A Consumers Report study was conducted using 15 protein powders. Multiple samples of each were tested for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. The results varied, but levels in three products were of particular concern. Consuming three servings a day could result in daily exposure to arsenic, cadmium, or lead exceeding the limits proposed by USP.
Three daily servings of the ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake provides 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 tested contained all four heavy metals, and levels of three metals in the product were among the highest of all in our tests. Average cadmium levels of 5.6 µg in three daily servings slightly 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, and the average for mercury was 0.7 µg, well below the USP’s 15 µg-per-day limit.
Three daily servings of Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème contained 12.2 µg of lead, exceeding lead limits, and 11.2 µg of arsenic. A fourth product, Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate (liquid), provided an average of 14.3 µg of arsenic per day from three servings, approaching the proposed USP limit.
Cadmium, a highly toxic metal, 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.
According to Bruce A. Fowler, a researcher at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, shellfish and organ meats such as liver can be high in cadmium, and some plant foods such as potatoes, rice, sunflower seeds, spinach, and other leafy greens can also take in significant amounts of the metal from the environment, due in large part to the use of cadmium-containing phosphate fertilizers. It is interesting to note the FDA’s list of 275 hazardous substances at toxic waste sites: Arsenic, lead, and mercury rank Nos. 1, 2, and 3, and cadmium is No. 7, based on risks to people around those sites.
The report notes that Robert Wright, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, who is conducting research on the health effects of exposure to toxic metals, says, “Small amounts of exposure are inevitable, but a product that exceeds the USP limit is clearly doing something wrong.”