My past newsletters have concentrated on supplements, so far we’ve looked at how are supplements made, what is in them, what is the difference between synthetic and natural and how to identify them, how to read a supplement label and what are capsules, tablets and gel caps made from and all the fillers that come in between. I’ve also talked about the fish oil industry in depth, especially regarding the additives that are now added to the oil as well as the amount of fish that is required for just a litre of oil. Following on from these articles I want to discuss protein powders. These are very popular amongst athletes, body builders, gym enthusiasts, some yoyo dieters and people from all walks of life. Are they really good for us and what are they made from? At the end of this article, I’ll give you some high quality proteins that may be a better choice. You can also watch the video explaining protein powders and what you can use.
For many years people have asked me what is the best protein powder on the market. I found this really hard to answer as I was dubious about many of them, especially considering most of them had high amounts of artificial ingredients, fillers, additives, colours, flavours and synthetic nutrients. When I did find a pure protein powder I was concerned as to how they were made.
A couple of years ago I discovered, by accident, a wonderful protein (seed based) powder for those who are really keen to make up shakes with a powder rather than a raw egg, or for those who are traveling or working out to build muscle and feel they need extra concentrated protein. I would always choose real food rather than an isolated macro nutrient such as protein or an isolated micro nutrient like vitamin C. I would much rather you eat an egg, some meat, fish or nuts or seeds over any protein isolate, concentrate of hydrosylate. The protein source I found was not an isolate nor a concentrate but rather it was a seed where the oil had been extracted. Therefore it had other nutrients and components to help the body innately use the protein to its fullest potential. This I did for those who are looking for a healthy protein powder. It is called Inca Inchi Protein and is approximately 64% protein.
To start my research on the protein powder industry, I walked into a store that was nothing but protein powders, these stores seem to be focused on the body building industry. My senses were assaulted immediately with a very sweet unnatural smell and the shop was piled with small to very large (looked like commercial paint buckets) plastic containers filled with more protein powder then I’d ever seen.
I found, soy protein, whey protein, egg white protein, pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein, isolates, concentrates and hydrolysates. 95% of them were mixed with flavours, colours, artificial sweeteners, gums, thickeners, maltodextrin, soya lecithin and synthetic vitamins and minerals as well as some ingredients (if you could call them that) I’d never seen or heard about.
Let’s first talk about what protein isolates, protein concentrates and protein hydrolysates are, as many of the proteins no matter what their source (whey, soy, pea, hemp, rice) have been made into one of these three types.
A protein concentrate from plant foods (soy, hemp, rice, pea) has had the least processing of the three and has less protein then an isolate or hydrolysate. A concentrate goes through a series of steps which strips the food of other components, fats and carbohydrates. There are different ways to extract these components. Solvents, acids and alcohols can be used to extract the fat and carbohydrates respectively, this also removes many of the isoflavones of the food. A less toxic way is using a cold press for oils and a water extraction for sugars, removing less isoflavones – but of course this is a more expensive way of extraction. The protein content is around 70+% with mainly fibre making up the rest of the content of the concentrate.
A protein concentrate from animal sources, such as milk, also called a milk protein concentrate (MPC) (whey), are created by putting heated milk through an ultra-filtration process that removes all of the liquid and smaller molecules, including the minerals that are essential for good nutrition. What is left following the filtration is a dry substance that is very high in protein. Because MPCs’ are generally produced as a dry powder, exporters can ship the product long-distances very cheaply, and much of the milk protein concentrates used in the United States and Australia are imported from New Zealand and China. It must be 40% protein by weight to be called a concentrate. MPCs’ are largely unregulated so it’s hard to know where your whey protein is coming from.
Protein isolates are almost pure proteins, about 90-95% by weight value, much of the nutrients and other components have been stripped from the natural food, whether it be whey, soy, rice, hemp or pea. An isolate has been subjected to a more rigorous refinement process then a concentrate. Due to the refinement process and the high protein count, the isolates are more expensive. I noticed that some protein powders had a mix of isolates and concentrates (to reduce the cost). Bodybuilders are drawn to the “purity” of isolates, lured by the higher protein counts and the purported boost in beneficial effects of protein synthesis which I believe needs more study and may be over stated.
Protein hydrolysate is very expensive as it is pure protein. It is the product of hydrolysis, which means the cleavage of chemical bonds by the addition of water. Hydrolysis, otherwise known as saccharification, is generally a step in the degradation of a substance. It is a chemical process in which a molecule of water is added to a substance. Sometimes this addition causes both the substance and water molecule to split into two parts. In such reactions, one fragment of the target molecule (or parent molecule) gains a hydrogen ion. Protein Hydrolysate is often known as a pre-digested whey protein. Protein hydrolysate has special application in sports medicine because of its “so called” consumption allows amino acids to be absorbed by the body more rapidly than intact proteins, thus maximizing nutrient delivery to muscle tissues, but these words may be just clever marketing as I’m still to see the proof.
