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Clean Label Project Protein Powder

Your Plant-Based Protein Powder Is Likely Full of Lead and Arsenic: Check This List

Clean Label Project Protein Powder
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Cera Hensley

"Approximately 75 percent of protein powders had measurable levels of lead." Stunned? Us too. If you're a protein-powder junkie, it might be time to reassess — especially if you use a plant-based blend.

Clean Label Project, the national nonprofit focused on health and transparency in product labeling, just completed a study of 134 of the top-selling protein powders in North America. Using a "third-party, independent analytical chemistry laboratory," the group found that nearly half of the powders had "significant amounts" of "lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and BPA." Holy sh*t is right.

One of the most eye-opening findings was that plant-based protein powders are actually more toxic than whey- or milk-protein powders, with plant-based containing "on average twice the amount of lead per serving," in addition to more "mercury, cadmium, and arsenic . . . in several cases above health-based guidelines."

And if you thought you were safe with a "certified organic" powder, think again: "Certified organic products averaged twice as much heavy metals."

The safest bet? Anything egg-based. Apparently those were the cleanest/safest of the tested bunch. You can look through the list Clean Label Project shared with POPSUGAR, but here's the gist of the best and worst:

Best, Safest Powders (least contaminants, highest nutrition)

  1. Puori
  2. BioChem
  3. Body Fortress
  4. Performix
  5. Pure Protein

Worst Powders (most contaminants, least nutrition)

  1. Vega*
  2. 360Cut
  3. Quest
  4. Nature's Best
  5. Garden of Life

In the wake of the report, some brands have contacted POPSUGAR with their side of the story.

*Vega contacted POPSUGAR with this statement:
"At Vega the trust and safety of our consumers is our top priority. Plants absorb naturally occurring minerals from the soil which can be reflected in the final product. Our robust Quality Assurance programs ensure our products are compliant with our own rigorous internal standards, as well as all government regulations.

We are proud that Vega products are made with only real, whole food plant-based ingredients condensed into one nutrient-dense scoop. No artificial or synthetic ingredients are used in our products. We have not seen the raw data on which Clean Label Project based their report, or the full methodology they used, so we can't comment on this particular report at this point in time. We however want to reassure our consumers that we test every single lot of Vega protein to ensure our products are safe, compliant and nutrient-dense, and meet our high quality standards."

Ancient Nutrition contacted POPSUGAR with the following statement:
"At Ancient Nutrition, we are dedicated to the health and well-being of our consumers and have created a full range of protein products that are not only compliant with the FDA, but are safe and meet our highest standards. In fact, a March 25, 2018 report from concerning our Bone Broth Protein was both in-depth and favorable towards our brand, with proper comparisons being made across the bone broth category. We are also aware of the recent report released by the Clean Label Project on protein powders but have not seen any information on their method for testing, or how conclusions were drawn from said testing. All reports aside, however, we at Ancient Nutrition are passionate about providing our customers with quality wellness products. You can read more about our Bone Broth Protein product quality and key features here."

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