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Quality of Protein Products

Consumer Reports magazine in 2010 reported on 15 protein powders and drinks purchased in the New York metropolitan area or online for testing levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury [51]. Three products were found to contain heavy metals exceeding United States Pharmacopeia (USP) limits. Three daily servings of ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake, Muscle Milk Chocolate powder, and Muscle Milk Vanilla Creme exceeded lead and arsenic levels while Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate liquid approached the USP limit.

Cadmium levels were of special concern since it accumulates in the body and can lead to kidney damage. Food sources like shellfish and liver can be high in cadmium, along with potatoes, rice, and sunflower seeds, which take up the metal from cadmium-containing fertilizers, but these foods are not consumed three times a day for months at a time like bariatric surgery patients need to do after surgery.

Robert Wright, MD, associate professor at Harvard Medical School who studies the health effects of toxic metal exposure indicates that exposure to small amounts is inevitable but products that exceed

USP limits are not recommended [51]. When products with this toxic mixture are regularly consumed, they target the same organs and have a synergistic effect making two toxic substances greater than the sum of the two. Not enough research has been done to fully understand long terms effects of protein powders and drinks that contain toxic metals, according to Dr. Wright.

The web-based Labdoor testing results of high-protein products identified label inaccuracies and inactive ingredients found in the 74 products analyzed. “Over 52% of the products analyzed had measurable amounts of free-form amino acids, which spike protein content in standard laboratory tests but add little nutritional benefit,” according to the website [52].

Two food testing laboratories were contacted for an independent analysis of several products reported as being used by patients. Each declined the request to provide an analysis of the products stating that it was a “conflict of interest” since they produce the nutrition labels for companies sending their products to them for evaluation.

Protein powders made from a low-heat, nonchemical extraction process, free of gluten and lectins with no artificial colors and flavors would have efficient utilization in the body for bariatric surgery patients. Using amino acid powders and/or free amino capsules is another cost-effective way to ensure that high biological value protein is available in the bariatric diet. Little attention has been paid to individual differences in amino acid requirements to maintain nitrogen equilibrium [53], and the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) that were developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Research Council do not address biochemical needs of individuals, so relevancy of the nutrition label to evaluate products for bariatric patients is fraudulent.

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