Protein supplement health benefit, risk, supplement and shake, does it help with increasing body muscle mass?
Are there risks and dangers?
August 16 2018 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Protein is the main component of muscles, organs, and glands. Every living cell and all body fluids, except bile and urine, contain protein. The cells of muscles, tendons, and ligaments are maintained with protein.


Protein supplements over the counter in health food stores and pharmacies

These are of benefit to bodybuilders, but caution is advised. A Consumer Reports investigation threatens to cripple the burgeoning business that is a big part of the multibillion dollare sports nutrition marketplace. The report revealed that lab tests of some of the market leaders in protein drinks had more than trace levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium. The brands that had the highest concentration of toxic elements were EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake, Muscle Milk Chocolate powder and Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème. Creatine is an excellent dietary supplement for body mass enhancement.


Brown rice protein is a hypoallergenic alternative to traditional protein powders (whey, casein, egg or soy) and is compatible with lactose-free, gluten-free and vegan diets.


European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015. A calorie-restriction diet supplemented with fish oil and high-protein powder is associated with reduced severity of metabolic syndrome in obese women.


Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc. 2016. Protein supplement consumption and its possible association with kidney damage in Mexican elite athletes. Protein supplements are one of the most used ergogenic supplements by elite athletes. Nonetheless, it has been postulated that the use of these type of supplements may cause chronic renal failure. The objective of this study is to analyze the effects of the consumption of protein supplements in the renal function of elite athletes of the Mexican Olympic Training Center. From the gathered results it can be concluded that protein supplements do not affect renal function


Protein intake by seniors
Older people who eat a good amount of foods with protein will protect themselves from the loss of skeletal muscle that accompanies aging. About 40 percent of US adults 70 or older get less than the recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day of protein. Older people may cut down on their animal protein intake due to cost, difficulty chewing, or concerns about the high cholesterol or fat content of these foods.


Older individuals who include protein in breakfast and lunch, rather than mostly during the evening meal, maintain their muscle strength better.


Advances in Nutrition, 2018. Perspective: Protein Requirements and Optimal Intakes in Aging: Are We Ready to Recommend More Than the Recommended Daily Allowance? The Dietary Reference Intakes set the protein RDA for persons >19 y of age at 0.8 g protein per kg body. We propose that it should be recommended that older individuals consume ≥1.2 g protein per kg per day, and that there should be an emphasis on the intake of the amino acid leucine, which plays a central role in stimulating skeletal muscle anabolism. The potential negative effects of consuming higher protein intakes on renal and bone health are without a scientific foundation in humans.


Complete Proteins
All meat and other animal products are sources of complete proteins. These include beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, and milk products. Egg white protein has a good amount of albumin called ovalbumin. Casein is the predominant protein found in fresh milk.



Protein in foods (such as grains, fruits, and vegetables) are either low, incomplete protein or lack one of the essential amino acids. These food sources are considered incomplete proteins. Plant proteins can be combined to include all of the essential amino acids and form a complete protein. Examples of combined, complete plant proteins are rice and beans, milk and wheat cereal, and corn and beans.


Branched chain amino acids
BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), particularly leucine, have anabolic effects on protein metabolism by increasing the rate of protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation in resting human muscle.


Dietary protein and satiety, weight control
Long-term consumption of a high-protein diet could be linked with metabolic and clinical problems, such as loss of bone mass and kidney problems. However, although it is well accepted that a high-protein diet may be detrimental to individuals with existing kidney dysfunction, there is little evidence that high protein intake is dangerous for healthy individuals. High-protein meals and foods are thought to have a greater satiating effect than high-carbohydrate or high-fat meals. Protein intake induces complex signals, with peptide hormones being released from the gastrointestinal tract and blood amino acids and derived metabolites being released in the blood. Protein intake also stimulates metabolic hormones that communicate information about energy status to the brain. Long-term ingestion of high amounts of protein seems to decrease food intake, body weight, and body fat.


