Courtesy: @nesquikusa via Instagram
Saint Joseph High School

Commentary: ‘Healthier’ isn’t always better: Nesquik Protein Plus milk

For many years, chocolate milk has been viewed as an athlete’s best friend. High in protein and carbohydrates, chocolate milk seems to be the ideal post workout drink.

Last September, Nestle’s Nesquik capitalized on the chocolate milk trend by introducing the Protein Plus line: protein-enhanced milk beverages. Since the launch of Protein Plus drinks, Nesquik has begun marketing the protein-enhanced milk, replacing the traditional milk, at 5k races across the country.

The Nesquik Bunny encouraging runners at a 5k. Courtesy: @nesquikusa via Instagram

At one 5k in Los Angeles last month, walkers and runners were offered a free bottle of either vanilla or chocolate Protein Plus milk by Nesquik representatives. Seeing that it was free, most people eagerly accepted and drank the bottle of milk, agreeing that the Protein Plus did, in fact, taste just like normal Nesquik milk from their childhood. Many people even stated that they, as causal athletes, would buy more and work it into their everyday diet at home, replacing their typical post-workout drink. Unfortunately, there is a danger to this potential habit that many people are blind to.

Courtesy: @briili via Instagram

The chocolate Protein Plus drink has 13 grams of protein and 22 grams of sugars per serving. But, the problem does not lie in the daily values column, but rather with the ingredient list. I was very surprised after reading the it and recognizing ingredients similar to those in traditional Nesquik chocolate milk.

My brother, a former high school football player, and my dad are both very health conscious; they have tried many post workout protein powders and shakes. I have tried many protein shakes, as well, and all of them seem to have either a chalky or a gritty texture. Seeing that the Nesquik Protein Plus drink was smooth and easily drinkable, I began wondering about what ingredients were in this milk to create such a taste. Thus, my research in Nesquik Protein Plus began.

Although most of the ingredients in Protein Plus milk drinks are pronounceable, three bring about acute concern: sodium hexametaphosphate, gellan gum, and carrageenan. When the three ingredients are consumed on a daily basis, disaster is sure to strike.

Courtesy: Nesquik

Sodium hexametaphosphate, perhaps the most suspicious ingredient on the label, is a thickener and an emulsifier that contains phosphorus to help prevent against mineral corrosion. However, when phosphorus is consumed without other minerals to balance the effects out, kidneys can swell. This can be particularly problematic for Protein Plus, as many people drink the milk immediately after a workout as a substitute for a snack. Thus, other minerals are not being consumed, which is necessary when consuming sodium hexametaphosphate in order to prevent adverse effects.

Moreover, gellan gum, a vegan substitute for gelatin, is included in the Protein Plus milk drinks. Nowadays, vegan is seen as a synonym for healthy, which is not at all the case. Gellan gum, which has a gel-like consistency, is known to alter healthy intestinal bacterial levels and can cause digestive issues. Combined with carrageenan, one’s digestive issues can become more severe.

Nesquik Protein Plus Chocolate Milk Ingredients – Courtesy: Nesquik

Carrageenan, an additive which comes from a red seaweed, is also used as an emulsifier and a thickener in food and drinks. Although this seemingly natural ingredient is found in many foods, it has been linked to numerous stomach conditions and other diseases.

Research from 2012 by Joanne K. Tobacman, MD shows that carrageenan leads to inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation in the body is a cause of many deadly diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. Carrageenan can be very dangerous to those who consume food containing the additive regularly, such as those who drink Nesquik Protein Plus after their daily workout.

Red seaweed, which carrageenan is extracted from. Courtesy: Dr. Weil

Despite research and petitions, the FDA continues allowing the use of carrageenan in food and beverages. Although Nesquik is not the first company to develop food products with potentially harmful ingredients, we should hold them responsible for what is in their products.

Many people still remember the Subway bread “yoga mat” ingredient scandal in 2014. Since mass media criticism was raised, Subway and other chain have reformulated their products.

As a consumer, it is one’s responsibility to vote with your dollars and choose products beneficial to one’s health. One aspect of being a conscientious consumer is not only reading, but understanding the labels on what we eat and drink. As seen in Nesquik Protein Plus milk drinks, the seemingly healthier alternative to a favorite drink is not always better for you than the original.