450 analytical chemistry and molecular biology assays on 50 best-selling protein supplements.
Actual sodium content was found to be 91.7% higher on average vs. the fifty products' Nutrition Facts label claims.
The single most common ingredient in the protein supplements tested was Sucralose (41/50), not whey protein (40/50).
LabDoor analyzed 50 best-selling protein supplements in the United States. Our analysis quantified protein, fat, sugar, cholesterol, calcium, sodium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury content and recorded presence/absence data for 63 inactive ingredients.
Our scientists recorded 13 variations of protein sources, featuring the fast-digesting whey varieties (indicated for exercise recovery), protein blends (indicated for meal replacement), and soy and casein sources (indicated for sustained protein supplementation).
All protein powders tested in this batch passed our heavy metals screens for arsenic, lead, cadmium, bismuth, antimony, and silver (below 1 part per million). However, controversial artificial sweeteners, including Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium, preservatives (Benzoic Acid), and artificial colors (FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Blue 1, and FD&C Red 40) were commonly found in tested protein supplements.
LABDOOR’S QUALITY RANKING
Compares products based on their label accuracy, manufacturing purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy.
LABDOOR’S VALUE RANKING
Compares products based on their quality score and average price.
SCIENTIFIC TESTING RESULTS
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS | LABEL ACCURACY
- These products' protein content ranged from -4.5g to +6.0g vs. their Supplement Facts claims, with an average variance of 1.55g. Average absolute variance in fat and sugar content was relatively low, at 0.58g and 0.25g respectively. 8 of 50 products had calcium content below their label claims (-2.5% to -37.7%).
- For all 50 products, cholesterol levels were found to be at below claimed levels. However, actual sodium content was found to be 91.7% higher on average vs. their Nutrition Facts label claims. Worst offender - Cytosport's Muscle Milk RTD (358.7% over its claims). Sodium's bloating effects could be the cause for consistent manufacturer deviations here - protein brands sell quick muscle/size gains, and rapid water retention can fake that look quickly.
The average variance for protein content was 5.6%. The average variance for sodium content was 91.7%.
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS | PRODUCT PURITY
- LabDoor performed audits on the heavy metals content of each product in this category, requiring analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Bulk samples of each product passed the six mineral assays, indicating presence of under 1PPM (part per million) of arsenic, lead, cadmium, bismuth, antimony, and silver compounds.
All fifty protein powders tested in this batch passed heavy metals screens for arsenic, lead, cadmium, bismuth, antimony, and silver (below 1 part per million).
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS | NUTRITIONAL VALUE
- Each product's Nutrition Facts label was algorithmically analyzed to compare the values of nine major categories, including calories/serving, total fat, total carbohydrate, and total protein content. This is similar to popular points-based nutrition score systems, but bases the algorithmic calculations on actual data rather than Nutrition Facts claims.
- Overall, products received between 17-97% of their calories from protein content (Mean = 69%, Standard Deviation = 22%). Sodium content was a major concern, with the average product containing 436mg (Median = 260mg). 17 of the 50 products were major sources of vitamin and mineral content in addition to their protein content.
- Products in the "Gainer" category (indicated for mass gain) varied widely in the source of their calorie content, ranging 2.5g - 20.2g of total fat in the six products. Products labeled RTD, or ready-to-drink, were found to contain significantly different, and worse, nutritional content versus their powder equivalents.
RTD (Ready-To-Drink) products ranked significantly worse than their powdered forms, due to increased fat, sodium, and preservative content.
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS | INGREDIENT SAFETY
- While all 50 products passed LabDoor's manufacturing purity assays for heavy metals content, we did identify other major ingredients of concern.
- FD&C Yellow 5, found in Cytosport Whey Isolate Protein Drink, is a legal but highly controversial ingredient linked to hyperactivity in children and some forms of cancer in all humans.
- Acesulfame Potassium, found in 70% of products in this category, is another potentially harmful ingredient. Current scientific research, largely limited to rodent testing, has identified negative (but inconclusive) results such as prenatal development effects and reduced cognitive function.
- Other ingredients of concern include artificial colors like FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Red 40, preservatives such as Sodium Benzoate, and the vague "Natural Flavors" and "Artificial Flavors", present in over 90% of products in this category.
63 inactive ingredients and 147 active ingredients were identified in at least one protein supplement analyzed.
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS | PROJECTED EFFICACY
- There is good scientific evidence to suggest that whey protein, the major active ingredient in 40 of the 50 products tested, is effective when used to support muscle mass gains and overall weight loss (as an appetite suppressant). Research studies also suggest that the digestion rate of protein sources affects the uptake of amino acids.
- In a surprising finding, MuscleTech NITRO-TECH contained over 1000mg of taurine, or more than 2x the taurine content in a Red Bull. In known clinical trials, Taurine content of 1000-9000mg has been analyzed for energy; early data is positive but inconclusive.
- LabDoor scored MET-Rx Protein Plus as #1-ranked in overall quality. BSN True-Mass ranked #50 in this category.
13 forms of protein were utilized in these 50 products, lead by whey protein isolate (35/50) and whey protein concentrate (29/50).