Protein structure

The ordered array of amino acids in a protein confer regular conformational forms upon that protein. In general proteins fold into two broad classes of structure termed, globular proteins or fibrous proteins. Globular proteins are compactly folded and coiled, whereas, fibrous proteins are more filamentous or elongated. It is the partial double-bond character of the peptide bond that defines the conformations a polypeptide chain may assume. Within a single protein different regions of the polypeptide chain may assume different conformations determined by the primary sequence of the amino acids.


Protein ingestion increases muscle mass in the elderly as well as the young
Older adults show as much muscle-protein synthesis after eating a portion of lean grounded beef as younger adults do. Proteins like meat, fish, poultry and dairy products are readily available, and people also have the choice of taking protein supplements if their diet lacks adequate protein.

Protein supplement side effects - influence of protein supplement on liver and kidneys
I currently take 200 grams of protein powder supplement a day. As a weight lifter, it is recommended to take 1 gm. per pound of body weight. I’ve heard that too much protein can effect the liver? Has there been any research done on consumption of protein supplement effects on the Liver?
   Depending on how the protein powder supplements are distributed throughout the day, and depending on the rest of your diet and how much protein it contains, there could be stress placed on the kidneys and liver if too much protein is consumed at any one time. Much depends on how healthy your liver and kidneys are to start with.


I was wondering if protein shakes stunt height growth in teens. Is it because there may be steroid compounds in some shakes?
   I am not aware of them having a negative influence on growth in teens. It is rare that steroids would be added to these products but one should carefully read the label.


Protein Supplement for Bed Sores
A liquid protein supplement may help heal the bedsores that often develop in sick or disabled, and especially elderly patients. Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are a common problem among nursing home residents and other individuals whose health keeps them confined to a bed or wheelchair. They occur when sustained pressure cuts off blood flow to certain areas of the body, damaging the skin and underlying tissue. Malnutrition can make people more vulnerable to bedsores, and nutritional supplements are already recommended to help prevent and treat the skin wounds. A supplement, sold as Pro-Stat, is concentrated to provide a large protein dose in a small serving -- 15 grams of protein in an ounce of liquid. After eight weeks patients who'd taken the protein supplement were healing at roughly twice the rate of those on standard care. One reason for the protein supplement's benefits may be its high levels of certain amino acids -- arginine, glutamine and glycine -- that have been shown to promote wound healing. Advances in Skin & Wound Care, March 2006.


Protein supplement and blood sugar control
Drinking a beverage containing the protein hydrolysate and the amino acid leucine with meals reduces the occurrence of high blood sugar ( glucose ) levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Dr. Ralph J. F. Manders from Maastricht University, the Netherlands used continuous glucose monitoring to assess the impact of drinking a protein hydrolysate / leucine mixture with each main meal as a nutritional strategy to improve daily glucose control in 11 diabetic patients. The patients had significantly lower 24-hour glucose levels during the protein beverage phase than when they consumed an inactive "placebo" drink. The rate of high blood glucose levels was 39 percent during the protein beverage period of the trial, the results indicate, compared with 55 percent during the placebo period. Diabetes Care, December 2006.


Protein powder supplement benefit
A protein powder that mixes amino acids, vitamins and minerals reduces fatigues during intense exercise. Dr. Claire Thomas, of the Universite Evry Val d'Essonne, recruited 18 physically active young men. Half were middle- or long-distance runners, and half were recreational athletes. The volunteers were randomly assigned to use either Actibiomax protein powder supplement or a placebo powder twice a day for 28 days. The Actibiomax protein powder mix included amino acids along with some antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The placebo powder contained only flavoring and salts. Actibiomax protein powder supplement did not boost athletic performance. The study was funded by Paris-based Merck-MF Richelet, which makes Actibiomax. International Journal of Sports Medicine, August 2007.
   My comments: I am not sure if this product is any better than taking some simple and inexpensive whey protein and a multivitamin together, or just eating an egg and taking a multivitamin supplement.


