Reduce Protein Spiking with the Right Tests

The protein spiking issue isn’t going anywhere—in fact, it’s likely to stay for a while—but there are tests and procedures brands can follow to ensure its protein products aren’t adulterated and its consumers are well informed.

Sandy Almendarez, VP of Content

January 22, 2015

2 Min Read
Reduce Protein Spiking with the Right Tests

Protein spiking is a known problem in the natural products industry, and it won’t disappear any time soon, according to Edgar Grigorian, Genysis Labs director, who gave a presentation in a webinar from the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA). In the webinar, “Got Protein? How to test and analyze your protein," Grigorian noted that with the increase in popularity of protein products, some companies have added free amino acids to their protein ingredients, which fools some tests into showing more protein is in a product than there actually is.

Cost is the main driver behind this adulteration, Grigorian said, as the most common free amino acids he’s found in test--taurine and glycine—are less expensive than whole protein. He said he’s also seen cases with added arginine and creatine, which are also inexpensive.

Another factor is FDA’s antiquated system of testing protein for label claims; these tests can be fooled by free amino acids or extra nitrogen. The two most historically popular tests of protein—Kjeldahl and Dumas—can show more protein in raw materials and finished products than is actually in the product.

However, Grigorian said the agency has received comments and feedback from industry on this issue, and he expects FDA to change the testing requirements in the near future. Plus, he noted industry trade organizations and certifiers, such as the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and NSF International, require their members to calculate the amount of protein by only including proteins that consist of a chain of amino acids connected by peptide bonds. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) also has similar guidelines.

Grigorian called to two more tests that can show the free amino acid or the nitrogen content of products, which should be subtracted from the total protein to get the true protein content of a product. Those tests are:

  • Kjeldahl analysis for nonprotein nitrogen content determination, and

  • Screening material for free amino acid content

However, these methods aren’t perfect in that the former doesn’t tell where the nitrogen comes from, and the latter doesn’t show additional compounds other than the extra free amino acids. Therefore, Grigorian said companies should also use other tests to ensure their protein products are safe and free of adulteration.

But in addition to finding a solution, Grigorian made the important note that consumers need to be educated on the issue, so they can adequately compare the protein content of products on store shelves.

For more on the issue of protein spiking and what companies can do to ensure their products are clean, read INSIDER’s Digital Pulse “Pure Protein Products," and view the INSIDER video interview with Dave Ellis, R.D., former president of the Collegiate and Professionals Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA).

About the Author(s)

Sandy Almendarez

VP of Content, Informa


• Well-known subject matter expert within the health & nutrition industry with more than 15 years’ experience reporting on natural products.

• She cares a lot about how healthy products are made, where their ingredients are sourced and how they affect human health.

• She knows that it’s the people behind the businesses — their motivations, feelings and emotions — drive industry growth, so that’s where she looks for content opportunities.

Sandy Almendarez is VP of Content for SupplySide and an award-winning journalist. She oversees the editorial and content marketing teams for the B2B media brands Natural Products Insider and Food and Beverage Insider, the education programming for the health and nutrition trade shows SupplySide East and SupplySide West, and community engagement across the SupplySide portfolio. She is a seasoned content strategist with a passion for health, good nutrition, sustainability and inclusion. With over 15 years of experience in the health and nutrition industry, Sandy brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as a content-focused business leader. With specialization in topics ranging from product development to content engagement, creative marketing and c-suite decision making, her work is known for its engaging style and its relevance for business leaders in the health and nutrition industry.

In her free time, Sandy loves running, drinking hot tea and watching her two kids grow up. She brews her own “Sandbucha” homemade kombucha; she’s happy to share if you’re ever in Phoenix!


Speaker credentials

Resides in

  • Phoenix, AZ


  • Arizona State University


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