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Are Protein Shakes Bad for Teens?

author image Carly Schuna
Carly Schuna is a Wisconsin-based professional writer, editor and copy editor/proofreader. She has worked with hundreds of pieces of fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, feature stories and corporate content. Her expertise on food, cooking, nutrition and fitness information comes from years of in-depth study on those and other health topics.
Are Protein Shakes Bad for Teens?
It's healthiest for teens to get protein from whole foods. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Protein shakes and powders are processed dietary supplements that have not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are unlikely to harm most people, but they don’t offer the same quality of nutrition as whole foods, and they can present some risks to teens’ health.

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Shakes vs. Foods

Whole foods contain a variety of natural vitamins, minerals and protective substances like antioxidants and phytonutrients. Protein shakes are often fortified with some of those compounds as well, but according to Dr. Lorenzo Cohen of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the nutrient quality of supplements is inferior. Furthermore, adolescents in the U.S. get about twice as much protein as their bodies need, so getting protein from shakes may actually cause excess protein consumption.

Unknown Risks

Protein shakes and supplements are manufactured with adult use in mind. Since many teenagers are still physically growing and developing, supplements may not affect them in the same way as adults. For that reason, pediatrician Hugh O’Brodovich recommends against using them in a teen’s diet.

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