You should be able to assume that your protein powder is healthy and good for you. After all, that's why you take it, right? Unfortunately, unscrupulous manufacturers often add things into the mix that are... less than beneficial. In fact, these additives can often have surprisingly negative effects on your overall health and well-being.
One common, and particularly concerning, additive is Acesulfame Potassium – sometimes called Acesulfame K or simply Ace-K.
What's It Doing in There?
First approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1988, Acesulfame K is a calorie-free sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than regular old table sugar. Since less can be used, Acesulfame K is cheaper for manufacturers. Plus, the allure of a calorie-free sweetener always sounds great for dieters.
When it comes to protein powders, Acesulfame K is generally used as a way to enhance the flavor of the product without adding extra calories or carbohydrates.
What's The Problem?
Sadly, Acesulfame K was approved despite a lack of thorough, long-term human trials. The primary cause for concern is that Ace-K contains high levels of methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. In addition to an increased risk of cancer, methylene chloride has been linked to a host of potential problems – including live and kidney issues and impaired vision.
One 2013 study, conducted in mice, was designed specifically to examine the long-term effects of Ace-K and took place over a 40-week period. At the end of the trial it was seen that – while Ace-K did not cause any metabolic problems – it had a powerful negative impact on the cognitive function of the mice. In fact, the study's authors commented that their “data suggest that chronic use of ACK could affect cognitive functions, potentially via altering neuro-metabolic functions.”
What You Can Do
Here's the big problem: Acesulfame K is in just about everything, including tons of protein powders. To avoid this potentially dangerous and detrimental sweetener, make sure to stick with clean protein powders that contain as few ingredients as possible.
Additives like this are precisely the reason why Naked Nutrition works so hard to keep our protein powders clean and our ingredients lists short.