Let’s first address this topic head-on as it relates to CB Supplements.
Yes, we get our multi collagen products tested for heavy metals, and there are no unsafe levels.
Furthermore, our NSF certified products are tested TWICE. Bounce down to “Do we test?” section to learn more.
Intro to Heavy Metals
Heavy metals are a group of metallic elements that have high atomic weights and densities. Some of them are toxic. Some elements with toxic properties are commonly called heavy metals, but they are neither metal, nor of high atomic weight. Arsenic is an example. So first, we need to get clear on what we’re talking about before we dive in.
This article will discuss the toxic elements of concern to human health and supplements (collagen in particular) such as Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, and Mercury.
Heavy Metals in Supplements
Heavy metals aren’t just a collagen problem. It’s a supplement problem. Nevertheless, heavy metals in collagen are a critical conversation to be had.
This is a much broader problem in dietary supplements in general. Collagen powders, whey protein powders, plant-based protein powders, and more are all subject to this scrutiny of heavy metals. And this scrutiny will continue because the FDA estimates 29,000 different dietary supplements are now available with ~1,000 new products introduced annually.
Seems like the problem will only get bigger, right?
Being strictly a collagen supplement company, we’ll obviously focus on collagen here in this article. And we’ll begin by sharing why heavy metals in collagen peptide supplements are dangerous.
Why Heavy Metals in Collagen (or any supplement) is Dangerous
The most notable heavy metals as it relates to this conversation include:
What about other metals essential to body function, such as zinc, copper, iron, etc.? It’s about the level of concentration of heavy metals:
Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But, if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, then serious damage may occur. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium.
It’s also important to note that this conversation (supplement safety) extends further than just heavy metals. Pesticides, contaminants like BPA, and overall nutrition (aka label accuracy) are also part of these ongoing safety concerns.
What the Data shows
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Clean Label Project (CLP) tested 28 of the top-selling brands of collagen supplements and found that:
- 64% tested positive for measurable levels of arsenic
- 37% tested positive for measurable levels of lead
- 34% tested positive for trace levels of mercury
- 17% tested positive for measurable levels of cadmium
Here are the collagen brands they studied.
Let me summarize this, cause that’s a ton of data to digest! Nearly all the collagen brands above have no unsafe levels of heavy metals per NSF certification standards (0.01 mg/d). That’s the good news. However, where things start to get hairy is when multiple servings get consumed in a day.
The results showed a considerable range, but levels in several products were of particular concern because consuming three servings a day could result in daily exposure to arsenic, cadmium, or lead exceeding the limits proposed by USP.
— Consumer Reports
We’ll let you explore that some more. 🙂
In Defense of Supplements
While it’s important to educate on the dangers of heavy metals within supplements such as collagen, let’s remember that humans can encounter heavy metals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. It’s impossible to avoid completely.
Did you have salad for lunch today? Was there spinach? Guess what, there might have been 60 mcg of cadmium in that bowl of greens. The FDA continues to publish studies around heavy metals and food, including this one warning of children’s exposure to lead and cadmium. The study found lead exposures range from 1 to 3.4 µg/day, with major contributions from grains, fruit, dairy, and mixtures (e.g. hamburgers, pizza, lasagna, soups).
Now, let’s get back to collagen. How in the world do heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury find their way into a collagen peptide supplement? Let’s address.
How do Heavy Metals get into a Collagen Supplement?
Since most collagen supplements are void of green leafy vegetables, grains, fruit, dairy, etc — how do heavy metals sneak into collagen supplements?
Lead is one of several toxic heavy metals that plants can absorb from the environment (the soil, water or air), while growing, and which can contaminate other minerals when they are mined. Sometimes lead is introduced into supplements by its use as a colorant (e.g. lead chromate, which has been added to turmeric powder to make it more yellow) or from other ingredients added to products.
In addition to environmental issues, you have to also look at the quality of the sourcing.
Collagen supplements are made through the processing (hydrolysis) of animal products, including the skin or hide, bones, cartilage, and connective tissues. Collagen can even be extracted from the membrane of eggshells. If the collagen supplement is single-source, these animal sources will be either beef or fish. If the collagen supplement is multi collagen — like us — it’ll be beef, chicken, and fish.
Here are the cold hard facts.
Many collagen supplements source their animals from factory farms, and these animals are exposed to heavy metals through their diet, drinking water, contaminated soil, and more. The toxins can accumulate in soft tissue and bones — the exact animal sources used in collagen peptide supplements.
To add insult to injury, neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests dietary supplements for contamination with lead or other toxic metals prior to sale.
These facts are alarming, no doubt. But, there’s a way to enjoy all the wonderful benefits of collagen powder and protect yourself from heavy metals.
How to avoid Collagen Supplements with Heavy Metals
How can you tell if a collagen supplement is free of heavy metals? Start with assuming they’re NOT free of heavy metals, and then validate your assumption with these 3 tips:
- Beware of “claims”. Pure! All-Natural! Clean! Really though? Images can be misleading, too. Show a cow or chicken in a pasture eating some green grass — “Wa-lah!” — we immediately (and subconsciously) believe the supplement is free of heavy metals.
