Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, December 26, 2016

What's For Dinner?

"It's an experiment."
"No one can tell you the long-term effects [of supplementing/replacing natural protein food sources with protein powders], and that's what worries me as a physician."
Dr. John E. Swartzberg, chairman, editorial board, University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter

"One of the benefits and concerns about high protein intake, especially animal protein, is that it tends to make cells multiply faster."
"That's good in early life, when you're a growing child. But in later life, this is one of the fundamental processes that increase the risk of cancer."
Dr. Walter Willett, chairman, department of nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

"The body only digests and absorbs a certain amount of protein at every meal."
"Nothing beats real food. With many supplements, you just don't know exactly what you're getting."
Jim White, registered dietitian

What's in your protein drink

Here are the average amounts of metals we found in three servings of these protein drinks. The maximum limits for them in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia are: arsenic (inorganic), 15 micrograms (µg) per day; cadmium, 5 µg; lead, 10 µg; mercury, 15 µg. Amounts at or exceeding those limits are in bold. Experts said three servings a day is common.
Product (powder unless otherwise indicated) Amount in 3 servings Protein (g/3 servings) Test results
      Arsenic (µg/3 servings) Cadimum (µg/3 servings) Lead (µg/3 servings) Mercury (µg/3 servings)
BSN Core Series Lean Dessert Protein Shake Chocolate Fudge Pudding 105 g 63 3.3 3.7 2.5 0.3*
BSN Core Series Syntha-6 Ultra Chocolate MilkShake 132 g 66 4.2 2.6 5.4 1.1
Designer Whey 100% Whey Protein Chocolate 78g 54 3.9 1.6 2.4 0.9
EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake (liquid) 1,500 mL 126 16.9 5.1* - -
GNC Lean Shake Chocolate 144 g 27 7.0 3.9 4.9 -
GNC Pro Performance AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 Chocolate 237 g 180 5.4 2.5 2.5 -
Jillian Michaels Natural Whey Protein Vanilla Cream Shake 81g 45 1.9 - 1.2 -
Muscle Milk Chocolate 210 g 96 12.2 5.6 13.5 0.7*
Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate (liquid) 990 mL 66 14.3 - 6.8 -
Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème 210 g 96 11.2 2.0 12.2 -
MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla MilkShake 96 g 75 1.2 - 0.4* 0.9
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Extreme Milk Chocolate 96 g 72 2.5 1.7 1.0 0.2*
Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro Whey Velocity Vanilla 117 g 90 1.5 - - -
Six Star Muscle Professional Strength Whey Protein French Vanilla Cream 117 g 78 2.3 - - -
Solgar Whey to Go Whey Protein Powder Natural Vanilla Bean 60 g 48 0.6* - - -
Clarification: (-) Element was not measurable in all samples tested.

*In some samples of this product, this metal was below measurable levels and could be as low as zero. For those products, the average was calculated using zero as the value for samples in which metal could not be measured by the analytical method used.  


According to Dr. Stuart M. Phillips, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, "There is a distinction between what is absolutely minimally required and a more optimal intake level". In which case, he recommends that adults consume 30 to 50 grams of protein with every daily meal to address the very real issue of aging which leads to the loss of muscle mass.

As for using protein supplements such as an array of protein products, their users should be aware that consumer groups have issued alerts regarding contaminated substances found in them through laboratory testing. Sixteen protein powders tested for the substances included revealed, along with similar drinks, that arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury were discovered to be present in some of those products.

As far as Dr. White is concerned, the best course of responsible decision-making about how to fuel the human body is to eat whole foods. Doctors are concerned about the potential long-term effects of a high protein diet where studies indicate that protein-rich diets, while seen to be promoting weight loss and preserving lean muscle in the process, do not preserve muscle mass over the long term.

Moreover, while eating excess protein does aid in tamping down hunger while avoiding carbohydrates, large population studies point to an association between high protein intake and a heightened risk of acquiring diabetes. Add to that the fact that doctors also caution that habitual high-protein consumption can also lead to kidney damage for those unaware that they harbour the propensity for kidney disease. Strain on the kidneys for those with diabetes accelerates the process of eventual kidney failure.

Flavoured protein powers have seen a surge in popularity by people interested in enhancing health by picking up the flavour-of-the-day diets that publicity geared to the bottom line for the producers claim lead the way to better health and physical conditioning. When, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Doled by the scoopful for smoothies, the ease and convenience of believing that one is pampering one's body positively generates enthusiasm for the product.

In the process, people end up consuming protein amounts exceeding health recommendations. Where a protein drink can be comprised of almost as much protein as a 225-gram steak, and snack bars can have the equivalent of greater macronutrient content than a three-egg omelet, people are deluding themselves into believing they are adopting a healthy diet.

What doctors and nutritionists know and consumers may not, is that protein powders and supplements derive from animal products like whey and casein (byproducts of cheese manufacturing) or from plants such as soy, rice, pea or hemp with no scientifically rigorous studies to inform whether too much protein is being absorbed, let alone what constitutes too much protein for the body to absorb and benefit from.

Protein is indispensable in the human diet for amino acids that our bodies are unable to synthesize on their own. Protein provides the building blocks required for the production and maintenance of muscle, bone, skin and other body tissues along with vital hormones and enzymes. The average female requires 46 grams of protein consumed daily, and males 56 grams of protein on a daily basis.

Consuming moderate amounts of protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy products, beans, nuts each day more than suffices to ensure that we obtain the protein required to keep us healthy, with an emphasis on whole foods and moderate intake. A serving of Greek yogurt provides about 20 grams of protein, while 40 grams of protein is made available with the consumption of 125 grams of ground chicken.

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