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Not sure where to post this (here or the Vegan page, but since it's about weight lifting, I'll start here:)

So I know it's been asked a lot, but I have some slightly different information that I would like to bring to the table. Please bare with me.

I am not a vegan (I eat meat) but I am severely allergic to dairy products and all of it's derivatives (ie: whey, casein, milk, etc.). That eliminates many options for me right from the start. So, my next option is to try vegan proteins. Typically there aren't any milk derivatives in them.

My next order of business is this: I have looked into vegan proteins for quite some time. I have tried a couple (GNC had a vegan gainer at one point, Vega, Garden of Life to name a few). But I stumbled upon a site called the clean label project. Here they talk about heavy metals (arsenic, mercury, lead, etc.) being in many proteins, including many of my vegan options. I can't post full links, but below is what it will let me post:

staging-cleanlabelproject.kinsta.com

After looking into this, and thinking about it, doing more research into the credibility of the site, I am now stuck. I have heard mixed reviews of the credibility of the studies done on the site. But if I am to take it seriously, then I am looking for a vegan protein (or other protein source such as egg, or maybe even beef) that would contain as little heavy metals as possible (ideally) that would also be non-dairy.

Note: before this gets brought up: there is no medicine I can take to be able to have a dairy protein. It's not a lactose intolerance, but something worse. It's called galactosemia for those who want to know. This basically leaves me with either a vegan protein or a egg or beef (or some other) protein source.

I was wondering what would be my best option? As far as the credibility of the site and the study, has anybody else seen this? And if so, has it been proven or dis-proven?

Sorry for the long post. Any help or resources or advice would be appreciated. Thanks

  • Protein powders exist purely for convenience, they are one of many sources of protein. Consider BulkSupplements or MyProtein for a good place to buy from, and consider Soy protein as well since it’s (one of?) the only complete vegan protein sources. – JustSnilloc Jul 11 at 23:52
  • You didn't say why do you want to consume more proteins. And if non-dairy proteins from natural foods are not good for you. – Jan Jul 12 at 11:12
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    Oh sorry. I forgot to mention I workout so I need to try to get at least 1 g per pound of body weight. Non dairy proteins from natural foods are okay for me. It's just hard and not always practical for me to eat that much protein from natural foods. – JCunning Jul 12 at 11:22
  • If I'm understanding correctly: whey isolate is a no-go for the allergy (even with the lower lactose and lactase additive) and you're skeptical of vegan proteins? Have you looked into animal-based proteins? Redcon1 MRE or Carnivor for example. – C. Lange Jul 12 at 16:12
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    Yes, correct. As far as animal-based, I have tried beef protein from Carnivor (I think) but I was also skeptical of the origin. I saw some things online saying it is made from beef ear/hooves/other basically not-so-great parts of the cow. That could be inaccurate, but again, not sure. And of course, taste. It was barely tolerable taste-wise. – JCunning Jul 12 at 16:53
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Supplements in general are subject to limited regulations in the United States. So complaints of efficacy and label accuracy are common. Complicating the matter further is that independent reviews can be hard to come by. I can't speak to the accuracy of the specific site and study you referenced, but your general concern is well founded.

To solve the greater problem of supplement safety and efficacy look for reviews from reputable sources that explain their testing methodology. Be skeptical of sponsored or influencer reviews. In particular, since you are concerned with contaminants, I would recoomend LabDoor. They do independent testing of a variety of supplements.

  • Exactly! I've always heard supplements don't have as much regulation, which could make things a bit more complicated. And as far as the link, that's awesome! Thank you! That helps and it seems a bit more credible than clean label project. – JCunning Jul 12 at 17:01
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Some of the companies address this issue directly, like Orgain (my favorite, all-around). They say these contaminants are in natural levels. I read the Consumer Reports article, and it did NOT say specifically if the contaminant levels are any more than the pre-processed ingredients themselves. And if so, then why? Does extracting protein somehow concentrate heavy metals? And why would I get more lead from vegan protein powder than like, a carrot? I asked them (CR) on their Facebook post, and they did not respond. Those would be key things to know.

I did see that Vega was shown to be one that scored the worst. But there are HUNDREDS of vegan products. Very few others were listed, including Orgain, one of the biggest brands. That's also key, as the Vegan products could actually have faired worse, as a matter of chance, only because too few products were tested. If they didn't test Orgain, how thoroughly did they do their job? As I remember, Consumer Reports was not the company that did the testing. They were referencing the work of another research company. And the though their article was more recent, I think the research was older...

Consumer Reports seemed to suggest that it's likely that all vegan products' heavy metal levels would be slightly elevated compared to animal products, likely due to (unknown?) processes in animals that filter these out to some degree.

Personally, I don't worry about it. Maybe that's a little careless, but we know vegans with educated diets are generally healthier. We so far haven't heard of a trend of people getting sick from vegan protein sources. I use them extensively, and feel and look the best I ever have. I have no health problems, other than stuff I was born with.

I'm going to ask both companies to take a look at my answer here, and see what they say. Who knows, they may have a rep on here... They should...

[UPDATES]

From Vega:

Hi Bradley,

Thanks for reaching out. I hear your concerns and at Vega we deeply value our consumers’ input. There is a lot of misinformation out there in regards to The Clean Label report and their claimed findings so we appreciate you coming directly to us so we can provide you with more information.

