Walk into almost any health store or large gym and you can't help but notice the enormous tubs of protein supplements. Popular with bodybuilders and other athletes, the products are often marketed as a safe way to get extra protein in your diet. Consumer Reports would respectfully like to disagree.
The online site released a report Tuesday in which outside lab tests were run on 15 different protein drinks (ready-to-drink liquids and powder mixes) and found that some contained contaminants such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury — most in the low to moderate range. But the authors of the investigation point out that levels were high enough in three of the supplements that if three servings were consumed daily, levels could surpass the maximum recommended limits for one or two of the contaminants.
The report found that three daily servings of EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake have an average 16.9 micrograms of arsenic, which is over the suggested U.S. Pharmacopeia limit of 15 micrograms per day. Three servings also contain an average of 5.1 micrograms of cadmium, just over the USP limit of 5 micrograms. Three daily servings of some types of Muscle Milk products also exceeded suggested limits for certain heavy metals. The report points out that shellfish and some organ meats, such as liver, can be high in cadmium, as can plants that absorb phosphate fertilizers. According to the Food and Drug Administration, milk, yogurt, eggs, red meat and poultry can be good sources of heavy metal-free protein.
Consuming too much protein, which can be done if some supplements are overused, can lead to health problems, according to Consumer Reports. Most women need about 46 grams of protein per day and most men need about 56 grams, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report will also be available in the July issue of the magazine Consumer Reports.
— Jeannine Stein
Photo: Some athletes, such as body builders, consume protein supplements. Photo credit: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press.