Pros and cons of protein drinks

FRESNO, Calif.

Scott baker turned to protein drinks to bulk up and quickly learned that extra protein isn't always good.

"The stomach issues and diarrhea - it just didn't agree with me for the most part, having so much," Baker said.

Scott cut back on the protein drinks and his stomach issues went away. But plenty of people see protein drinks as a nutritious and time-saving snack or meal replacement. And why not, companies make them look very enticing.

Myoplex suggests you, too, could look like this and muscle milk's website says one of its products is "designed after one of nature's most balanced foods: human mother's milk."

But is this how you should get your protein? Consumer reports conducted an investigation, including tests at an outside lab of 15 protein powders and drinks. Multiple samples of each were evaluated for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead.

"Our investigation found that some of these drinks can pose health risks, including exposure to potentially harmful heavy metals if you drink them too frequently," Andrea Rock said.

Federal regulations generally do not require that protein drinks and other dietary supplements be tested to ensure they're safe, effective, and free of contaminants.

Three drinks were of particular concern - the EAS myoplex original rich dark chocolate shake, and two muscle milk powders - the vanilla crème and chocolate. Consuming three servings a day could give you more arsenic, cadmium, or lead than health experts think is advisable.

"At high enough levels, all of these metals can have toxic effects on several organs in the body," Rock said.

Consumer reports says a balanced diet is a better, less expensive way to meet your daily protein requirements, with foods like milk, eggs, and grilled chicken.

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