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Browsing the web I found the following image:

whey proteins

Seems that lots of them have heavy metals in them.

Questions:

  • What are the consequences, if any, of consumption over the years of these supplements? (following the recommended intake of the producer, of course)
  • Has anyone experienced or has any study that suggest direct relation to diseases over the use of supplements?

It is kinda hard to find (and separate) the good literature from the fear mongering on the Internet. If you guys could help out to finally put this issue to rest.

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You could potentially ruin your kidneys if you overdo it. I don't know specifically what shakes were used, or how much, but I do know someone who went to the hospital with kidney failure due to protein supplement abuse. I've also had a doctor recommend against taking extra protein entirely, wasn't a long visit so I didn't have a chance to pick her brain as to why. So short answer is yes, long answer I don't know enough to give you anything better. –  Robin Ashe Aug 29 '12 at 9:31
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The problem is that "some people" see protein as That Magic Drink That Make My Muscles Grow Huge. Needless to say, that's hardly the case. It takes quite a lot of protein to make your kidneys shut down. –  mkaito Aug 29 '12 at 12:08
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@RobinAshe high protein being bad for your kidneys is a MYTH. Unless you have suffer from renal failure, and your body is not working properly, protein can actually help with kidney function. Why do we continue to propagate these myths? Let me guess, your next sentence is that high dietary cholesterol is the blame for a systemic increase in LDL? –  Mike S Aug 31 '12 at 0:20
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I think it would be best to have this question rephrased a bit and migrated to skeptics.SE, you will receive far better answers over there. I think the question is off topic on fitness.SE anyway as it does not relate to your exercises. –  Baarn Aug 31 '12 at 11:14
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@JohnP IFBB athletes consume up to 500g of protein per day during the whole year, year after year and none of them reported any problems with kidenys. So yes, in my book it's a myth. –  StupidOne Aug 31 '12 at 17:20
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4 Answers 4

Heavy Metals are very harmful to the human body. If this report is true, I would like to avoid the supplements completely. I have had supplements in the past and they are a good source of protein. They help you achieve a more muscular, less fat body sooner.

Having said that, an important question to answer is what do you want to achieve: a healthy, strong body or more muscular body? With time I have realized that I will be in the gym for years and years so I try to be as natural as possible. A Diet plan or workout plan which is short term is never my goal.

Are you going to put on extra muscle via the shakes and ready to have them for years? Or are you into these shakes only for initial gains and give them up later? Getting off the shakes and maintaining your older exercise levels is never easy, you see a change in performance in 2 weeks. There are a lot of other sources from where you can get protein and they are more natural and sustainable.

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Downvoters, please leave a comment if you think this post can be improved. –  Dave Liepmann Sep 1 '12 at 1:53
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Heavy metals can significantly damage your health. Therefor I would discourage the use of protein shakes with high amount of heavy metals.

Consequences of consuming high amounts of heavy metals (through taking protein shakes) can vary from difficult-to-pass bowel movements or concentration problems to prostate problems or even cancer (source: Mark Hyman, MD).

That said, there is a time and a place for certain protein shakes. If your goal is muscle gain, you do need to consume a significant amount of proteins to (re)build your muscles. Eating high amount of poultry, meat or eggs for example can be bad for you as well. I suggest you find a protein shake that is extracted form vegan sources (so it's biological) and does not contain high amounts of heavy metals.

Take the protein shakes for convince, if you have no time to prepare a meal for example. But never replace your meals with protein shakes. Protein is just one of the manny nutrients your body needs to build muscle (and stay alive for that matter).

My favorite sources for protein are: Nuts, Seeds, Broccoli, Grass Fed Beef, Fish and Omega-3 Eggs.

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For normal people, a diet high in protein is NOT harmful. Its beneficial. High protein keeps you feeling full longer. Contrary to what I've read on this forum, your body can utilise (for energy, muscle growth) as much protein as you throw at it per meal. It is a great food for sustained energy levels throughout the day. A high protein (up to 50%) diet is popular with athletes around the world.

As for protein in powder form, yes there have been some heavy metals found in them. Some fish also has this. Long story short, there is nothing magical about whey proteins so if you have any health concerns, eat more chicken/beef/eggs instead!

Here is a great article from a very well-respected natural body builder (and power lifter) that did his PHD in protein metabolism.

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-1 You are linking to the same report as linked in the question. Some person with a PHD is not a reputable source (as a peer reviewed study would be). –  Baarn Aug 31 '12 at 7:40
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@WalterMaier-Murdnelch I don't think referencing an article from a dude that devoted his PHD to protein metabolism is out of line. The references to the journal articles he uses are right there at the bottom of his article for everyone to see. –  Mike S Aug 31 '12 at 14:13
    
Why has this been voted down? –  Mike S Oct 29 '12 at 23:06
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This was a report by a consumer watchdog organization. The industry asked for and got an independent review by NSF/ANSI, which basically a third party non governmental testing group. It passed their testings. The consumer group also reported that there were varying levels in samples, and not all samples produced the same results.

That being said, I would classify the protein drinks kind of like the Hitchhikers entry for Earth - "Mostly Harmless". If you need a quick drink or are behind on protein intake for a day, then I have no problem drinking any protein drinks. If you find yourself needing it long term, then I would assess your diet plan to see why you are always coming up short on protein needs.

There are also some concerns about the presence of aspartame, which breaks down in the body to formaldehyde and...formic acid? These have been known to cause migraines and other health complications. Also, heavy metals don't flush from the body easily, so if you continually have high intake, you could potentially see some complications.

My best advice when you see something like this is to garner as much information from reputable sources, and consider the original source. The consumer watchdog group's prime reason for existence is to sell the results of their surveys. Their article even states that not all samples produced this, but it's a one liner tucked away from the blaring graph of the ones that DID have detectable levels.

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+1 good discussion on the OP's question. –  Mike S Sep 2 '12 at 23:43
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