Heavy Metals in Protein Powder Supplements

Heavy Metals in Protein Powder Supplements
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A Consumer Reports investigation into the safety of protein supplements found that more than half exceed the California Prop 65 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act action levels.


The Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, recently celebrated its 75-year anniversary. They were among the first to point out the risks of smoking, the toxic effects of ephedra weight loss supplements.

Well, one of their latest investigations questions the safety of protein powders and drinks. They concluded that we “don’t need the extra protein or the heavy metals [their] tests found” They sent 15 protein supplements off to an outside lab to test for toxic compounds such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, and found that “[T]he amount of lead in a single daily serving of eight [out of the 15] protein supplements [they] tested would require that the products carry a warning in California” under their Prop 65 law for toxin-containing substances.

But athletes can get the lead out by choosing whole food sources of nutrition.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Sebastian Dooris / flickr

The Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, recently celebrated its 75-year anniversary. They were among the first to point out the risks of smoking, the toxic effects of ephedra weight loss supplements.

Well, one of their latest investigations questions the safety of protein powders and drinks. They concluded that we “don’t need the extra protein or the heavy metals [their] tests found” They sent 15 protein supplements off to an outside lab to test for toxic compounds such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, and found that “[T]he amount of lead in a single daily serving of eight [out of the 15] protein supplements [they] tested would require that the products carry a warning in California” under their Prop 65 law for toxin-containing substances.

But athletes can get the lead out by choosing whole food sources of nutrition.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Sebastian Dooris / flickr

Doctor's Note

This is the second of my three-part video series on some of the latest regarding the safety of dietary supplements. For part one, see Dietary Supplement Snake Oil. In part three, I explore why Some Dietary Supplements May Be More Than a Waste of Money. Also, check out Plant Protein Preferable, which explains why beans and other legumes are the best source of protein. What about gas? See Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air. And see my other videos on leadmercury; and arsenic for other ways to avoid exposure. 

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Lead Poisoning Risk From VenisonAvoiding Cooked Meat CarcinogensRaisins vs. Energy Gels for Athletic Performance; and Probiotics and Diarrhea.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

130 responses to “Heavy Metals in Protein Powder Supplements

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  1. This is the second of a three-part series on some of the latest regarding the safety of dietary supplements. See yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Dietary Supplement Snake Oil for part one. Plant Protein Preferable explains why beans and other legumes are the best source of protein. What about gas? See Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air. See my other videos on lead, mercury, and arsenic for other ways to avoid exposure. There are also more than a thousand other nutrition topics to choose from in our topics list.

    1. Leave the Heavy Metal to the musicians and whirl up a protein rich (quick silver free) green smoothie!
      Cheers to CR for turning up the volume on Heavy Metals!

      1.  I have heard some concern that smoothies might break down the fiber and one could get more fiber by eating the plants whole.  In addition chewing whole plants may be beneficial.  I can see the advantage of smoothies  but was unsure what is better in the long run.

        1. Digestion begins with chewing, releasing digestive enzymes in the saliva to help better digest and assimilate the nutrients in food. I’d say if you want it soft and mushy, make it so; then pour it in a bowl and eat it like oatmeal.

    2. As a doctor can you do the ethical thing and name those 8 protein supplements and “keep the lead out” of teenagers and young adults who are taking these supplements?

    3. Hi! ; ))
      I am loving and sharing your work like crazy.
      I am wondering about two vitamins:
      K2-that I’ve heard should be taken with D3. If this is true, how much and is there a particular form that should be taken.
      Then, Biotin. Is it safe? I have read it is helpful for hair problems and have been taking it. I wonder if I stop if my hair will thin even more.
      I appreciate any advice.
      Thank you.

      1. To answer your question on Is Biotin safe? please review this comprehensive review, which I believe you’ll find reassuring. However, as you will also see most receive very adequate amounts of biotin just from the food you eat. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
        Also you asked about taking supplements of K2 with D3. These two vitamins do work together especially if there is low blood calcium levels in people who do not get enough calcium from their diets. However, taking supplements may not the best way or even an effective way to obtain their healthful synergistic effect. Please review this video and make sure you’re taking in a variety of plant foods to ensure adequate natural intake: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dangers-of-dietary-supplement-deregulation/ Hope that helps.

      2. Sorry- this was accidentally posted to another commenter.
        To answer your question on Is Biotin safe? please review this comprehensive review, which I believe you’ll find reassuring. However, as you will also see most receive very adequate amounts of biotin just from the food you eat. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
        Also you asked about taking supplements of K2 with D3. These two vitamins do work together especially if there is low blood calcium levels in people who do not get enough calcium from their diets. However, taking supplements may not the best way or even an effective way to obtain their healthful synergistic effect. Please review this video and make sure you’re taking in a variety of plant foods to ensure adequate natural intake: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dangers-of-dietary-supplement-deregulation/ Hope that helps.

  2. I think it was Jay Gordon MD who said: Eat food, not food like things…..

    This is just another example of “artificial” food, wich is not good for you – this time because of lead (!). I dont recall that lead should be a part of a co-enzyme :-)

    What to learn: Eat food that looks like food. If you think you need more protein, then eat your beans, lentils, oatmeal etc.

