Question about the Heavy Metal Report from 2017


#1

Maybe you can clarify some confusion I am having with the heavy metals report you released. It isn’t really reassuring to me, though I’m guessing that’s because I don’t fully understand it. This is a link to the report you released last year on heavy metals in Huel: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0578/1097/files/Huel_Powder_v2.2_Heavy_Metals_Nov17.pdf?16695768511088697551

According to the FDA, the safe level for lead is 6 micrograms / day in food. That is an outdated number from 1993 that hasn’t been updated, but the current assessment is that it is too high and they are still in the process of finding a lower safe value (https://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm557424.htm).

However, according to your own report a single serving of Huel (100g) contains 0.004 milligrams of lead (4 micrograms). This is below the FDAs old recommendation, but that’s for a single serving. I don’t see how you could have more than a single serving a day and still be below the safe level of 6 micrograms (which is, as the FDA states, too high anyway). Certainly having Huel as the only source of nutrition would put someone above that number very quickly.

I’m sure you’ve done your homework, so I’m just trying to do mine and get a better understanding of how the safety determination is made and its relationship to other measures of food safety. Is there something I’m missing about the heavy metal report or recommended serving sizes?

Thanks


#2

That is a great question @khaledallen! While I do not work for Huel, I believe I can help with your question.

For reference:
1,000 micrograms(mcg) = 1 milligram (mg)
1,000mg = 1 gram (g)
1,000g = 1 kilogram (kg)

So if I am reading the heavy metals test pdf you provided correctly, there were actually 0.044mg of lead found per kilogram of Huel.

A single serving of Huel is 127g.

To convert the amount of lead that would be theoretically found in a single serving of Huel based off the test, we need to first convert 127g into kilograms. Since there are 1000g in a kilogram we would do this:

127g/1,000g = 0.127kg

Now we have the proper ratio. Since 0.044mg of lead were found in the 1kg of Huel tested, we can simply multiply a single serving of Huel, which is 0.127kg by 0.044mg which equals 0.005588mg of lead in a single serving of Huel. To convert this to micrograms we would multiply 0.005588mg by 1,000, which equals 5.588mcg.

So if my unit conversions and math are correct, then there is theoretically 5.588mcg of lead per serving of Huel. While this is below the maximum daily intake of 6mcg of lead the FDC set in 1993, as you stated, the FDA is now reviewing this daily maximum based off of new scientific data.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of Huel’s product (being completely plant based), this may be the best that Huel can offer. Since lead is naturally present in top soil it gets absorbed by the various plants that comprise Huel.

It has been shown that people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet consume more heavy metals than those who have a mostly meat diet. But the bio-availability of these metals may be less in plant-derived foods vs. animal derived foods and therefore may not have much of an impact over the life of an individual. Source: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/heavy-metals/

Discloser
I am not a doctor, scientist, expert, etc. in any of the topics in this post. Just lending my thoughts and logic which are definitely not infallible.


#3

I also wanted to point out this useful information. This info on heavy metals found in plant foods was posted by the FDA in 2007.

image

In comparison to these plant foods, Huel is on the low side in lead content.


#4

@robat thanks for this! Your math seems good to me. I was using estimates. This table is more reassuring though, since if greens have that much heavy metals, Huel seems trivial in comparison.

Well, that sorts out my dilemma. Thanks


#5

Glad it helped! :grin:


#6

I am a long term Soylent user, thinking of switching to Huel because of the considerably lower sugar and higher fiber and protein. However, Soylent appears to have significantly less heavy metals: https://discourse.soylent.com/t/comparison-to-huel/28419/9. Does it lead to a noticeable difference in the long run for people who get most of their calories from Huel/Soylent?


#7

I’m very glad I came across this. Using the report provided by khaledallen, the lead content of Huel is about 4.5 ug per 400 Calorie serving. This is very high. If you consume 2000 Calories per day of Huel like I do, thats 22 ug of lead per day which is almost quadruple the very dated FDA guideline.

For comparison, Soylent powder has a lead content of 0.51 ug per 400 Calories, an order of magnitude lower. See https://faq.soylent.com/hc/en-us/articles/204197379-California-Proposition-65. I recently switched from Soylent to Huel for a few different reasons. But after learning this I will be switching back to Soylent for now without hesitation. I really hope Huel can work on dramatically lowering this contamination level for the sake of all who regularly consume it and may be unaware of this concern.

As far as comparing how contamination in traditional foods compare to Huel or Soylent, you really need to put everything on per-calorie basis, not a per-serving or per gram basis. For example, 22 ug of lead per 2000 calories for Huel. Energy content in Calories is one thing that will remain more or less constant across various diets. Number of servings or grams will vary considerably.