The Clean Label Project report incorrectly characterizes the safety and quality of Vega products. We have not seen the raw data on which Clean Label Project based their report, or the full methodology they used, as they will not release it, so that makes it difficult to properly respond. That said, we’re confident in the quality and safety of our products, such as the Vega shake you’ve come to love as a part of your daily smoothie. We test every lot of our products for quality and safety, which includes testing for the following heavy metals: Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury. In the Clean Label project report, whey based protein ranked higher (showing lower heavy metal detection) than plant-based proteins. While we can’t speak the testing results and methods of this report, as mentioned, we can explain why plant-based proteins may have heavy metals that you may not see in a whey protein Plant-based protein powders are made from plants extract, typically ground, isolated and/or concentrated, whereas whey protein is derived from dairy. Plants absorb naturally occurring minerals from the soil which can be reflected in the final product. Many soils through the US and world contain trace amounts of heavy metals, for a multitude of reasons. The more processed an ingredient is, the less of many nutrients it will have, but this also may include heavy metals. The proteins in our blends are minimally processed. We’re advocates of plant-based protein for many reasons from sustainability to nutrient density. In addition to minimal processing, there are no growth hormones or antibiotics in plant-based protein.

In addition, our tubs contain no BPS or BPA plastic. Our tubs are produced from post-consumer HDPE plastic. These bottles contain no Bisphenol A (BPA) nor any BPS (an analog of BPA; in the Bisphenol family).

You might find this blog post interesting where we talk about sustainability of our packaging which is an extremely important caused to Vega. You can check it out here: https://myvega.com/blogs/content/packaging-sustainability

As mentioned above, The Clean Label Project report provides a misleading mischaracterization of the facts and fails to recognize that Vega’s appropriate testing data reflects that Vega’s products are, in fact, safe for consumers and in compliance with all applicable laws, including Proposition 65. The Clean Label Project report incorrectly characterizes the safety and quality of Vega products. In fact, California’s law governing consumer exposure to certain chemicals (Proposition 65) expressly allows for certain amounts of chemicals to be present in a product. These amounts are called the “safe harbor” levels, and they are calculated based on a consumer’s daily exposure level, not just the level of chemical present in a product (i.e., what testing results show). The daily exposure calculation is very complex, requiring expert analysis and relying on variables that likely were not factored into the Clean Label Project report. Applying the appropriate measures and certain applicable court- and Attorney General-approved guidelines for proper, accepted scientific and statistical analysis, Vega’s testing data conclusively establishes that its products on average fall within California’s stringent safe harbor levels for daily exposure. To the contrary, the Clean Label Project report does not reflect testing results performed under the applicable guidelines.

All soils throughout the U.S. and world contain trace amounts of heavy metals for a multitude of reasons. The proteins in our blends are of the highest quality, are Non-GMO Project verified, and are minimally processed, so that we can retain as much nutrition as possible. Since plants absorb minerals from the soil, including heavy metals such as lead, these minerals may be reflected in the final product. These same heavy metals can also be found in many foods you find at your local grocery store. Recognizing this fact, the FDA published a study on elemental minerals, including heavy metals such has cadmium and lead, in a variety of foods. See “Total Diet Study Statistics on element Results,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (December 11, 2007), available at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodScienceResearch/TotalDietStudy/UCM243059.pdf.

While we don't release our testing methods or results, please be assured that we test every lot of Vega products to ensure our products are safe, compliant, and meet not only government regulations but also our high quality standards and we would never release a product that put the health of our consumers in jeopardy.

I hope you find this information useful and if you have any other questions feel free to circle back to me.

In Health, Nicola Anderson RHN, ROHP Education Specialist

Vega's Education Team is happy to assist you with information about our products. If you require medical advice or information please contact a health care professional. Please remember the information contained in this email message is for informational purposes only. The statements in this email have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

From Orgain:

Hi Bradley,

Thank you for your email. The safety and well-being of our customers is our top priority. Heavy metals are naturally occurring in the soil; therefore, any ingredient that is grown in the soil will have naturally occurring amounts of heavy metals. When food plants grow, they absorb these minerals through their roots and into their fibers. This is true whether the food is home-grown broccoli, store-bought spinach, or the organic yellow peas, chia seeds, and brown rice from which we make Orgain. Because of this, plant-based proteins will always have traceable amounts of heavy metals in them, particularly when compared with whey proteins.

You'll be pleased to know ingredients in Orgain products that are known to be at risk for high levels of heavy metals are tested for arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, and lead. We carefully source our ingredients and review testing on each individual ingredient. Every lot is tested and conforms to our rigid specifications for quality and consistency. All raw materials have strict specifications, and their Certificates of Analysis are kept on record. Orgain meets all applicable federal and state food and product safety laws, and our products are manufactured according to current U.S. Good Manufacturing Practices. Orgain is certified USDA Organic and therefore adheres to the strictest safety and quality standards with no hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial flavors or colors.

We are very proud of the clean, organic nutrition we provide and appreciate the chance to put your mind at ease. Thank you for reaching out to us! In Good Health,

Xxxxx X Consumer Support

  • Why was this voted down? That's not very helpful. It would 1000% better to explain the the problem with this answer. – BBaysinger Jul 29 at 17:15

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