  3. How the heck did lead get into powdered drinks? Are they just being careless or are they trying to limit population growth? For sure we don’t need as much protein as the meat and dairy industry or their surrogates at the USDA tell us. There are some people in remote areas of this world who seem to do just fine on much less than that; with as little as 15 gm of protein a day. You’d probably get that much eating mostly jelly beans. Seems when it comes to protein, less is more since the body has to get rid of the ammonia excess protein produces before it can be used for energy and it can also stimulate cancer growth in the quantity meat-eaters consume it. However I’ve read that the amino acid leucine, which is part of protein, can help us maintain muscle mass as we age- something I’d like to do. I also read that it’s good at regulating blood sugar and as a workout recovery supplement too. Seems to be perfectly safe in doses of under 5 gm. Of course, I only know what I’ve read, and if what I’ve read is wrong, then I actually know less than nothing. Anyone have any experience with leucine?

    1.  I agree with your comments about the amount of protein we need. As Dr. McDougall has pointed out in his newsletter articles on protein it is impossible not to get adequate protein if we consume adequate calories with whole food plant based diet. The best evidence based series of articles I have seen on protein were
      done by Dr. McDougall and published in his newsletters which are
      available free on his website. These “title”(month/year) are “Protein
      History”(12/03),”Protein Overload”(11/04) and “Protein Sources”(4/07). You might find the 4/07 article of particular importance as it shows the amount of leucine in certain foods… asparagus and broccoli for instance have high amounts of leucine. I would continue a plant based diet and add appropriate exercises to help maintain “muscle” and good functioning as we age and not add protein supplements.

  4. Oh NO! I just started using Brendan’s product. We can’t eat enough in the day let alone proteins so I was supplementing with smoothies and then I saw VEGA so I thought it would be the answer I mean, I realize whole plant foods are best but I was getting worried because although we have not had our blood work done recently, many people whom I’ve trained to eat a whole-foods vegan diet are reporting low protein levels in their test results. Its tough to eat and chew all of that food each day if you are busy and burn lots of calories.:-(

    1. Hi mimi. Test showing low protein levels? Thats sound a little strange. Is it tests performed by a licensed doctor?

      1. Yes, these were regular labs done ordered by medical doctors. The MDs in these cases where suspect that the vegan diets were the cause of low “normal” or below the normal range for blood protein levels. I wondered if our so-called “normal” range is actually on the high side given the idea we need less protein than we think or thought. These women had levels at 6 g/dl or lower.

        1. I have not seen any articles to the effect that dietary protein effects serum protein or that vegan diets lead to lower protein. In looking across a population remember that normal is defined as where 95% fall… that means a small percentage of patients are normally either a bit high or low. It also matters what population was used in the studies done to support whatever test is being run by the lab. I certainly wouldn’t take additional protein. To comment on specific levels you need to look at the normals for that lab. Even if there were studies showing plant based diets lead to lower serum proteins than those of a SAD I would tend to view that as a good sign. At a recent presentation by Doug Lisle PhD he mentioned that well over half of the protein our body needs comes from our own protein that is broken down and reused. Couple that with the facts that given adequate calories from whole foods it is impossible not to get enough protein and that protein in excess of needs is viewed as a toxin by the body I certainly wouldn’t be taking any steps to get protein especially with supplements.

  5. I don’t think any of the supplements listed are vegan supplements. Most of the supplements are more”mainstream” brands. I’d like to see an analysis of certified organic vegan protein powders. I do think that I need a little more protein than average as I am very sensitive to blood sugar swings.

  6. I’d also like to know which protein powders are being referred; and if they are animal-sourced, and organic or not,

    1.  As Toxins has pointed out when you consume adequate calories you will get more than enough of the protein and essential amino acids that your body needs. Your body can’t store protein or amino acids and excess has to be excreted. Animal proteins generally contain more sulfur based amino acids and put a greater acid load on the body. Plant proteins are preferable see…http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-protein-preferable/. The best evidence based series of articles I have seen on protein were done by Dr. John McDougall and published in his newsletters which are available free on his website. These “title”(month/year) are “Protein History”(12/03),”Protein Overload”(11/04) and “Protein Sources”(4/07). After reading these newsletters you will realize why it is not necessary to supplement with protein powders. Even ultramarathoners like Scott Jurek use whole foods for training and recovery and don’t use supplemental protein powders.

      1. If it puts more acid load onnour bodies then get more trace minerals. This will balance everything out. It will keep our body a at a perfect ph kevel. Anyways, your body doesnt let yourself get to acidic or alkaline. Your body is able to leveln itself out. But when you put too much stress on those in charge ofbkeeping our bodies ph level correct, they get over worked and need minerals

      2. I do not believe this is correct. I don’t know whether protein powders are good or bad (that’s why I’m here reading). But Scott Jurek explains in his book that he uses protein powders (plant) extensively.

  7. Yes, I am wondering if this applies to vegan protein supplements also.  I include a pea powder protein in my morning green and fruit smoothie.  I was going to discontinue anyway as the taste is god-awful miserable.  

    1.  There is no dietary need to supplement additional protein into a whole food plant based diet as protein and energy needs satisfy energy and protein expenditures. Might as well go with your plan and discontinue its use!

    2. Lol. I use pea protein powder too and it is indeed god awful tasting! However I bake with it, vegan low carb things from time to time. I have been wondering is it really a good idea. I’ll stick with coconut flour perhaps (low carb!).

