Some protein powder makers are reportedly adding less expensive ingredients to their products to can trick a protein-content test into registering a higher protein concentration that the product actually has.
The practice – called “nitrogen spiking” or “amino acid spiking” – yields misleading results on a test that determines the protein content of the product by measuring nitrogen released as ammonia. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) says U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for supplements allow protein to be calculated as a factor of nitrogen content, but the sources of nitrogen do not have to be included. The AHPA feels the industry needs a “defined standard” of what substances should be included in measuring nitrogen content and therefore contribute to the powder’s supposed protein content.
Amino acid spiking increases a product’s nitrogen content and consumers do not receive the full complement of genuine, high-quality, natural protein they are paying for. While isolated amino acids are technically not “protein,” they contribute to the total protein amount.
Companies suspected of amino acid spiking include Body Fortress, ProSupps. MusclePharm Arnold Series, 4 Dimension Nutrition, Designer Whey, Mutant Nutrition, Gaspari Nutrition, Giant Sports Nutrition, Infinite LabsL, and Beast Sports Nutrition. Arginine, creatine, glycine, and taurine are among the amino acids used in spiking. While amino acids do offer benefits in the products, they should not be counted in the protein content.
The FDA regulates ingredients in dietary supplements, though they fall under different regulations than conventional foods and drug products. The FDA takes action against adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement products after they reach the market but has no regulatory power before a product is marketed. The FDA has taken action against manufacturers whose supplements contain hidden drug ingredients or do not contain the listed type and amount of an ingredient. Adulterated or misbranded supplements can be dangerous to health, the FDA warns.