Current Huel formula exacerbates risk of Alzheimer's. Resolve this and I will happily subscribe 5+ years

Love everything about Huel’s nutrition, taste, & animal-friendly mission and am your ideal customer, but I feel forced to cancel my subscription due to Huel’s toxic levels of Zinc, Iron, & Copper which exacerbate risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Please notify me if/when you offer a safe & healthy formula for longer term consumption and I will be glad to resubscribe.

Huel ingredients:

  • Zinc: 191% of daily recommended value
  • Iron: 220% of daily recommended value
  • Copper: 144% of daily recommended value

I understand Huel’s desire to double as foods & multi-vitamin-like from a marketing standpoint, but these dangerous levels of Zinc, Iron, & Copper are too high on their own, and worse when you consider that most people additionally consume more of these elements via other meals of the day. I know it’s hard to alter your formula for one customer’s request, but 15-20 years in the future when there’s a massive statistical correlation between Huel’s top long term customers and Alzheimer’s disease you’ll find it compelling to adapt. Please, let’s avoid that pain and suffering (and Huel PR disaster) and tone down the levels of these 3 elements. Instead of 144-220% of Recommended Daily Value, Huel should provide at most 50% of RDV on the assumption that customers eat some non-Huel food as well that will help round out the other 50%. For long term brain health, it’s better to be slightly too low on these & have the option to supplement as needed as opposed to forced into the current toxic overdose that Huel provides.

References:
Zinc and Alzheimer's disease: is there a direct link? - PubMed - Zinc & Alzheimer’s
Role of Copper in the Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease Compared to Other Metals - PMC - Copper & Alzheimer’s
(link removed b/c new users are limited to two links, you can Google for it…) - Iron & Alzheimer’s

Relevant excerpts from “Power Foods for your Brain” by Neal Barnard:

“All three of these metals are needed by the body—copper for building enzymes, iron for blood cells, and zinc for nerve transmission, among many other functions. You get them in the foods you eat. But it turns out that if you get too much of any of them, they can damage your brain cells. The difference between a safe amount and a toxic amount is surprisingly small. And that is exactly the problem.”

“[over-consumption of these minerals] encourages beta-amyloid proteins to clump together to form plaques [responsible for Alzheimer’s]. Iron and copper appear to promote clumping, too, but zinc seems to be much more aggressive in this regard.”

“Take a look in your kitchen cupboard. Do you keep a bottle of multiple vitamins? A One A Day Men’s Health Formula multivitamin has 2 milligrams of copper—more than twice the RDA—in a single pill. It exceeds the RDA for zinc, too. In fact, if you take a look at most any vitamin-mineral supplement, you’ll find copper, zinc, and sometimes iron.”

“…many of us imagine we are doing a smart thing by taking a daily multiple vitamin, and we are, in many ways. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, both of which are important for health. But the metals that are often added are mostly unnecessary, because you are already getting them in foods. A better choice is a supplement containing vitamins only, without the added copper, zinc, iron, or other minerals.”

“Take a look at your breakfast cereal. No doubt the food scientists at General Mills imagined you wanted all the iron and zinc they’ve added to a box of Total—a full day’s supply of each in every serving. But you do not need these added metals, and you are better off without them. Many other breakfast cereals are similar, giving you too much of a good thing.”

“Plant-based diets also help you avoid the overdose of zinc and copper. There are adequate amounts of these minerals in vegetables, beans, and whole grains. In fact, there may be more copper in these foods than in meats. But if you were to do blood tests on people who avoid meat, you would find that they are slightly lower in iron, copper, and zinc, which is a good thing. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. Aside from your body’s ability to shut out nonheme iron, there is a natural substance called phytic acid in many plants that tends to limit copper and zinc absorption.”