    3. I’m interested in knowing about pea protein too. I actually love it in my morning smoothie. I had some issues with muscle fatigue and thought it would help. My protein levels tested in the 6 range.

      1. What about using Mori-Nu certified organic silken tofu in your morning smoothie along with a frozen banana and some fresh or frozen berries. I purchase mine at Amazon.com.

  8. What about the myriad of antinutrients / limited digestibility of traditional plant protein sources (beans/grains/nuts/seeds), leading to reduced absorption of nutrients, etc.? Could supplementation of complete (amino acid), easily-digestible plant-based protein—minus nutrient-detracting factors—not be beneficial for those seeking to limit their intake of meat?

    1.  Anti-nutrients don’t seem to be a problem if history has anything to say about it. After all, people have been successfully eating all the plant protein sources without any problem for thousands of years. In my case, since I switched to them from meat, I lost weight, sleep better, have less depression,  and don’t get that terrible pain in my gut any more. Plus, I almost never get a cold or sore throat any more. I say, the closer a food is to the way it came out of the ground, the better.

    2. The Barley men (vegan gladiators) didnt seem to lack protein despite their source of protein: Plants. Our need for protein is probably much less than most of us think.

    3.  There is not a digestibility issue with plant proteins. All plant foods, from bananas, to leefy greens and starches have complete proteins and are easily used by the body, and complimentary proteins are not needed. Yes, it is true that not all the calories are used when eating nuts or seeds but with every other food, the plant proteins are fully utilized. As far as antinutrients go with beans and oats, when you cook these foods, the antinutrients are eliminated. 

      1. I’m sorry; there was a time when I believed everything natural and plant-based was our friend all of the time, but this is not necessarily true. Many plants have defenses against herbivory—this may on one hand be a powerful antioxidant, and on another a powerful anti-nutrient.


        1. Interesting. But: Humans do not need much protein. People who get their protein from plant sources live better and longer – thats a fact. If you get your protein from animal products it comes with cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones and acidic amino acids. I think the question is how much protein you think you need. By the way animal protein raises LDL, not only the fats.  

          1. Again, that’s a pretty biased viewpoint. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not advocating an animal-centric diet, but you have to lend some credence to the other side of the coin.




            My original point being: Say you acknowledge the detriments of over-eating animal protein, but don’t have enough time or understanding to properly pair together enough low-glycemic, complete, bioavailable, hypoallergenic proteins on a daily basis. Could one not benefit from, and is it necessary to castigate said individual for, a quality-minded supplemental pea/rice/hemp protein?

              1. Hmm…when did I encourage gorging on bacon, cream and butter while shunning apples?

                To further reiterate:




                All of said things considered, it can be challenging to work in ~50g (RDA for adult men set by National Academy of Sciences) of undamaged, well-tolerated (in terms of food allergies), non-meat, low anti-nutrient, low-glycemic protein each day, especially when out of the house, at work, etc.

                1. Alexander, you are running in circles here. I have repeated myself several times now. All three of these studies are citing phytic acid. Soaking, germination, boiling, cooking, and fermentation all inactivate phytic acid and free up minerals for absorption. So unless your eating raw grains or raw beans, protein and mineral absorption is not an issue.

                  As for the paleo diet, your last link in the previous post was a reference to it.

                2.  In response to ” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20001762


                  It’s more complicated than “well, just cook it.”

                  As far as phytates go, yes it is that simple. As for oxalates, there are many many low oxalate greens, (kale, arugula, broccoli) and the inclusion of oxalates in the diet does not diminish the quality of ones diet. Vegans and vegetarians do not suffer from chronic anemia, calcium deficiency or protein deficeincy.http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vegan-protein-status/

        2. The study mentions phytates and legumes as the sources of antinutrients. I had already said that cooking deactivates these antinutrients. Phytates are found in oats as well as some other cereal grains. My previous position remains valid.

          1. @Toxins:disqus , I am grateful that you are such a vital member of this online forum. It seems like in your effort to explain and prove to folks that plant-based is the way to go, you get your share of resistors. I’ve been on this forum for quiet a while, and it seems to me that arguing with this particular resistor will get you nowhere. Still, I greatly appreciate your efforts since it makes us all that much wiser. As Ocean Robbins has recently said, “In a world where genetically engineered, pesticide-contaminated, highly processed pseudo-food is considered normal, choosing real, healthy, sustainable food can be a revolutionary act.” Thank you for being a “food revolutionary” to us all.

            1. Thanks Mr. Chomper, I post more so that others will read it and use the information rather than posting just because I have a bone to pick with someone. These debates are enlightening as well for me, as I learn more how people think about food and what information is out there. I do admit I get frustrated with certain people, at which point I feel i have sufficiently posted enough evidence for others to see my side of the argument, in that case i cease posts.

      2. Leafy greens and bananas and such have complete proteins? I thought complete proteins were only in soy. That you need beans, legumes, lentils and rice, quinoa, millet and other grains to make complimentary proteins.

        1. Firstly, I would like to quote the American Dietetics Association on their view of vegetarian diets and protein.

          “Plant protein can meet protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needsare met. Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal ”


          Many say that plants foods are incomplete

          If “incomplete” means not containing all the essential amino acids then…. (the incomplete protein theory)

          1) All plant foods are complete as they contain all the essential amino acids.

