That some protein supplements contain heavy metals, which Consumer Reports described in an article published last month, caused quite a stir in fitness circles. Of course, it didn’t take long until a rebuttal was posted somewhere.
Kill The Messenger?
One that stands out to me is by one Jim Stoppani, writing for Muscle & Fitness, a magazine and website where coincidentally many of the companies criticized by CR advertise.
However, writing a rebuttal aiming at the right spot is justified, no matter where it comes from. I do not dismiss critcism solely based on its source. But Mr. Stoppani sidesteps the issue at hand. Instead he treats us to an attack on the credibility of Consumer Reports, their lab testing methods and the experts they consulted:
Consumer Reports goes on to interview so-called health and fitness experts on the supposed dangers of consuming too much protein. But these “experts” are merely dieticians, not researchers in the field of sports nutrition.
In fact, most of the article is devoted to sidetracking us with attacking CR’s mention of advisable daily protein intake. Which becomes amusing when Stoppani writes that CR’s expert has no credibility in the field because she never published a paper on it, but neither mentions any scientific research by the experts he mentions. Stoppani, by the way, is no expert in this field either.
But his experts must really be something, as they apparently support his argument that “the more protein you consume, the more protein synthesis is activated.” I’d love to see the paper that supports that, given there is a lot of evidence in the other direction.
Getting To The Point
But all this has nothing to do with the real issue: heavy metals in protein supplements. Stoppani dismisses this with the following:
If you’re wondering why any amount of arsenic, lead or mercury is in protein drinks, you can’t blame the supplement companies. The contaminants come from the whole-food sources from which the protein drinks are made. It’s almost impossible for food not to contain trace elements of such contaminants. And yes, we consume low levels of them whenever we eat whole foods. So if you want to completely avoid these contaminants, you need to avoid a lot more than protein drinks. You’ll also need to avoid much of the food you eat on a daily basis. For some reason, Consumer Reports fails to mention that.
What Stoppani fails to mention is that there are tolerable upper levels set for these heavy metals. In 210 g of Muscle Milk Chocolate Consumer Reports found 13.5 µg lead, which means in 1 kg are 64.2 µg (1 microgram = 1/1000th milligram).
In the European Union, the tolerable upper level for lead in “raw milk, heat-treated milk and milk for the manufacture of milk-based products” is 0.020 mg per kg, which equals 20 µg per kg. In other words: Muscle Milk Chocolate contains thrice the amount of lead allowed for milk products sold in the EU.
And we can’t blame the supplement manufacturers for this? It’s them who choose the ingredients they put in their products. Not to mention that we should just man up and live with the heavy metals in our food?
Stoppani only has one valid point: That Consumer Reports should have disclosed the testing methods. On the other hand, we haven’t seen the manufacturers of the criticzed products step up and produce any tests that disprove CR’s findings.
Picture courtesy of “Sandstein”.