Protein Powder Product Makers Cheat Consumers. Some protein powder companies are cutting their protein manufacturing costs by adding a number of less expensive ingredients that are not protein, such as certain amino acids. This boosts the protein powder’s nitrogen content, which then tricks a commonly used protein content test into believing that the product has a higher protein concentration than it actually has. The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are reviewing reports concerning so-called “nitrogen spiking” by firms that make protein powders and have also filed at least one class action lawsuit involving the practice. The scam known as “protein spiking,” “protein powder spiking,” “nitrogen spiking,” and “amino spiking,” cheats consumers out of the benefits of a product they have purchased.
Amino acid spiking increases a product’s nitrogen content and consumers end up paying for an inferior product and do not receive a full complement of genuine, quality, natural protein. The amino acid spiking scam has been described as the process of dumping high amounts of the cheapest, least valuable free form amino acids and non-protein ingredients into protein supplement products, such as protein powder, to cut protein manufacturing costs. This also ensures the total protein nitrogen content appears elevated. Because a popularly used protein content test utilizes nitrogen as a protein measure, the public is deceived into believing they are receiving more whey protein than is actually contained in the product.
Inferior Amino Acids Used in Place of True Proteins
Tim Ziegenfuss, CEO of the Center for Applied Health Sciences, a clinical research organization that conducts research on dietary supplements, says that consumers should review protein powder labels to determine if any of the following, inferior products are contained in the product:
Some of these, and other amino acid ingredients, do offer benefits; however, General Nutrition Centers, Inc. (GNC) indicates that these ingredients should not be considered in the product’s protein grams.
American Herbal Products Association Seeks Protein Labeling Standards
Protein powders should be manufactured with high-quality proteins, including whey; however, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) states that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) label regulations for foods and supplements provide for protein to be calculated as a nitrogen content factor; nitrogen sources do not have to be included in the labeling. The AHPA, which is an organization comprised of dietary supplement manufacturers, also mandates that the herbal and supplement industry requires what it described as a “defined standard” of what substances should be included when measuring a product’s nitrogen content. On April 1, 2014, the AHPA admonished amino-spiking and created a standard for protein product manufacturers to define protein as “a chain of amino acids connected by peptide bonds” for labeling purposes, use calculations that only include proteins that are “chains of amino acids connected by peptide bonds,” and to exclude “non-protein nitrogen-containing substances” when calculating the product’s total protein content. The standards are only voluntary at this point.
Check Protein Product Labeling
Product labeling includes a listing of the total protein gram amount, which is based on the total nitrogen content. Because of this, while isolated amino acids are technically not “protein,” they contribute to the total protein amount. When protein spiking occurs, consumers do not receive a complete protein source and do receive increased levels of some of the least effective amino acids. This means that full supporting muscle protein synthesis may not occur.
Different products utilize different amounts of inferior amino acid product(s). In fact, some reports indicate that protein spiking may account for about half of a product’s total protein content. This means, if you believe you are receiving 20 grams of high quality, complete protein from each serving of your protein product, you may only be receiving 10 grams of good protein and 10 grams of protein filler.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Protein Spiking Allegations
Consumers who use protein products should be looking at the label’s ingredient list. Some type of protein will likely be listed. For example, expect to see whey concentrate, isolate, or a combination of these two items. Other proteins, such as egg or casein (milk protein) may be listed. If the remainder of the list contains singular amino acids, such as l-glycine or l-taurine, you may be the victim of protein spiking. Both of these ingredients are very inexpensive, tasteless amino acids that are much cheaper than whey protein and will trick the protein test. Creatine is another cheap amino that is a combination of the amino acids l-glycine, l-arginine, and l-methionine. In some cases, names are also created to hide the inclusion of the inferior aminos, such as “NOS Complex,” which is a combination of l-arginine and l-taurine, or “Muscle Recovery Matrix, which is a combination of creatine and l-glycine.
NBTY’s Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein
Parker Waichman LLP, along with Seeger Weiss LLP and Barbat, Mansour & Suciu PLLC, filed a class action lawsuit against parent company NBTY, Inc. and its subsidiaries, United States Nutrition; Inc. and Healthwatchers, Inc., over allegations of protein spiking. Specifically, allegations include that Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein does not contain the amount of whole protein that is claimed on the product’s label. The lawsuit was filed on August 25, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Case No.: 1:14-cv-05030).
The lawsuit indicates that whey protein is a complete protein source containing all of the essential amino acids needed to build protein-based compounds, such as muscle tissue, skin, fingernails, hair, and enzymes. Amino acids, while the building blocks of protein, do not offer these benefits, the lawsuit also indicates.
Allegations include that Body Fortress’ label indicates that the product contains 30 grams of protein per serving; this figure allegedly includes free form amino acids, including glycine, threonine, L-glutamine, leucine, valine, and isoleucine; the non-protein amino acid, taurine; and the non-amino acid compound, creatine monohydrate. Testing found that the true per-serving whey protein content is 21.5 grams when protein-spiking agents are removed.