          2) the only food that is not a complete protein is an animal food, gelatin.

          If “incomplete” means lacking in sufficient quantity of one or more amino acids…(the limiting amino acid theory)

          1)Getting all the amino acids in at once at the same meal, or even in the same day, as some may suggest, is not necessary due to the amino acid pool, which is a circulating level of amino acids in the blood, that the body can draw from if needed. As long as one follows a whole foods plant based diet, the amino acid pool will maintain a sufficient stock of any potentially needed (or limiting) amino acids.

          2)However, as long as one consumes enough calories, eats a variety of food, and limits junk foods and refined foods, and is not an all fruit diet, then they will get in enough protein and enough amino acids in sufficient quantity. There will be no limiting amino acids

          3)there is some evidence that the amino acids that are slightly lower (but adequate) in plant foods, may actually be a benefit to health and longevity and not a concern. This evidence stems from the fact that eating foods that resemble the protein structure of humans causes the liver to release the growth hormone, IGF-1, which accelerates aging and promotes tumor growth.

          Most every major health organization including the NAS, the WHO and the ADA all recognize these statements to be true.

  9. Was there any information on protein powder supplements from plant sources (e.g. hemp)? Just curious since I’m vegan and we add this to the morning ‘green smoothie’. Thanks!

    1. While protein powder supplements derived from plant sources are a better option than those derived from animal or dairy, it is actually best to use the whole plant source. For example, think of hemp protein, an excellent plant derived source of protein. When you use the protein powder, you actually lose much of what makes the plant so healthy and beneficial in the first place: excellent source of essential fatty acids, high amounts of minerals and antioxidants just to name a few. Why not throw in a few tablespoons of hemp seed in your smoothie, instead of a processed powder; your body will thank you.

      1. Because 3 Tablespoons of hemp seeds for 7g of protein doesn’t seem comparable to 25g of protein from a small scoop of powder. My husband wants to supplement with a vegan powder to increase his muscle bulk. He’s been obsessed with bulking up, and the crossfit coach he’s working with has him obsessed with focusing on protein intake. He’s not trying to lose weight, but bulk up. What does that person need to do??

        1. Eating more protein in an attempt to increase muscle mass is like pushing on a string. It doesn’t work that way. All of the well founded research on the subject clearly shows that the optimal amount of protein is 5% of calories including weight training athletes. Eating more does not provide any benefit whatsoever.

  10. I eat a scoop of whey with oatmeal every morning and I love it. I use the Optimal Nutrition (ON) brand that was tested in this study and passed with flying colours. I enjoy your website very much Dr Greger, could you please do a clip on the health benefits (or otherwise) of Whey Protein? I have read about elite athletes that consume a plant based diet with the only exception being whey. Another interesting topic might be whey versus pea protein supplements.

    1. Taking protein supplements can lead to increased levels of IGF-1 which can cause cancer.


      According to the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine

      “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for both men and women is 0.80 g of good quality protein/kg body weight/d and is based on careful analysis of available nitrogen balance studies.”

      For a 150 lb person, this would equate to about 55 grams.


      As a percentage of energy From the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine,National Academies
      Protein 10–35% of calories.

      On an 1800 calorie diet, 10% would equate to 45 grams

      From, The World Health Organization

      “Furthermore, recent detailed balance and body composition studies
      have shown that with a suitable program of resistance exercise
      sarcopenia (muscle loss) can be reversed and muscle strength increased on a protein intake of 0.8 g/kg per day (68 ). This intake is similar to the 1985 safe allowance and lower than usual intakes in this

      For a 150 lb man, the .8gr/kg is around 55 grams. For a 200 lb man it is around 72 grams


      From the USDA…

      “The typical American diet is rich in protein, cereal grains and
      other acid-producing foods. In general, such diets generate tiny amounts of acid each day. With aging, a mild but slowly increasing metabolic “acidosis” develops, according to the researchers.

      Acidosis appears to trigger a muscle-wasting response. So the researchers looked at links between measures of lean body mass and diets relatively high in potassium-rich, alkaline-residue producing fruits and vegetables. Such diets could help neutralize acidosis. Foods can be considered alkaline or acidic based on the residues they produce in the body, rather than whether they are alkaline or acidic themselves. For example, acidic grapefruits are metabolized to alkaline residues.

      The researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis on a subset of nearly 400 male and female volunteers aged 65 or older who had completed a three-year osteoporosis intervention trial. The volunteers’ physical activity, height and weight, and percentage of lean body mass were measured at the start of the study and at three years. Their urinary potassium was measured at the start of the study, and their dietary data was collected at 18 months.

      Based on regression models, volunteers whose diets were rich in
      potassium could expect to have 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than volunteers with half the higher potassium intake. That almost offsets the 4.4 pounds of lean tissue that is typically lost in a decade in healthy men and women aged 65 and above, according to authors. The study was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”


      And here’s the study

      “Higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and
      vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women.”


      And this can be confirmed by Dr. Gregers video on protein status in
      vegans , showing that those on a plant based diet has 20% higher
      albumin protein levels.


      Here is a study where people on a low protein diet not only increased
      strength, but also built muscle. As you will see, the difference
      wasn’t in the protein but in the exercise.