- Read Labels. Per Consumer Lab, “Supplements and foods such as whole turmeric root powder, ashwagandha root powder, Echinacea, cocoa powder, greens and “whole food” supplements, kelp, and green tea leaves all have the potential to be contaminated with lead as well as other toxic metals such as cadmium and arsenic.”
- Require quality manufacturing certification and third-party testing — specifically for heavy metals, more on that below.
How does the Heavy Metal testing work?
Here’s the hard truth: supplement companies can get away with the bare minimum heavy metal testing. Most, if not all, of the testing is done within the manufacturing process. Which means, your safety is in the hands of this facility.
To explore this at a high-level, I’ve categorized the various levels of testing into 3 buckets: “Bare Minimum”, “Very Good”, and “Best of the Best”.
More about NSF Certification
NSF is the gold standard of third-party supplement testing.
To ensure products are void of heavy metals and contaminants, they use a rigorous 3 step process which calls for a thorough toxicology report. In their NSF/ANSI 173 Dietary Supplement Product Certification Standard, they test the suppliers and ingredients for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury.
As you can see above, NSF’s maximum levels are incredibly low. For example, chromium’s 0.02 mg/d (day) or below is a rigid, but absolutely justified, standard.
Why not Zero?
As good as 0.02 sounds, you still may be asking yourself “Why not 0 mg/d”? Completely fair question. Here’s how our NSF account manager answered, using lead as an example.
Lead is 0.01 mg/d which is a super low limit but allows for natural occurrence of lead within ingredients.
— Our NSF account manager
Remember, it’s the concentrated amount of heavy metals that are dangerous. NSF certification ensures supplements are free of these amounts and safe.
Other Non-Heavy Metal Testing does by NSF
In addition to heavy metal testing, NSF also tests and verifies products are:
- Absolutely, without a doubt, manufactured in a GMP facility (learn more)
- Free of 280 banned substances (e.g. masking agents, hormone antagonists, stimulants)
- Free of pesticides/herbicides
Do we test our collagen for Heavy Metals?
All of our products, including both lines (Every Day & NSF Certified, see a comparison here) are tested for heavy metals since they’re manufactured in GMP-certified facilities.
This ensures heavy metals such as; Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, and Mercury are under the FDA-acceptable range.
Our NSF certified collagen takes another step in heavy metal testing by going through additional third-party certification. This is required for substance-tested athletes ensuring it’s the cleanest multi collagen in the world. If you’d feel comfortable consuming collagen knowing it’s tested TWICE for heavy metals, the NSF certified line is the way to go.
With that said, rest assured our Every Day products are fully tested and safe from heavy metals as well.
Best Collagen Powder without Heavy Metals
We know this is a lot of information, and you may feel overwhelmed with understanding heavy metal testing and finding a safe and quality collagen power. So, let’s simplify this.
If you’re looking to find the best collagen powder without heavy metals, here are 3 things to look for:
- Trusted Brand? Is this an established brand? How’s their customer service? Do they seem transparent with their ingredients? Quality reviews? Collagen “brands” pop up on Amazon monthly. Are these companies committed to quality or just trying to capitalize on collagen’s popularity?
- GMP Certified? This is your first line of defense in actual testing for heavy metals. A GMP facility will do its own heavy metal testing.
- Third-party Testing? This is the most critical element to look for in a collagen powder without heavy metals. Look for NSF certification or Informed Choice.
If a collagen powder checks off the above 3 boxes, you’ve covered the main pillars of safety. But, here are a few other considerations when researching collagen powders free of heavy metals:
- Sourcing. Consider a collagen powder that prioritizes high-quality sourcing derived from grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught animals, as they are less likely to be exposed to heavy metals.
- Purity testing. Though purity testing doesn’t reveal heavy metal data, it’s a positive indicator of brand transparency and trust.
CB Supplements Assurances
Do we pass the above criteria?
- Trusted Brand? One of our founding pillars is premium product. Dr. Cate Shanahan, M.D. believes in our multi collagen. We regularly invest in creating collagen information via Collagen College™. Also, our customer service ROCKS — see our reviews.
- GMP Certified? Check! All our products are manufactured in a U.S. GMP-certified facility.
- Third-party Testing? Check! We have an entire line of collagen NSF certified. That makes us the first and only multi collagen to have this certification.
- Source from grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens, and wild-caught fish.
- Test our collagen for purity.
- Give our families (see CB team), even our young kids, CB Supplements multi collagen. We trust our product that much!
Transparent companies are more likely to prioritize quality and safety. Is your collagen brand transparent? Do they focus on quality? Do you have confidence in them?
Big questions to ask, but hopefully you feel more equipped to get answers. Thanks for being here, wanting to know more about collagen and heavy metals, and taking your health seriously.