Are Protein Powders Safe? – A Study Revealed Some May Be Toxic

Protein is something that our bodies need, and we would not be able to function if we didn’t have enough of it in our bodies. Protein, however, has always often been associated with muscle building, but even individuals who are not looking to gain muscle still need protein. In order for you to stay healthy, you need to consume the correct amount of protein. The majority of this protein should be coming from your diet. Vega Organic Protein & Greens

At times we may not be able to get enough protein from our diets, or we just want to be able to give our body a boost of protein. This is where protein powder supplements come in. Protein supplements are a great way to give your system a boost of protein to meet your daily protein intake. Protein powder is one of the most commonly sold supplements in the entire world, but are protein powders safe? Earlier this year there was quite a little stir up in the protein supplement world.

Earlier this year the Clean Label Project who is a nonprofit focused on health and transparency for labeling on consumer products, published a study that they did on protein powders. The Denver based company is a company that is solely dedicated to helping the consumer understand more about the toxins and nutritional value in consumer products by doing independent studies through third-party laboratories.

This study that was published was based on 134 protein powders that are available on the market today. This study showed that many of these protein powders had measurable levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and BPA. Let’s dive right in and look at this study further.

The Study

What the Clean Label Project did was gather 134 of the top selling protein powders according to Nielsen and best-seller list. They then took these protein powders and tested them for heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. They also tested for over 100 pesticides, BPA.BPS, residual solvents, mycotoxins, melamine, and its analogs, and antibiotic residues.

They then put what they found and applied it to a 5-star rating system based on the detectable levels of contaminants that were present in each product. They noted that this rated is so the consumer can know the overall brand quality and compare it to other brands.

What The Clean Label Project Found

In this study, the Clean Label Project found a number of troubling results. Out of the 134 protein powders that they tested, 70% of them contained detectable levels of lead, 74% of them had detectable levels of cadmium, and 55% of them had detectable levels of BPA.

Furthermore, they found that organic protein had higher levels of heavy metals contamination. The presented numbers showed that there was up to 1.5 times more arsenic in organic protein powders vs non-organic protein powders, up to 4.8 times more cadmium and up to 1.5 times more lead. Although organic samples did have 40% less BPA than non-organic samples.

One undisclosed brand of protein powder that was tested contained 25 times the allowed regulatory limit of BPA in a single serving.

Egg-based protein powders tested the cleanest according to the Clean Label Project. Here is the infographic that was created for this study.

Clean Label Project

Should You Worry?

While the numbers may be alarming, the Clean Label Project hasn’t necessarily been forthcoming with their funding sources, and which methods they used for the study. That being said I find it interesting that a company that is all about transparency wouldn’t be completely transparent about their study.

They also used terminology such as “measurable” and “detectable” which are very controversial terms to use when it comes to a study like this. Just because a substance is present that doesn’t immediately translates to unsafe.

There are also “detectable” levels of heavy metals in your vegetables that you purchase from the grocery store. These vegetables are monitored to make sure that they don’t exceed the levels set by the Food & Drug Administration.

More information needs to be released from this study for us to be sure if the levels present in these protein powders are harmful.

What Are Heavy Metals?

They are literally heavy metals, you know the ones you find on that periodic table that you had to memorize in school. Heavy metals include arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, copper, zinc, nickel, selenium, silver, and a few more.

With most heavy metals they are not dangerous in small quantities, but in large quantities, these heavy metals could potentially build up in various parts of your organs which could lead to unwanted side effects.

It is natural for plant-based protein powders to have higher levels of heavy metal contamination due to the plants absorbing it from the soil. The Council for Responsible Nutrition said that it is not surprising that they were able to find naturally occurring compounds in the plant-based proteins, and without the raw data that the group is refusing to release there is no way to know if the levels they detected were dangerous or not. It just shows that the equipment that they were using was sophisticated enough to be able to detect the heavy metals.


The good news here is that even though the Clean Label Project find “detectable” levels of heavy metals, there are some protein powders that scored exceptionally well.

Even though they used a strange and unexplained rating system, you can find the list of protein powders that are rated “clean” according to the Clean Label Project here.

The National Science Foundation’s Executive Vice President says that consumers can still use NSF-certified dietary supplements and protein powders with confidence. The National Science Foundation”s certified products go through a rigorous certification process to verify if there are harmful levels of specific contaminants in the products.

What are your thoughts on the Clean Label Project’s study? Let me know below! As always thank you for stopping by and if you have any questions, comments, or just want to say hello, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!







About Tony 40 Articles
Tony is a California based health and wellness writer who has a passion for weightlifting, fitness, and nutrition. You can find him frequently publishing on when he is not at the gym working out, or at the movie theater watching the latest Marvel movie.

1 Comment

  1. When I read your post in the first few paragraphs, I worry much. Recently, I go to a gym. I am looking for some protein powder. When I know heavy metal inside the powder, I fell desperate. Luckily, you provide some exceptional choice for me.

    Thx for you sharing.

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