      In both groups, the subjects were maintained on a very low protein
      diet due to kidney disease. One did strength training, one did not.
      The one who did the strength training, despite the very low protein
      diet,….” total muscle fiber increased by 32 percent, and muscle
      strength increased by 30 percent after 12 weeks of strength training”

      The diet was .5 gr/kg


      Also I would recommend this video


      1. Toxins, that figure is now consider too low, I would refer you to a video made by the good doctor:


        The amount recommended by the study discussed there, and by Dr Greger, is 1.0-1.2g/kg of body weight. And that’s just for an average person, presumably athletes and those doing resistance exercise will have increased protein intake needs. Presumably this is why Dr Greger subsequently researched if nuts – which are high protein but also have high caloric density – proteins sources such as nuts promote weight gain (fortunately they don’t seem too, thanks Doc).

        As a 183 cm, 85kg (187 pounds for the backwards parts of the world) man, that means 85-102g of protein per day, which is a significant amount, and if I use a conservative figure like 1.3g/kg bodyweight to address the exercise factor, its 111g per day. More serious bodybuilders than I would probably use a ratio greater than 1.3g/kg bodyweight.

        A single scoop of whey protein, an extremely concentrated source of protein, is adding 30 grams of protein to my diet every day, with the protein in the oatmeal, this is giving me roughly a 1/3 of my daily needs.

        I would love to see Dr Greger comment specifically on Whey protein. I have never seen any good negative studies of whey protein. Has Dr Greger?

        1. Increased whey consumption leads to increased levels of IGF-1. This is this is what happens at the physiological level with any amino acid profile that resembles our own is consumed in greater then necessary amounts. Dr. Greger presented a study, which is interesting, but does not mandate the totality of evidence. The evidence I shared is from very credible institutions, and is not outdated, so lets not be so quick to dismiss.

          1. From the article in question:

            “Traditionally, total protein requirements for humans have been determined using nitrogen balance. The recent Dietary Reference intake recommendations for mean and population-safe intakes of 0.66 and 0.8/g/kg/day, respectively, of high-quality protein in adult humans are based on a meta-analysis of nitrogen balance studies using single linear regression analysis. We reanalyzed existing nitrogen balance studies using two-phase linear regression analysis and obtained mean and safe protein requirements of 0.91 and 0.99g/kg/day, respectively. The two -phase linear regression analysis is considered more appropriate for biological analysis of dose-response curves.”

            That’s quite damning – the previous recommendation was based on an incorrect choice of statistical procedure, which is the consensus view among the statisticians. It’s a miscalculation.

            Doubly damning is that in the same paper that use a completely different way of calculating of recommended daily protein intake, and come up with a very similar mean daily intake and and even higher population-safe requirement.

            “Considering the inherent problems associated with the nitrogen balance method, we developed an alternative method, the indicator amino acid oxidation technique, to determine protein requirements. The mean and population-safe requirements in adult men were determined to be 0.93 and 1.2g/kg/day”.

            1. Dr Greger is an excellent researcher and he finds high quality articles. The is a reason that, since he posted this, he has done a lot on nuts – a high quality vegan source of protein. For dinner I had almonds and a punket of blueberries (which contained about 30g of protein).

            2. I am not an “enemy” of Dr. Greger’s, in fact, I have been assigned by him to answer to comments on nutritionfacts.org and I agree with 98% of his videos.

              Regardless of these protein recommendations, they are not practical and they are irrelevant. We have no dietary need to supplement protein, nor must we seek protein rich foods. If we consume enough calories of whole plant foods and we are not on a strict fruitarian diet, then there is no need to concern oneself with getting enough protein. It is a non issue unless you are in an improverished third world country.

              Taking a whey protein supplement is excess, because it is not a whole plant food, which Dr. Greger would not advocate. Like I said, eating whole plant foods is completely satisfactory to reach energy and protein goals. Supplementing whey protein on top of this diet would only be harmful.

              I would not say that eating almonds for dinner, a very rich source of omega 6, is healthful.

              1. Not practical? It is easily achieved, even with purely Vegan sources. But I’m going to stop right here. I’m getting a real zealot vibe here, I don’t argue with zealots. If I post in future I’d appreciate comments DIRECTLY related to my question. My original question concerned health benefits or otherwise of whey (and expressed curiosity about pea based protein supplements). All the above discussion, was simply beside the point. Because you didn’t have anything to say specifically about whey, you vomited stuff about protein in general. You don’t HAVE to comment on every single post you know. If you don’t know, or can’t find out, leave it for someone else.

                  1. Toxins: “This is this is what happens at the physiological level with any amino acid profile that resembles our own is consumed in greater then necessary amounts.”

                    Since you yourself consider the problem excessive consumption of “high quality” protein, I’m not sure what point I’m missing. I have watched all videos tagged IGF-1. The problem seems to be related to excessive consumption – even of plant based sources such as Soy.

                    I’m afraid this whole area of research is still very unclear, and thus I don’t use it in my decision making (yet). Since 1999 it has been well established that this link between IGF-1 and certain cancers (breast, colorectal) exists in a Vitamin D deprived state. Also, the risk is only increased about 2.5 times and that’s only with the very highest measured levels of IGF-1 in the blood. And this risk almost completely disappears with adequate intake of Vitamin D.

                    Since this thread as been detrailed, I will post a new comment stating precisely what I want to know about whey.

