Majority of supplements in India falls on quality test: Study

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In a first of shocking study, the analysis of the most popular protein powders sold and consumed in India has shown that the majority of these supplements fall on the quality test and do not have the supplements as per advertised claims.

The findings of the analysis carried out on 36 different brands of protein powders, including those containing herbal and dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, and other natural or synthetic ingredients. Of the 14 blended formulations, 7 contained herbal extracts, and the rest included various types of protein sources, such as pea, soy, egg, milk (whole, whey, or casein), and peanuts. Four products were purely plant based in nature, and 18 powders were purely whey-based and whey-blended (concentrate, hydrolysate, and isolate). Twenty products were made in India, and the rest were manufactured by multinational companies.

Of 36 products, 9 had <40% detected protein content, while the rest had above 60%. Overall, 25 protein supplements (69.4%) were mislabeled about protein content; that is, the protein content per 100 g detected in analysis was less than what was advertised on the product, featuring <10% to more than 50% deficit. Two products from 1 manufacturer had 62% and 50.4% lower protein content while a commonly prescribed protein from a well reputed company also mislabeled protein content of approximately 30% deficit than advertised.

On fungal toxin analysis, 5 out of 36 (13.9%) samples were found to be contaminated with aflatoxins. In both samples, the aflatoxin content was above 10 μg/kg.

In pesticide residue analysis, 3 samples (8.3%) were found to be contaminated by trace amounts. One product contained fenobucarb (0.061 mg/kg), whereas the other contained thiamethoxam (0.017 mg/kg). The third product was contaminated with 2 types of pesticide residues: azoxystrobin (0.022 mg/kg) and dimethomorph (0.013 mg/kg).

Heavy metal analysis revealed that none of the protein powder contained mercury or thallium. Trace levels of arsenic were detected in 5 (13.9%), cadmium in 10 (27.8%), lead in 27 (75%), and copper in 34 (94.4%) samples. Copper, as a trace mineral, is routinely a component of the added and disclosed ingredients in dietary supplements. Nonetheless, none of the products had a uniform or standard quantity of copper inclusion (minimum 1.49 mg/kg to maximum 30.61 mg/kg), even though the recommended daily intake of copper is 900 μg/day in the adult population.

Interestingly, the lowest protein content, both advertised and detected, was mostly found among protein brands that were heavily promoted or commonly prescribed. Aflatoxins have been detected mostly in plant-based protein supplements. Pesticide residues were also detected only in plant-based protein supplements and not in pure dairy-based or blended dairy supplements.