The global sports nutrition market is a billion dollar business. According to statista.com, the worldwide industry was valued around $51 billion USD in 2018 and it continues to grow. Protein supplements, such as whey and plant based powders, make up the bulk of these sales with a combined value of about $20 billion USD in 2017 . With these kind of numbers comes a thriving and competitive business, leaving the consumer with an overwhelming number of products to choose from. Protein powders can vary in quality with many brands testing positive for contaminants and toxins. Here are a few things to consider before you simply go and add the closest, or cheapest, protein alternative to your physical or online cart.
It is well know that the right amount of protein in your diet can help to retain muscle mass while losing weight or to aid in gaining muscle mass, which ever your goal may be. What is not transparent are what brands may introduce contaminants and toxins into your system with each scoop you mix up and drink down. A 2018 study by cleanlabelproject.org tested over 130 of the top selling protein powders for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead and for toxins like pesticides and BPA/BPS (plasticizers that are known endocrine disruptors) and the results were alarming. Seventy percent of the brands tested positive with traceable levels of both lead and cadmium, with the plant-based proteins testing the highest in lead levels. Typically, the contaminants work there way into the powder from either the source of the product (plants absorbing heavy metals and pesticides from runoff into the soil) and/or the manufacturing process (BPA/BPS used in packaging liners that leach into the powder).
Even with such high contamination rates in the protein market, there are safe options available. Helpful sites such as cleanlabelproject.org and labdoor.com perform independent studies and lab tests for label accuracy and product purity and then share their results. Overall, it is time to raise your awareness around the harmful substances lurking in the “healthy” products you are buying. With a quick review of the ratings from the independent testers, you can make a much healthier option when selecting your next protein source.
Which protein source do you use and why? Please share your comments.