            3. I found an article giving recommended protein intake guidelines for athletes:

              Opinion on the role of protein in promoting athletic performance is divided along the lines of how much aerobic-based versus resistance-based activity the athlete undertakes. Athletes seeking to gain muscle mass and strength are likely to consume higher amounts of dietary protein than their endurance-trained counterparts. The main belief behind the large quantities of dietary protein consumption in resistance-trained athletes is that it is needed to generate more muscle protein. Athletes may require protein for more than just alleviation of the risk for deficiency, inherent in the dietary guidelines, but also to aid in an elevated level of functioning and possibly adaptation to the exercise stimulus. It does appear, however, that there is a good rationale for recommending to athletes protein intakes that are higher than the RDA. Our consensus opinion is that leucine, and possibly the other branched-chain amino acids, occupy a position of prominence in stimulating muscle protein synthesis; that protein intakes in the range of 1.3-1.8 g · kg(-1) · day(-1) consumed as 3-4 isonitrogenous meals will maximize muscle protein synthesis. These recommendations may also be dependent on training status: experienced athletes would require less, while more protein should be consumed during periods of high frequency/intensity training. Elevated protein consumption, as high as 1.8-2.0 g · kg(-1) · day(-1) depending on the caloric deficit, may be advantageous in preventing lean mass losses during periods of energy restriction to promote fat loss.

  11. I consume a product from Optimum Nutrition that completely passed this test for heavy metal content with flying colors. I have a question for the researchers out there, professional and amateur alike:

    Does anyone know of any good articles investigating the health effects – positive or negative – of (uncontaminated) whey protein?

    I am only interested in studies that have investigated whey protein specifically. I am not interested in studies that are about protein in general or animal proteins in general. I have found several concerning positive health effects but I have not found any about detrimental effects. I put out a friendly challenge to anyone reading this to try.

    1. Hi Kman,

      Toxins is amazing and one of Dr Greger’s volunteers. He has a deep understanding of nutrition. If you are new to the site you may have missed the overall message that has been discussed. I would recommend reviewing Browse Topics. This is a vegan site and whey is a byproduct of cheese.

      But I think the point you are missing is that if you eat enough calories throughout the day, you will be getting more than enough protein. It isn’t necessary to supplement. If you are eating it because you like it, that is a different story.

      IgF1 has been a well covered topic on this site so you will find videos and very long conversations in the comment sections. Many of the readers here are interested in overall health and nutrition so if there is evidence that excessive protein increases IgF1 and that leads to cancer most here will choose not to partake.

      Go easy on Toxins–he is our buddy.

      1. I don’t mean to be rude but that has nothing to do with my question:

        Does anyone know of any good articles investigating the health effects – positive or negative – of (uncontaminated) whey protein?

        Surely one of the people with a deep understanding of nutrition can provide at least one?

          1. I have done my own searching. I am requesting what others have found on the subject. I have found many studies showing posiive effects of whey consumption. I have uet to find a single negative study. This should be the place to find it. As I said a friendly challenge. Feel free to try yourself.

                1. Wow you are quite argumentative. It is dairy. Look under dairy in Browse topics. And take a chill pill.

                  With few exceptions (Vit D and b12). Dr Greger will recommend whole foods over supplements.

                  1. I’m not looking to argue. I’m looking for someone to challenge my consumption of whey. This is what rational people do – they open themselves and their practices up to criticism. If you can’t, that’s fine, leave it for someone else to – if they can ;-)

                    1. Actually, most of us eat known safe and healthful foods and don’t use our lives as Guinea Pigs to test unknown substances. In general, dairy products are known to be unhealthful, in general stuff not containing anti-oxidants is unhealthful, in general excess protein is known to be unhealthful. Good luck putting junk that has lots of red flags in your body and seeing if your “assumptions” work out! Get a clue!

  12. And what are the numbers? Are there some companies whose products are ok, and what is the % of bad stuff in them, and what is the level that considered bad? Out of the 15 maybe there are some that are ok. 4/15?

  13. Was now sports tested? That’s scary? I had lots of protein powder. What would you recommend instead to put on size? What foods and what amino acids help build muscle the best?

      1. With all due respect, and with all the study-informed science on NF, I think this comment is neither well-researched nor properly reasoned.

        First, studies tracking protein consumption in individuals of varying activity levels (linked to in Bayesian Bodybuilding) found that protein intakes do make a difference in building muscle.

        Requirements are higher for inexperienced bodybuilders and people engaging in higher levels of activity. While activity level obviously matters in gains, there are (up to a point) higher bodybuilding gains with higher levels of protein consumption, even when there is a caloric deficit. Nitrogen balance matters.

        Second, your comment assumes that a person will have sufficient and proper appetite or can actually eat to satiation on a plant-based diet. I have not found this to be the case for some plant foods; I always abandoned my salads early or grew tired of my plates of vegetables, eating them because I felt that I had to and not because they were doing anything to satisfy my hunger.

        Suppose the appetite is sufficient for whole plant-based foods, however, there is no guarantee that the food the individual chooses will contain sufficient levels of protein for bodily maintenance, much less what is necessary to build muscle.

        Nuts and legumes will contain fair amounts of protein, but even eating to satiation may not provide the amounts at which significant or maximal benefits to gains will be seen (topping out I believe at .75-.83 g/kg for heaviest activity levels). And then at levels where they do provide this amount of protein, they may also provide excessive calories.

