! Report
I have health concerns that require me to take special care to get my protein each day. When I'm struggling to get my protein through "regular" food sources, I often add a protein shake as a snack, and when I'm traveling I will sometimes use them as meal replacements. My doctor recommends them (though not the brands listed in this blog) in a pinch, but always says that I should strive to get the necessary protein through food. Report
It's truly horrifying to know that there are heavy metals in these products. Thanks goodness I have never used them! But others do and as your article says, the industry is booming and it is what I heard this past March from someone I met who sells this stuff.

What I want to know is WHY? WHY is there cadmium, mercury and lead in a protein shake? How did those heavy metals get there? Is it a mistake? Did a former employee turn into a terrorist and spike the protein powder making machine with these deadly heavy metals? Are heavy metals "naturally" occurring in protein powder??

If you don't eat enough protein then get a chicken, roast it and put it in the fridge for snacks. Eat the white meat and use the rest for soup if you don't want to eat the dark meat.

If you are vegetarian and don't get enough protein then I suggest you do something similar with beans. I had a bean salad the other day with black beans, bell peppers and corn and lime and it was fantastic. What about dairy products? Milk and yogurt are great sources of protein.

And my bottom line is this: Why would I choose to contribute to a billion dollar industry that is bent on making us ill? I can get more bang for my buck by eating well and not relying on expensive powders to get my protein. All it takes is a little planning. Report
More and more reports are showing that the FDA is not protecting us the way they are supposed to. All the financial cutbacks are probably hitting them too. Meanwhile and 'oops, sorry' isn't cutting it for all the people diagnosed with cancer, ADHA, autism, etc.

Eating healthy and as natural as possible seems to be our only potection. Heh, what a great idea! DUH!

OK, that was meant to be funny, I'm not trying to be cruel or anything, but my sense of humor might be a little dry today. Sorry. Report
First I have heard of them! I really doubt if I will try them!
Need more info! Report
My DH and I went vegetarian not too long ago. Still eating fish; but our protein goals are hard to reach when meat and poultry are no longer options. We added nonfat Greek yogurt to our daily diet, and it is terrific: as rich and creamy tasting as mayonnaise or sour cream, and much more versatile; and the protein content is ridiculously high. Thank goodness we no longer need these costly (and toxic) shakes. Report
I'm glad I don't drink any of those products! Though how were any of us to know, had Consumer Reports not done any testing??

I drink my Shakeology from Beachbody each day. Not really for the protein content so much as the vitamin/mineral content. You can't get the same from any of the store-bought drinks. And the antioxidants, prebiotics, digestive enzymes... it gives me the nutrition of fruits, veggies AND protein- when I might not get enough of it in some of my days. I still get my protein from the usual meat sources for the most part- not from a drink.

When you look at some of the "healthy" shake drinks out there- you see that many are just full of sugar (or even HFCS!) and they aren't at all healthy anyway. Report
I had gastric bypass surgery in 12/08. I had the hardest time getting in enough protein and came across Nectar whey isolate protein shakes. They have been a life saver! I shed 181 lbs and have maintained my weight - give or take 2-3 lbs - for 4 months. I have followed this regeme for over a year and I feel great! Loads of energy and not many cravings (I am human and we all have cravings!) I have 2 shakes a day - breakfast and lunch - plus inbetween I have fruit and veggie snacks. My surgeon and my primary care doctor support this protein and how I use it. This report is scary - but NOT ALL PROTEIN SHAKES ARE THE SAME!!!! I tried many before I landed on Nectar. I LOVE THEM - there are about 16 flavors. I can have something different everyday if I want for a week. I don't care for all the flavors but have my favorites. Thanks for the info but remember, just like we are all different so are the products. Report
I guess heavy metal would make you feel full longer! Just eat real food. Report
For crying out loud do people have so much extra cash around to afford this processed stuff. I think they should do a little more exercise in their kitchens and just make up their own protein drinks. It really is not rocket science just look at their list of ingredients and find healthy substitutes instead.
Too many bottles in the land fills anyway.

Happily our State returns all of those bottles for a price. Pat in Maine. Report
I have been thinking of getting a protein shake mix because I have trouble getting all my protein in some days. After reading this article, I think I will just stick with trying to get more milk, yogurt, healthy meats, and other natural sources in my diet. Some scary stuff! Plus, it will save me at least $10 a month by not having to buy it! Report
I do use them regularly because it is so convenient for breakfast. i make with skim milk or juice and fresh berries. i used EAS only after workouts , but the gourmet whey or soy i used as a meal. they really do fill you and keep you satisfied thru to lunch. I have used the premixed canned shakes as well. and what about the bars? i love those too, they are portable, easy and i can have them with no fuss to clean up- they are good for snacking as well. i don't think we can get away from any of these toxins/heavy metals/poison in our foods - even fresh stuff has to be washed for the pesticides, etc. BB Report
Ugh, gross. This is why I only eat food, not science experiments. Report
I use a whey protein powder for breakfast a few times a week, but I usually blend it with fruits or peanut butter. The major difference I have noticed is how full I feel. I drink it in the morning around 7 before getting ready for work & I'm usually not hungry again at all until 1 or 2. Report