'Whey' Uncool! Heavy Metals in My Protein Shake?

With all our concerns over chemicals, genetically modified organisms, excess sugar and sodium making their way into our food, we often overlook another serious threat: heavy metal. No, not Def Leppard or AC/DC (although, they're threats of another kind). The heavy metals we're talking about are actually pretty risky: lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. And they could be in your 'healthy' whey protein drink.

It seems counterintuitive that a protein shake—the epitome of healthy and fit—could be a source of severely toxic ingredients, but according to Consumer Reports, "The amount of lead in a single daily serving of eight of the protein supplements we tested would require that the products carry a warning in California." They're talking about Prop 65, which requires manufacturers of any products that contain toxic ingredients that the State has concluded poses cancer or reproductive risks must state that risk clearly on the product packaging sold in California.

The effects of chronic low-dose exposure to heavy metals can be very severe—even life-threatening: Cadmium can lead to kidney damage, and it doesn't like to budge either; it can take 20 years for the body to move out just half of the cadmium consumed today. Mercury can cause a number of health risks including rashes, profuse sweating and more serious neurological dysfunction. Lead has shown to impair memory, induce kidney failure and reproductive disorders. Arsenic can be extremely toxic to the lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver, and it can even lead to death.

We're all regularly exposed to heavy metals (which are naturally occurring in the soil in microscopic doses) through the foods we eat and pollutants in the air, but the concentrations found in conventional whey-based protein drinks comes via synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional farming of crops that are fed to dairy cows. The situation is akin to the high mercury levels found in fish. It's most concentrated in the larger fish consumed by humans (tuna, swordfish, etc) as they eat smaller fish who have mercury build up. It's the same with dairy cows—they eat the grains or grasses that have high heavy metal levels, which in turn becomes concentrated in products like conventional whey protein.

Organically raised dairy cows are not fed grain or grasses that have been treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers, thereby reducing the risk of exposure to heavy metal toxicity in products like whey protein.

Another serious risk of heavy metal exposure comes via whey processing. Because whey is produced from milk, many conventional extraction practices include the use of chemicals and synthetics, which may also leave traces of metals in those conventional muscle mass building marketed whey proteins—but not in The Organic Whey. Adhering to organic practices from start to finish, The Organic Whey is delicately—and minimally—processed in small batches and without the use of any chemicals, also reducing the risk of heavy metal contamination.

Organic whey is also a rich source of the antioxidant glutathione, which can actually help the body detox from heavy metals (rather than waiting the 20 + years for it to do on its own…). That's good news for protein shake fans that wish to get the benefits of whey protein, reduce exposure to heavy metals, and help the body recover from heavy metal exposure.

Resources:
Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants - The Huffington Post

Heavy Metals in Protein Drinks Raise Concern - NPR
Alert: Protein drinks - Consumer Reports Magazine
Warning about protein drinks - 6abc.com
Could Protein Shakes Harm Your Health? CBS News



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