      2. I’d like to believe this, but this 50 yo is never so exhausted then when he tries to lead an active lifestyle on a vegan or vegetarian diet. I feel tired and weak all the time! For example, I’ll eat a large bowl of beans and rice with onions, I’ll feel ok, but if I really need a true energy boost I need to follow it up with a can of sardines. Only then do I have sufficient energy to accomplish moderate physical projects of more than 2 hours.

        1. I find that surprising. I am a competitive rock climber and can climb 5 hours with high energy and no problems. I refuel with raisins during the activity.

      3. Hi Rami,
        I know this thread is from a long time back so I hope you might read it and be able to provide a little advice.
        I am a firm believer in plant based nutrition and the bodies ability to heal given the right conditions. I myself am vegan and have refused standard treatments for a kidney tumor, preferring to eat low fat plant based and have never felt better or more confident of its efficacy.
        My mother, however, has liver cirrhosis, has been told this is now end stage without many treatment options other than paracentesis ‘drains’. Although it goes against my belief, we recently decided to increase the diuretics, against our consultants advice, to avoid the procedure which has seemingly affected her profoundly. She has become very weak and lost a lot of muscle mass in just a few months.
        One of the main recommendations by the consultants have been to consume massive amounts of protein in the form of Fresubin protein drinks (from animal sources). This appears to have affects on her mental acuity – hepatic encelapothy.
        I’m here today looking for ideas on vegan protein supplements that may get around that problem if it is true that she requires much more protein due to the liver not working properly. I understand protein supplements are not required for most healthy people, but in this case perhaps it is? Any thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated.

        1. Hello Lokeshi, this case extends beyond my knowledge base, but there are some healthy plant-based protein powders that are whole food based. Garden of Life raw meal replacement is one that comes to mind, and is one that Dr. Baxter Montgomery (a plant-based cardiologist I work with) recommends for cases in which extra protein is needed. Not only does this product provide 20 grams of protein per serving, but there are a variety of vegetables, whole grains and other whole foods in it.

    1. As to lead, you’ll most likely find some in all veggies, rice, grains, etc., either naturally occurring, or from contaminated soil.

  14. The CR report goes on to advise getting daily protein from “milk, eggs, and grilled chicken.” A person would likely be less worse off with the protein powder!

  15. I personally don’t like beans, but after watching the whole video I must say that beans are the important part of our meal. Usually I eat Simply Raw Bars as the source of protein, but from now I will try to add beans into my meal as well.

  16. Beans and legumes arent complete proteins. They dont contain all amino acidsm you need to combine multiple vegan fiod sources which costs more. I eat my meat medium rare or rare which is the healthiest and least carcinogenic

      1. I actually don’t eat meat anymore and If I do I have killed chickens myself. Saturated fat is necessary for the body actually and as a weight lifter it helps with testosterone production. Lack of fiber? I eat more greens and fruits than anyone I know, so my fiber content is good sir. Stop judging me lol.
        Legumes amino acid profile does not have all the aminos that complete protein does. Which is why I have hemp protein mostly and fish I catch. I eat tuna too and luckily tuna actually if you research negates its mercury and other toxins in its body.
        I get so much antioxidants fromy everything I eat and certain mushrooms I use as tea. So I don’t think I have to worry about lack of fiber and antioxidants. As a matter of fact, I shit usually around two to three times a day depending what I eat. I healthy human should actually have multiple bowl movements everyday

          1. And actually a ketogenic diet is the diet were meant to have. It will bring your body bad to its normal state. The fitness industry is a money making machine. Do you really think you need to workout to lose weight lol. No its a hormonal think. Get rid of carbs that spike your insulin and cause weight gain, and eat high fat and some protein and you’ll lose weight without having to workout..you need to eat at least 3,000 call tho mostly from fat. Working out isn’t bad, it’s healthy, but the calorie in and out paradigm is bullshit. I’m sorry but your use of cognitive dissonance does not relate with what I said lol

  17. I noticed that all the listed protein supplements which indicated the source of the protein was from dairy products which aren’t healthy anyway, but what about soy protein supplements? Thanks in advance for your replies.

    1. Thanks for the question, Saved —- Dr. Greger ends the video by saying ‘athletes can get the lead out by choosing whole food sources of nutrition.’ The general idea is that we can get all the nutrition we need (macro and micro) from eating whole food plant based.

      I came across this arcticle which is an account from an individual who worked with Dr. Essylstyn and Dr. Campbell in the film Forks over Knives. A Vegan Athlete: From Vegan Protein Addict to Whole Foods. He discusses his transition from protein supplementation to whole-foods.

      Personally, I ocassionally use a protein power that is made out of a number of sprouted whole-grains and pledges to be free of heavy metals. If you are interested in protein supplementation and heavy metals are your concern, there are brands that focus on this and ensure the quality you are looking for. Perhaps some of the brands listed here may be worth considering.

      I hope this helps!