“How Much Do You Really Need? Here are the recommended daily allowances, showing how much copper, iron, and zinc your body needs. It is important to include these minerals in your diet, but it is also important to avoid excesses. Copper: 0.9 milligram per day for men and women. Healthful sources include beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and mushrooms. Iron: 8 milligrams per day for adult men and for women over fifty; 18 milligrams for women between nineteen and fifty. Healthful sources include green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, and dried fruits. Zinc: 11 milligrams per day for men, 8 milligrams per day for women. Healthful sources include oatmeal, whole-grain bread, brown rice, peanuts, beans, nuts, peas, and sesame seeds.”

“A Menu for a Strong Memory As we have seen in the past three chapters, protecting your memory starts with three improvements to the menu: 1. Shield Yourself from Toxic Metals You’ll want to limit exposure to copper, iron, and zinc, and there is no reason to expose yourself to aluminum at all. With a few judicious choices when it comes to food products, cookware, multiple vitamins, antacids, and so on, you will have enormous control over these potential toxins. …”

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Hey @catalyst314 - welcome to the US forum. Apologies for any confusion or concerns here.

Glad to hear you’re a fan and I hope I can help provide some insight into your questions/concerns. Firstly, more generally speaking, I can assure you that Huel does not contain toxic levels of iron, copper, and zinc per serving.

Of course, if you have any medical conditions which require you consume less of these minerals than the general population then of course be sure to follow that guidance and stay within your recommendations.

If it’s alright, I’d also like to learn a bit more, and feel free to DM me if preferred too:

  • How often are you consuming Huel?
  • Which product/flavor?
  • Do you have specific recommendations that differ to the general population for these micronutrients?

I ask as Huel v3.0 powder Vanilla consumed as 1 serving (2 scoops or 400 calories) per day, as an example, would be the below. Please note: the amounts can vary by flavor/product range due to differences in ingredients:

  • 45% of the Daily Value (DV) for Iron
  • 34% of the DV for Zinc
  • 33% of the DV for Copper

For all flavors of Huel v3.0 powder, the above 3 minerals actually come from the food ingredients themselves, there is none added. For other Huel product ranges, there may be some zinc or copper added where the food ingredients themselves don’t quite have enough to meet at least the daily value recommendations per 2000 calories due to the nature of the product being nutritionally complete.

I also wanted to note that while individuals can certainly consume Huel as 100% of their intake if they wish, we don’t recommend this due to the importance of variety in our intakes for long term sustainability of changes we make to diet/lifestyle. Mainly because it can become a bit monotonous to consume the same thing over and over! Many consume Huel as 1 or 2 meals and then at least 1 other meal as well as some snacks, if preferred - but it’s entirely up to you.

Lastly, I wanted to send along a page we have on site with the breakdowns and additional information on the 27 essential vitamins and minerals (including iron, copper, and zinc). This page details how much of each vitamin and mineral comes from the food ingredients themselves versus added in the micronutrient blend too: Essential vitamins and minerals in Huel

Hope the above helps to clarify! Let me know if you have any additional question or concerns on this. Happy to help further and chat through.

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Hi @Charlotte_Huel , thanks for the thoughtful reply, and for the link showing the minerals breakdown naturally present from the ingredients and % supplemented.

The clarification of % DV present via natural consumption is also helpful. Huel’s Power Formula Explained page has the 144-220% figures from my initial post [ref: The Huel Powder Formula Explained ], which would be dangerous levels from the perspective of neurodegenerative disease.

Regarding your questions:

  • Consuming 2-4 scoops per day of Black edition, which based on your clarification I see is reasonably safe.

  • No specific recommendations different from the general population. Looking to reduce risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and just seeking to avoid unnecessarily high consumption of Zinc in particular. The Huel formula page listing 191% Zinc DV was alarming, but it’s now more clear that only applies to people consuming 10 scoops per day…

Thanks again for the clarification. Really enjoying Huel in general and relieved to learn it’s safer than I thought. I tried editing the original subject line of this post to be less alarming, but don’t appear to have edit access to it. If you want to edit it to something less alarming as an admin please don’t hesitate to adjust it.

