Over the years, whey protein supplementation has somehow become synonymous with fitness. They’re everywhere – whey protein powders, protein bars, or even ready-made protein drinks. Some of the more muscular guys at your gym drink them, and there seems to be an ad for them on nearly every fitness-oriented website. But here’s the cold hard truth – whey protein is far from a health food … in fact consuming whey protein can be incredibly detrimental to your health. Everyone you see in the gym slugging down whey protein drinks are damaging their bodies in numerous ways and potentially setting themselves up for a future of chronic disease. Here’s the truth about whey protein that everyone needs to know.
- Whey protein raises the hormone IGF-1 to dangerous levels in the body.
The hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is an important promoter of growth early in life. However, in adulthood, elevated levels of this hormone in the blood have been implicated with the promotion of various forms of cancer in the body. All animal products, and particularly concentrated animal protein (such as whey) has been shown to raise IGF-1 in the body to unsafe levels.
- Whey protein can destabilize your gut microbiota.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that the diversity and strength of the bacteria residing in your gut plays essential roles in digestion, immunity, weight management, and overall health. One of the most common complaints from people using whey protein is bloating, gas, and loose stools, all of which are signs that the bacteria in the gut are being disturbed. What’s more, whey protein contains many antibacterial compounds, such as lactoferrin, which can negatively affect gut flora diversity.
- Whey protein can aggravate your acne.
While acne is prevalent in the modern world, did you know it’s virtually nonexistent in societies that eat traditional diets comprising solely of natural foods? While there are many factors that contribute to the common nature of acne in Western society, studies have shown that whey protein consumption can promote and aggravate acne vulgaris, which is never a pleasant thing to deal with. This isn’t just a cosmetic issue, however, since the fact that whey causes acne signifies that there are deeper underlying health issues that whey is responsible for.
- Whey protein powders may contain high levels of toxic heavy metals.
This point goes for any protein powder, not just ones made with whey. Unless you really do your research, there’s a pretty good chance the protein powder you’re drinking isn’t as high quality as you might assume. In 2010, Consumer Reports tested 15 popular protein powder brands for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, and three of them were shown to contain potentially dangerous levels of these heavy metals that exceed the recommended limits set by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.
- Whey’s nutritional profile is not consistent with natural foods.
This point ties in together the previous ones and is the most important point of all. An isolated whey protein, or any isolated ingredient in high levels for that matter, are newcomers to the human diet, and our bodies haven’t caught up from an evolutionary standpoint to be able to properly handle these types of foods. Essentially, whey is a processed food, and our bodies only truly thrive when we feed ourselves nothing but natural whole foods. Just as there are negative health effects of consuming refined grains, extracted oils, or processed junk foods, consuming whey protein may produce the same damaging consequences.
So before you slug down another whey protein shake after a workout, think twice. Shakes and smoothies are an excellent way to get your nutrition if you’re in a time crunch, but make sure you’re only consuming the highest-quality, whole food shakes, free of whey (or soy) protein, fillers, artificial ingredients, or natural flavors.