Study: Protein supplements may do damage

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Here’s some bad news for body builders seeking to buff up with protein supplements. According to a new study just released by the U.S.-based Consumer Reports, those supplements that are commonly seen in large tubs on store shelves may help build muscle, but they are not as safe as they are marketed to be.

The Consumer Reports researchers performed tests on 15 kinds of protein drinks and found that there were several brands that contained arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury—all of which are considered to be contaminants and dangerous for the human body. Some of the supplements had levels that were low enough to be safe, but a few had dangerous levels.

For example, the EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake was found to have 16.9 micrograms of arsenic in every three servings, which is the number of daily servings recommended on the product label. Regulating bodies in the U.S. recommend not exceeding 15 micrograms of arsenic per day, which means this shake exceeds that limit by roughly two micrograms. Several other types of supplements had similar readings.

When consumed in abundance, these metals can build up inside the body and eventually contribute to cellular breakdown, certain forms of cancer, as well as numerous other potential health problems. The metals are contained in trace amounts in many of the foods we eat on a routine basis, but never in amounts that compare to what is contained in these protein supplements.

It may understandably be a hard sell to try to get bodybuilders to give up on these supplements, which have undeniable effects when it comes to building muscle. Fortunately, there are many types of supplements that have safe amounts of these toxic substances, so bodybuilders still have smart options. Plus, it’s likely that the companies making the supplements take these findings into account and perhaps adjust their formulas.

And let’s not forget that there are plenty of real foods that are great for building muscle. Whole grains, dairy products, eggs, red meat, and poultry can be great sources of the types of protein that bodybuilders need. Opinions vary on the actual effectiveness of protein supplements, but some studies have found that the amount of protein contained in these supplements is more than the body can even process in a day, so that getting the same protein through food sources may be just as effective.

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