Now Let’s look at some of the specific Protein Powder Ingredients and where they come from.
Whey Proteins – Important questions to ask
- Is your whey protein from an organic source?
- Is the whey protein coming from cheese or milk? (If it comes from cheese it has been heated at least twice denaturing the proteins further.
- How many times has it been heated and to what temperature? (High temperature causes denaturing of the protein)
- What animal is it from – goat, cow, buffalo, camel, yak or a mix of different sources?
- Are the animals being fed GMO grain products?
- Are they fed a cocktail of antibiotics and hormones?
- Has the cow producing the milk for the whey been injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH)?
- What country is the whey protein concentrate from and has anything else been added? Remember China had melamine in some of its dry milk products.
So at this point my favourite digested concentrated proteins include whey you make yourself, the Inca Inchi Protein Powder or a raw egg.
What Else Could Be In Your Protein Powder?
Many of the protein concentrates include many dubious additives, here is an example of one of the ingredient lists I found in store:
Instantised Cross Flow Microfiltered (MF) and Ultrafiltered (UF) Whey Protein Isolate (contains concentrations of beta lactoglobulin, glycomacropeptide, alpha lactabumin, immunoglobulin, bovine serum albumin), Nature Identical Flavouring, Guar Gum, Anticaking Agent (551), Sucralose (955), Vitamins & Minerals (Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid (Vit C), Nicotinamide, Vitamin E, Iron Chelate, Zinc Chelate, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin (Vit B2), Pyridoxine HCI (Vit B6), Manganese Sulphate, Thiamine HCI (Vit B1), Molybdenum Trioxide, Folic Acid, Retinyl Acetate (Vit A), Potassium Iodide, Biotin Triturate, Chromic Chloride, Selenomethionine Triturate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D).
When I see something like this I can’t even fathom why we call this a food or a health food at that?
Identifying the Ingredients
Whey Protein Isolate: we’ve talked about how this is made and the questions to ask. On the label there was nothing that told me, the milk (type of animal) source, organic or not, country of orign etc.
Vitamins and Minerals: Remember in last month’s newsletter article I talked about when a vitamin or mineral ends in ide or ate you know that it is from a chemical laboratory not nature and many of the vitamins in minerals in this formula end in “ide” and “ate”. I do not know the source of the vitamin D, as they have not given me the correct name.
Flavourings: Nature Identical Flavour, flavour, natural flavour and artificial flavour are much the same substance with a few subtle changes as to the beginning process. If it is ‘nature identica’l or ‘natural’ it means that the food flavour began with the actual food but in the end they all end up the same. For instance here are the ingredients (if you can call them that) of strawberry flavouring (Source Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation):
amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amylketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), α-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, γ-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.
So when you read flavouring of any type in your protein shake don’t think it is just one ingredient it is around 48 chemicals and ingredients.
Sweeteners: Sucralose – is the sweetener in this particular protein powder, but I’ve noticed every artificial sweetener in the powders. Due to the amount that I can put in this article I’m just going to talk about Sucralose. Sucralose is also known as Splenda. It is a synthetic compound, which is basically sugar that has been modified by adding chlorine atoms. Chlorine is added to many products and does not necessarily make the product dangerous. However, consuming chlorine is not advised in large amounts. This synthetic compound is created when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethylammonium chloride and sodium methoxide. I’m sure sugar was never made in nature with these ingredients.
Sucralose has been implicated as the cause of many side effects, including: skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, stomach pain. There have been no long-term studies of the side effects of sucralose in humans, but the Splenda manufacturer’s own short-term studies showed that very high doses of sucralose shrank thymus glands, enlarged livers, and caused kidney disorders in rodents (yes I know we’re not rodents). The doses were measured at a level far beyond what would be expected in an ordinary diet – not sure when you eat large amounts of protein powders with sucralose.
Anti-caking Agent 551: Anti-caking agents are added so that the powder can mix evenly during food production. They have no nutritional value and only small proportions of the additive is usually added to the food, but if you notice the position of 551 in the above ingredient list, it is before the added nutrients and sweetener, which means it is in greater amounts then the vitamins and minerals.
