Most of us are familiar with protein powders that serve as a type of health supplement. Many people use them in hopes of building stronger muscles and bones, among other advertised health benefits. But are protein powders safe?
After all, we rarely hear about protein side effects from scooping a little powder into a milkshake or a glass of water.
However, some medical experts are starting to speak out about some of the dangers of protein powders and why they potentially cause more harm than good. While no research is definitive, let’s learn more about protein powders and some of the potential downsides of using them.
More About Protein Powders
One thing to keep in mind with protein powders is that not all of them are created equal. In fact, there are drastic differences from one powder to another. This is because the powders come from a variety of different sources. After all, there are several different sources of protein, and so each one can conceivably be made into a powder. This includes plants like rice, potatoes, peas, and soybeans, as well as milk and eggs.
There’s also a bit of mystery and some potential protein side effects that come from other ingredients that are often added to protein powders. This can include various vitamins and minerals, which are obviously part of the appeal from a health standpoint. However, protein powders could also contain artificial flavoring, sugar, and other ingredients that add no nutritional value.
It’s also worth mentioning that the actual amount of protein can vary from one powder to the next. If a product is geared toward weight loss, there will be significantly fewer grams of protein than if they are designed to build muscle. Those who use protein powder regularly should be sure to check the ingredients and the amount of protein before using it.
Protein Powder Risks We Know About
That leads us to the question of: are protein powders safe? The simple answer is that we don’t always know. Since they are officially a dietary supplement, they are not subjected to FDA guidelines the way medications are. This means there’s no way of clarifying if the manufacturer is being truthful about all of the advertised benefits of a particular protein powder.
Also, because powders are not subject to FDA approval, there is no requirement for scientific trials. That means there is little information about potential side effects or the impact that long-term use of protein powders might have on a person. Again, looking at the ingredients is critical. There could be high volumes of sugar in some products, which is one of the dangers of protein powders. Meanwhile, those who struggle to digest dairy have complained of stomach pain from drinking protein shakes made from powder.
Unfortunately, too much sugar in protein powders might be the least of the concerns. A non-profit group called Clean Label Project that tested and studied dozens of protein powder products found heavy metals and toxins in many of them. The list of toxins included cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and ingredients used to make plastic. There were also pesticides and other substances linked to serious health ailments like cancers found in protein powders.
In some cases, these hazardous substances were found in large quantities. But even if they were only present in small doses, it would still raise concerns. The protein powders with these harmful substances most likely came from plants that were contaminated by the soil in which they were growing. However, subpar manufacturing practices could have also played a role in the findings.
Needless to say, the possibility of toxic substances being found in protein powders is a potential non-starter for many people. Unless a medical professional advises you to take a specific product, it might be best to avoid protein powders as much as possible. The good news is that there are plenty of other ways to get protein. Eating nuts, fish, eggs, low-fat yogurt, and lean meat are all great sources of protein that can replace any reliance on protein powders.