Whey is not a discovery of late, not even its usefulness in building muscles. It is not clear when Whey was first used, but it is well documented that Hippocrates (4th century B.C) used Whey liberally for its natural healing qualities particularly in the treatment of liver disease and gout. In the Roman Empire Whey was used after sumptuous feasting to alleviate resulting indigestions. Roman women used this natural product as an internal and external treatment for a “milk and honey-like skin”.
In the early 16th century, the Alchemist Paracelsus was a fervent devotee of Whey and suggested its multiple use for treatment as often as possible. Since then, Whey was widely used by Aristocracies in Europe and it was a popular means to prevent gout, treat digestive problems and as natural Cosmetics for skin treatment. But it was not until after WW2 that science started to take an interest in researching the nutritional properties of Whey protein that has now become the favorite Fastfood for Body Builders.
As we live in an “Instant Gratification” society where the mantra “I want it Now” and “I want it Bigger” rules, the Nutrition Industry has been quick to exploit this trend. A huge selection of Whey products in Mega-size Containers beckon from every Gym and Dietary Supplement store shelf and reading and understanding the labels poses an enormous challenge to the non-artisan.
Without a doubt we can believe that neither Hippocrates nor Paracelsus would recognize, let alone recommend or use any of today’s Body Builder’s Whey. Natural, unprocessed and unadulterated Whey is hard to come by in America, but is quite common in Europe. It has naturally about 11% protein and 75% carbohydrates, abundant minerals (rich in highly absorbable calcium) and Amino acids.
But for the highly sought “Instant Muscles”, athletes asked for higher protein content and the industry was pleased to deliver. The protein content of Whey can be increased ad libitum by a relatively simple molecular filtration process; but, of course there is a price for concentrated protein, as a higher protein percentage reduces the percentages of the other nutrients.
So it is that the Whey in High Power Body Building Formulas boast enormous protein concentrations up to 95%! However, the products show a lower percentage because of added Flavors, Sweeteners and other Ingredients added to differentiate the product for competitive reasons. And herein lays the problem, to lure the consumer into gulping down Mega-doses of their product, the manufacturers adulterate a basically healthy source into a highly processed and outright unwholesome concoction.
Let’s analyze a typical Ingredients Label of one of the 5 top-selling Whey Protein products sold in America:
Calcium And Sodium Caseinate, Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Peptides, Lactoferrin, L-Glutamine, Taurine, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sunflower And/Or Safflower Oil, Canola Oil, L-Carnitine, Maltodextrin, Resistant Maltodextrin, Fructose, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Proprietary Vitamin And Mineral Blend, Potassium Chloride, Fructo-Oligosaccharides, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin.
That product contains 45% protein, but according to Consumer Report, it also contains heavy metal contaminants like cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. That aside, is this label indicative of a healthy product or a health threat when used in high doses for a long time? We could just as well ask: is Fastfood healthy? Sadly, the difference is that these unassuming Muscle-craving consumers honestly believe they build great health for themselves with a natural product; this is clear from the many user comments on Body Builder’s web sites.
The above ingredients are common, with some variations in all the major brands. It should be clear that “Canola and Safflower Oil” are GM (genetically modified) -products, like in all processed foods they are used because they are cheap, no other reason.
“Fructose” (most labels list HFCS for High Fructose Corn Syrup) is about the worst choice of sugar for an athlete, and its presence antagonizes the reason for taking the product in the first place, by jeopardizing fat burning. It is further suspected to cause obesity and diabetes.
“Natural and Artificial Flavors” is a common deceptive term for Nasties like MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), and many other undesirable substances are hidden in this euphemism. What’s the problem with MSG? Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon states in his book “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills”: MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more. Why has MSG been added? To make you addicted to the product so you use more of it. Why is not on the label? Because the industry knows you don’t want it, so they have to hide it behind euphemisms, and – yes it is legal. But it is getting worse, because the other Ingredients: “Sodium Caseinate”, “Protein Isolates and Concentrates” are, together with MSG adding up to a potentially excessive consumption of exitotoxins, the glutamate receptors within your heart’s muscle and conduction system are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias.
“Potassium Chloride” is used as a low toxicity fertilizer ingredient. It is also one of the three-drug combinations in lethal injections. So what is it used for in a Whey product? The answer is, it is a cheap ingredient to increase blood potassium level and because there is MSG in the product. “When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death.” – says Blaylock.
The added “Vitamins and Minerals” are synthetic chemicals with missing co-factors; they are not cell-resonant and not synergistic with other nutrients. This means that the chance of a “one size fits all” product to restore your body’s balance of nutrients is arbitrary and can do more harm than good. It seems that the only reason for adding these chemicals is because it sounds good.
“Acesulfame Potassium” is a non-caloric synthetic sugar substitute, and although FDA approved, it is highly controversial for its deleterious health effects. Because a human body cannot metabolize such calorie free drinks, the metabolism is disrupted and that fact puts the functionality of the entire product into question. The only reason for this ingredient to be there is cost, which benefits the producer while it renders the product questionable.
“Sucralose” is another non-caloric synthetic sweetener, and although FDA approved, remains highly controversial. The alleged symptoms associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations (rash, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, depression, and itchy eyes. Why is this ingredient used? Again its costs and convenience that benefits the producer, not for your health
But there is more to it than what meets the eye, the fundamental question is the source of the raw material, which unsurprisingly is not disclosed on the label. Is the Milk from feed lots or grass-fed cows? Were the cows injected with synthetic rBST hormones, steroids and antibiotics? The fact that Minerals and Vitamins are added, suggests the worst scenario, for Milk from pasture roaming grass fed cows is naturally rich in natural B-Vitamins and Minerals that are highly bioavailable, contrary to the coal-tar derived synthetic Vitamins added.
A healthy Natural Whey product is not easy to find on store shelves because marketing hype and label deception features the synthetic, high margin products. But a search on the Internet can reward you with a truly healthy Food. You want to insist on the following statements by the vendor:
- sourced from cows that are grass-fed on pasture and free of rBGH
- no artificial synthetic sweeteners
- no MSG (Artificial or Natural Flavors)
- no hydrogenated oils
- no Canola – Soy or Safflower Oils (these are from GM-crops)
- no HFCS (High Fructose corn Syrup) or Fructose
- no Soy or Soy Lecithin (Soy products are GM-sourced)
Beware of statements like “All Natural”, this term is arbitrarily defined and doesn’t mean anything. Remember, the cheapest product will use cheap ingredients, you may save when buying but you’ll pay later a much higher price for fixing your health. Buy from a producer you can trust, don’t hesitate to ask questions. High Protein is a significant portion of your daily Nutrition, so be mindful what you put into your body.