Protein in Spinal Fluid and Alzheimer's Disease

Early signs of the development of Alzheimer's disease can be seen in the cerebrospinal fluid of middle-aged adults who are genetically predisposed to the neurologic condition. The two strongest risk factors for Alzheimer's disease are aging and the presence of an allele (type of gene) known as apolipoprotein E*4 (APOE*4). Those with the APOE*4 allele develop clinical dementia about 10 to 15 years earlier than those who do not have the APOE*4 allele. Previous studies have shown that the plaques that form in the brain during Alzheimer's disease, which are made of proteins known as beta-amyloids, begin forming years before affected individuals experience any symptoms of the disease. As beta-amyloid proteins, predominately of a protein type known as A beta 42, clump together, fewer are available to circulate through the nervous system. Therefore, lower levels of the A beta 42 protein in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord serve as protein biomarkers or chemical indicators of the development of Alzheimer's disease.


Vegetable protein versus animal protein for kidney health and function and for those with renal failure
Q. There is much controversy concerning the use of protein drinks and potentials risks to kidney function. Do these risks primarily concern animal-based protein drinks or are the potential risks the same with the use of vegetable-based (soy-free) protein drinks?
   A. There is controversy on the topic of vegetable protein versus animal-based protein in terms of effect on the kidneys. My best understanding is that both protein sources would have similar effects on the kidneys when only the protein portion is provided through soy isolates, powders and drinks. However, when protein is supplied from food, for instance beans and peas, additional nutrients are supplied that have a protective effect on renal health. Vegetable sources of protein also include fiber, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other beneficial substances that are good for kidney and cardiovascular health.



Q. Liquid protein probably helps the elderly because when the metabolism slows down the liver doesn't do its job of processing protein. I believe now that older people in general would benefit from pre-digested and liquid protein - and not just for bed sores. Wonderful site. I've been watching it grow for years!
   A. Thanks. We have not studied the area of liquid protein and the elderly, so we don't have a comment on this issue at this time.

Q. As a strength athlete my intake is high on protein which I hear is necessary and safe, how true is this and is a protein drink absolutely necessary to complement my dietary intake?
   A. Much depends on one's diet. If there is a high amount of protein intake through food, supplements would not be necessary, although it appears the use of whey or soy protein after exercise is helpful.


Q. What is your opinion on Prevagen product made from jelly fish protein?
   A. According to their website, "Prevagen is primarily made from aequorin, the calcium-binding protein found in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria." My research staff and I did a search on Medline in 2008 for the name Prevagen, and this is what came up, " The following term was not found: Prevagen." Therefore, there's not much we can say about this product at this time. We also could not find any human clinical trials when we searched with the keyword " aequorin. "
   Update March 2015: Another search on Medline did not reveal any new research when searched for the term Prevagen.


I subscribe to your newsletter and enjoy the format of answering specific reader’s supplement questions. This is a unique approach among internet supplement sites and one I’m sure has helped you grow the business as well as help many consumers. I noticed Prevagen - Brain Cell Protection is not on your list and would like to propose adding it to your website. I work for Quincy Bioscience, the manufacturer of Prevagen. We are research-based biotechnology company located in the University Research Park at Madison, WI. Through our partnership with the University, we have been able to demonstrate the neuroprotective property of the unique active ingredient in Prevagen, ‘apoaequoin’, a jellyfish derived calcium-binding protein. Prevagen was introduced 2 years ago and sales have grown steadily. Consumers coming to your website looking for help with memory who may already be taking existing well-known products for brain health (such as “Mind Power”) can benefit by bring Prevagen on board.


Was wondering whether the esteemed Doctor has done any research on the new anti-aging formula out there called Prevagen. It's made from jellyfish and is supposed to help with age related memory loss as well all kinds of other old folks problems...I guess jellyfish are smarter than us! Pretty pricey, sold by RiteAid drug store and online.