If you supplement your nutrition with a protein powder, you're not alone. The increasing demand for protein supplements has made it so that you don't even need to go to a vitamin shop or health food store to purchase it anymore; you can find some brands right at your local grocery store. While making sure you get adequate protein is smart on your part, though, have you truly examined the quality of your supplement? You should, because a new report from the Clean Label Project found that many of the most popular protein powders contain harmful contaminants that could seriously impact your health.
This wouldn't be the first time — not nearly — supplement labels didn't accurately reflect that product's contents. Because the industry is so loosely regulated (read: hardly regulated at all), it's all too easy for brands and manufacturers to get away with producing very low-quality supplements. For instance, one study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found many labels on vitamin D supplements didn't list the correct amounts of the vitamin. And let's not forget that time the attorney general of New York accused major retailers of offering supplements that lied on their labels — and was right, says MarketWatch.
In fact, tests revealed only 21 percent of these supplements contained the ingredients they claimed they did. In other words, you often don't know if you're truly getting what the supplement promises you are.
That's where the Clean Label Project comes in. This non-profit organization tests a variety of products for label accuracy and truthfulness. In the past, they've explored infant formula, baby food, and dog and cat food. Their latest research looked into protein powders. The results? They were scary.
According to their website, the CLP picked 134 of the top selling protein powders across 52 brands. Every product was tested for more than 130 toxins, like heavy metals, BPA, and pesticides. Among other findings, they learned 70 percent of the products contained detectable levels of lead, 74 percent contained cadmium (which is used in battery acid, BTW), and 55 percent had BPA. What's more, USDA-certified organic products had more than double the heavy metals. And here's the real kicker (yes, it gets better): plant-based protein powders were the absolute worst.
You read that right: the variety of protein powder many of us (including myself, at one point) choose because it's supposed to be healthier is actually worse for us than the alternatives containing some type of animal byproduct.
We're talking about toxins that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other horrible conditions, people.
Now, it's not all doom and gloom. The CLP ranked all the products from best to worst, and there are indeed certain purchases you can make that will supplement your protein in a safe and effective manner. Their five-star brands include Puori, Jarrow Formulas, and BioChem. If you want to see the ratings for each individual product, they have those listed here.
With the ever-growing nature of the supplement industry — which rakes in somewhere around $37 billion a year, according to MarketWatch — it's become more important than ever for you as the shopper to do your homework and scrutinize labels, look up reviews, investigate brands, and choose your purchases very, very carefully. Don't let the negatives stop you from considering supplementing, though. There are still brands you can trust. Take Puori, for instance — who ranked very high with the CLP (in fact, the number one product tested was their vanilla protein). They pride themselves on creating clean and pure supplements, and the CLP agrees. This is a brand of protein powder you can take without fear of it later causing negative side effects, so you can enjoy your protein shake in peace.
Supplements are supposed to be derived by nature and backed by science; but bear in mind that it's still an enormous money-maker, and not everyone will have your wellness at heart. Shop wisely, seek out the high-quality products you need, and your body will be so thankful for it.