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Of course, I love chatting through all things nutrition and really glad to hear the information was helpful too. :blush:

Yes! I can assure you that the amount in 2 servings (or 4 scoops) of Huel Black Edition is not toxic and is safe so long as you have no dietary restrictions. In addition, even if you were to consume 100% Huel at 2000 calories (which isn’t something we actively recommend), it would still be within safe limits for the general population. One caveat would be that it just depends on what else you’re consuming too, ie. if you’re taking any vitamin or mineral supplements with it, for example.

With that being said, I know your question was not in regards to those looking to consume 100% Huel and was more about consuming a couple servings of Huel alongside other foods so I hope my prior message was helpful to clarify about that. We also did a study recently that you may find interesting. It looked at 20 participants consuming only Huel v3.0 powder for 4 weeks to see the effects on health markers, including micronutrient status.

Take a look here: Frontiers | A Pilot Pre and Post 4 Week Intervention Evaluating the Effect of a Proprietary, Powdered, Plant Based Food on Micronutrient Status, Dietary Intake, and Markers of Health in a Healthy Adult Population

Again, happy to chat through further if you have any additional questions, feedback, or concerns - or if you see any research in the world of nutrition that you want to chat through. Feel free to pop it on the forum and we can discuss!

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Hi Charlotte, appreciate the followup, and the 4-week study is interesting to see. Agree with everything you said, aside from:

If we define “safe” to include not significantly increasing long term risk of neurodegenerative diseases, Huel needs to refute the evidence cited in the original post establishing that consumption of more than the recommended daily values of Zinc (191%), Iron (220%), & Copper (144%) has a strong connection with beta-amyloid protein clumping seen in these diseases.

Granted, the origin of these diseases are not fully understood. That said, someone reviewing available evidence can reasonably conclude it’s worth avoiding over consumption of these metals over the long term until/unless more effective prevention/treatments emerge.

If you’re aware of any studies that directly refute the evidence from the original post on over-consumption of these metals & their relationships with neurodegenerative disease I’d love to see it. If not, no worries. Grateful & relieved that 2-4 servings/day is safe, which is ideal for me & probably resembles the common use of most Hueligans as well.

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Do you have any info on the absorbtion rate of micronutrients and metals? I wonder about stuff like being available at multiples of RDA guidance, but also bioavailability limiting effective intake to a fraction consumed… so even though you consume 3x RDA we may only get use of 20% what we eat so still manage to be lagging.

Also, do you avoid flouride in toothpaste and mouthwash?

Of course, happy to chat through! Prior to chatting through the specific concerns below, I also wanted to note that similar to v3.0, in Huel Black Edition, the copper, zinc, and iron come 100% from the food ingredients themselves. There is none added!

I was looking through the sources you sent along this morning and I am not able to find anything concrete in the research about this, especially when these minerals are consumed within safe limits (ie. within Tolerable Upper Intake Levels or ULs). There is also important discussion surrouding the forms used, absorption rate, and how they are consumed, meaning in food or via supplementation. Correct me if I am not seeing it though!

A great place to look for the current research on these vitamins and minerals is the NIH Fact Sheets. Take a look here and select which one you’re interested in for further information.

  • As an example, I’ll use iron. The form found in Huel is the non-heme plant-based form as Huel is vegan and it comes 100% from the food ingredients themselves. This form of iron is not as well absorbed as the heme version, which is what you find in animal-based sources. If you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, needs for iron in the non-heme form are actually 1.8 times more than those who also consume animal-based (heme) sources of iron (Source: Iron Fact Sheet - Click here).
  • The above goes to the question @miked posed about the varying bioavailability of individual nutrients and the complexities within that space too! This is also another reason why the study we recently conducted was important to begin to understand the effects Huel can have on markers of health, such as micronutrient status, longer term. Of course, more research always needs to be done, but the results of this 20 person study were pretty interesting to see!

Really glad to hear this again and yep, you’re spot on! From what I’ve seen and chatted through, many consume 1 or 2 servings per day (which would be 2-4 scoops of Huel v3.0 or Black Edition powder) in addition to other foods/drinks.

Hope the above is helpful and provides some additional clarity, let me know! And thank you for raising this topic too, it’s super interesting.

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