If the anti-caking agent is not used the protein powder would absorb water, clump together and become sticky. Anti-caking agent 551 is also called silicon dioxide, it is not advised for gluten free diets. Other anti-caking agents include calcium silicate 552, sodium alumiinosilicate 554 and dicalcium phosphate 341. Other products like talc, kaolin, potato starch and micocystalline cellulose can also be used.
Another dubious additive that has been added to protein powders (but not this one) and sports drinks is 1,3-dimethylamine (DMAA) Claire Squires a 30 years old athlete was found to have this in her system when she died while running the London Marathon. Since her death the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have banned DMAA, it has also been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It’s beyond my comprehension why it was allowed in any food, but having said that I wonder why lots of additives are allowed in food made for human consumption.
In February 2012, this same additive was linked to another two deaths, DMAA had been identified in the toxicology reports of the death of two soldiers. The Army had also received some reports of liver and kidney failure, seizures, loss of consciousness and rapid heartbeat in other military personnel who have used products containing DMAA.
I’ve also noted some protein powders have colours, many which have been banned in some countries due to their link to hyperactivity, asthma and dermatitis. Soy lecithin is also present in many protein powders. The thing that most disturbs me with any food or supplement is that we actually don’t know the full ramifications of a mix of additives, we only know that it is safe based on testing it singularly. Evidence is now coming to light that when you add two so called ‘safe’ additives in a food, together they may not be safe. I don’t know about you but I’m not willing to be a participant in any experiment with regards to additives and food – so I stay clear of them.
Soy Protein Powders
Soy Proteins are popular in the body building industry, and when I think this is mainly a male sport it, concerns me somewhat due to the oestrogenic affects of soy. This is a good time to look at the soy bean. If you want to know more I suggest you read my soy report. – The following is an extract from my report, The Not So Good News About Soy
Soy contains potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other protein digesting enzymes. They can produce serious gastric distress with reduced protein digestion causing chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. Soy beans also contain haemagglutinin, a clot promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. Together, trypsin inhibitor and haemagglutinin cause growth retardation and thyroid deficiency.
Soy beans are high in phytic acid, present in the bran or hulls of all grains. Phytic acid can block the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc. The phytates in soy beans are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques, such as long, slow cooking. Zinc malabsorption is a major concern as this is needed for brain and nerve function. Lignin is also present in soy beans which is another binder of minerals, making them unavailable to the body. The soy bean has one of the highest amounts of lignin compared to any other legume or seed. This binding is so complete that scientists who wish to study the effects of low zinc concentrations in test animals merely add soy bran to the animals’ diet. Zinc deficiency is known to impair the immune system and promote prostate disease. The traditional Asian diet always included seaweed, which provides sufficient minerals to overcome the potential deficiency resulting from the effect of soy lignin’s. Compare this to the Australian diet, which is sadly lacking in many important minerals.
Parts of the soy bean which are of particular concern are the endocrine-disrupting isoflavones, also known collectively as phyto-oestrogens. In 1991 a team of Japanese scientists found that two tablespoons of soy per day for one month resulted in a significant increase in thyroid stimulating hormone. Goitre and hypothyroidism appeared in some of the subjects and many complained of constipation, fatigue and lethargy. Some studies have gone as far as saying that soy may increase the chances of oestrogen-dependent breast cancer. Just a note here, the isolates and hydrosylates may not have these isoflavones as they may have been stripped away depending on how the soy was processed. Only testing for the isoflavones after processing will reveal the amounts.
Soy Protein Isolate
This is something you cannot make in your own kitchen. It is made in an industrial factory using alkaline and acid washes, with very high temperatures, high pressure and spray drying for the final product. Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during the spray drying, and another toxin is formed during the alkaline processing. Numerous artificial flavourings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) products to mask their natural taste. In some studies, the consumption of soy protein isolate increased requirements for vitamins E, D, K and B12 and created deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron and zinc.
Soy Protein Isolate is the key ingredient in protein powders and protein bar. My advice is to check all your food products and avoid this ingredient.
Here is an example of a Soya Protein Powder
Soya Protein Isolate, Citric Acid, Sucralose, Artificial Flavors, Soy Lecithin (As An Emulsifier), Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K), FD&C Blue Lake #1 (137) FD&C Yellow #6 (125) Soy Lecithin, (As An Emulsifier) Trisodium Citrate Dihydrate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, L-Leucine L-Glutamine L-Isoleucine L-Valine Citrulline Malate
My hope is to educate you as to what are these protein powders are and the additives within them. It is beyond the scope of this article to look at all protein powders. Some are OK, it is a matter of reading the ingredients, being educated about each of them and knowing where they come from. Take this same article and critically look at protein bars in order to choose the best on the market.
Happy Changing Habits