Friday, June 11, 2010

Warning: Protein Powders Contain High Levels of Heavy Metals

The latest issue of Consumer Reports (July, 2010) published a study in which they tested 15 popular brands of protein powders or ready-made protein drinks and found detectable (and sometimes very high!) levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead and/or mercury in every single one!

Solgar had the lowest, with just a detectable amount of just one metal. Muscle Milk Chocolate was the highest, with significant levels of all four metals. Here is my full article, originally published in Natural News:

Many common brands of protein powders and protein drinks contain high levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury according to the most recent issue of Consumer Reports magazine. All fifteen different powders and drinks tested contained measurable amounts, some quite high. Consumer Reports also argued that most people in the United States including athletes get ample protein in their diets. Heavy metal toxicity and excess protein consumption are both dangerous for one's health.

Proteins, whether from plants or animals, are broken down by the body into amino acids which are then used to form our cells and tissues. In the United States it is almost impossible to get too little protein.

Protein requirements set out by the World Health Organization range from a minimum of 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight to 0.8 grams protein per kilogram. It may increase 1 gram for endurance athletes. One pound equals 0.45 kilograms, so a 150 pound person would weigh about 68 kilograms. Excess protein can cause severe health issues such as dehydration and kidney failure.

Good vegetarian sources of protein include beans, grains such as quinoa, eggs, seeds such as hemp seeds, and even leafy green vegetables; they can give substantial amounts of protein when eaten in high enough amounts. One cup of cooked quinoa contains about 14 grams of protein. One egg contains about 6 grams of protein and one cup of raw spinach contains 1 gram of protein.

Whereas protein deficiency is not a common problem in this country, lead and other heavy metal poisoning is. Heavy metals get into tissues including the brain, heart and kidneys and are extremely difficult for the body to eliminate. Children are especially prone to heavy metal poisoning but everyone is at risk. Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include fatigue, nausea, depression, decreased thyroid and adrenal function, and even seizures.

Blending hemp seeds, green leafy vegetables or cooked grains like quinoa into a home-made smoothie of fresh and frozen fruit and water is a much healthier way to get protein than supplementing with questionable store-bought powders and drinks.

For more specifics, browse through the July 2010 issue Consumer Reports, which is available at bookstores and libraries. It has a chart with all the findings. You can also visit Consumer Reports and find a detailed summary.

An alternative (and safer) way to get good vegetarian protein supplementation is Hemp Seeds. We make Hemp Seed Milk (recipe below), and add hemp seeds to smoothies, sprinkle on salads and other dishes. We use Nutiva Shelled Hempseed, which is 30% protein and 9% Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid. We buy whole hemp seeds, not hemp protein powder. You can find this at a health food store, or online at iherb (where we often get ours.)

We found iherb to have great selection and great prices. They also have free shipping on orders of $40 or more. To get $5 off your first order with iherb, use code MEL526 at checkout.

Vanilla Cinnamon Hemp Seed Milk

1 cup raw hemp seeds
4 cups water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar, or about 5 pitted dates)

Blend well. You don't need to strain this nutmilk; the hemp seeds are soft and will be pulverized completely.


Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

Licensed Acupuncturist
The Birch Center for Health
(412) 381-0116

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