  18. If you look at the report shown for the first 28 seconds of the video, under the heading “HITTING THE LIMITS”, it says:
    “FOR MOST OF THE DRINKS WE TESTED, LEVELS OF THESE CONTAMINANTS WERE IN THE LOW TO MODERATE RANGE, WHEN WE COULD DETECT THEM AT ALL! But with THREE of the products, consumers who have THREE SERVINGS DAILY COULD be exposed to levels that exceed the maximum limits ..” ‘Dr’ Greger doesn’t mention that. The video tries to mislead you into thinking all protein powders are bad. Clearly they are not.

  19. Thank you EvidenceBasedNutrition for posting a more unbiased apprasal. And also for mention the movie, “Forks Over Knives”, an excellent documentary about food and diseases that everyone should watch.

  20. As I said in response to the video on soft drinks, according to California’s Prop 65, everything under the sun causes cancer. In fact, virtually all the dietary and nutritional supplements being sold today have warnings that the supplements are potentially carcinogenic. As a resident of California, I’m having trouble ordering nutritional supplements out of state, because according to that proposition they are alleged to cause cancer, thereby preventing the sellers from shipping to California. That Proposition should be repealed, because it’s denying consumers freedom of choice.

    I recently moved into a new apartment complex. On the front of the building is a sign that, according to Prop 65, the building itself is carcinogenic. A health club that I go to also has such a sign.

    How does the government justify this kind of bureaucratic overreach? California is the only state that has this law. What is the basis for the studies justifying these cancer claims? Did the researchers feed the rats huge quantities of a substance, which because of the sheer volume caused the animals to get cancer, and then extrapolated the results to humans? Who knows?

    In any case, the government should stay out of people’s private lives. REPEAL PROP 65!!! RESTORE CONSUMER FREEDOM OF CHOICE!



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  21. Hello,

    I was wondering, if a lot of protein powders contain high levels of heavy metals, isn’t it possible that seitan, or wheat gluten, does as well? Seitan and wheat gluten are basically a wheat protein isolate, aren’t they? I’m having a hard time trying to find an alternative protein source to beans, lentils and soy products, preferably one that doesn’t contain too many carbohydrates or fats…

    1. Hi Daniela: Plant-based protein powders are the better alternative, but definitely not necessary. It’s always best to get your nutrients through whole foods. If you’re consuming a balanced diet and adequate calories you should not have a problem getting enough protein through your food first. Hope this helps!

  22. Protein became a Life or Death struggle with caring for my Mom in her 90’s. She had a stroke many years before and could not transfer herself and was incon. But her Zest for Life bloomed as she took flying lessons daily. She had started to eat less…at first portions, then POOR food selection and started having skin issues. Looked up Harvard Med School studies and they said 80+ NEED MORE PROTEIN than younger folks. Paraplegics need unbelievable levels of protein to heal bed sores. Trying to get a fisty, Independant 90 year old to eat healthy…just Try it! I began fixing her a “Medicine” every night. A green drink with 30-40 grams rice protein powder, Superfood Green powder, probiotics, olive or coconut oil, maple Syrup, multi Vit liquid, dash of moringa powder, in 1/2 and 1/2 which helped the flavor for her. Her skin cleared up, she continued her active life. She had a small detectable muscel loss over the next 5 yrs but only if you had seen her before. She was regular the rest of her life 2X per day. Her nails and hair grew at an amazing rate. So why do I say protein was a Life or Death struggle….we ran out it was a blizzard….in 2 days her skin began to break down and sores formed…SO Fast! Despite shifting her weight Every 20-30 min and an expensive air bed that constantly changed…I got to the store and started her on the Protein Powder and in 24 hr her skin was repairing and from there it became strong and healthy the rest of her life. The sores were going to take her into the hospital! I believe that Protein needs do not decrease as we age and that the key way for Quality of life in your 90’s doing the things you Love like flying lessons are Soley determined by nutrition! She died at Almost 95 in her sleep , pharm free, beautiful skin and hair , With a Smile on her face! I Sure Miss her!

  23. What about rust? How harmful is that? I’m afraid of its possible effects on my health.
    I used to use a Chinese pan, and I had to wash it thoroughly everytime before
    cooking becuase that type of pay goes rusty. I may have put some into my body.
    I no longer want to use it though.


    1. Ryo,

      The small amount of rust from what I assume is a cast iron pan is typically not an issue. The rust form is iron oxide and it has very limited uptake in the body. If the pan continues to rust you might consider treating it as follows: the-food-lab-reading-list-

      If your rusting cookware is not cast iron I would consider a change as it could be a poor-quality steel product and should be replaced.

      Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.CenterofHealth.com

  24. California’s Prop 65 requires any product that has 0.5 mcg of lead carry this label. The WHO puts lead safety between 20-30 times this value. The non-plant based protein powders seem to have much less than what the WHO is saying is generally regarded as safe, though a few are quite high, and the plant based ones are REALLY high (likely due to the sourcing of the plants to make the protein).

    1. For those curious as to the actual numbers of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead etc. found from this CR report:


      I use a protein suppliment moreso as an extremely quick, filling snack so I wanted to know how bad it really was in terms of heavy metals. Turns out, for 3 servings it has 10x less the amount of acceptable arsenic and undetectable amounts of the other heavy metals.

      While I am totally on board with Dr. Greger’s research and have since started eating a predominantly whole-food plant-based diet, I don’t think this video snippet tells the whole story.

  25. Looking at the list posted in the video, those were all based on whey protein. So plant based (e.g. pea, hemp, bean etc.) protein power should be fine right?

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