• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


Your Whey Protein and Whey Isolate May Not Be Gluten-Free: Beware “Glutamine Peptides”

No, whey protein isn’t paleo…but it sure is convenient to have a portable, non-perishable, and relatively cheap source of quickly-digested protein for when I don’t have access to real food or the time to cook it.

However, as with any dietary supplement, we must always be on the alert for misleading packaging or adulterants—as white pills and white powders all look basically the same.

This is yet another reason to prefer real food: it’s much harder to counterfeit eggs, vegetables, or a steak than it is to counterfeit pills and powders.

How I Found The Gluten

I purchase unflavored whey protein for several reasons. First, it’s typically sweetened with Splenda (sucralose):

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, Volume 71, Issue 21 January 2008 , pages 1415 – 1429
Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats
Mohamed B. Abou-Donia; Eman M. El-Masry; Ali A. Abdel-Rahman; Roger E. McLendon; Susan S. Schiffman

“Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs.”

“The intake of Splenda by rats significantly reduced the number of indigenous intestinal bacteria resident in the gut, with the greatest suppression for the generally beneficial anaerobes (e.g., bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and Bacteroides).

“The reduction in intestinal bacteria in this study was accompanied by an increase in fecal pH that typically occurs when there is a decrease in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) by colonic bacteria.”

“At the end of the 12-wk treatment with Splenda, numerous alterations were observed that did not occur in control animals, including lymphocytic infiltrates into epithelium, epithelial scarring, mild depletion of goblet cells, glandular disorganization, and focally dilated vessels stuffed with intravascular lymphocytes.

And in case that isn’t bad enough, even the lowest Splenda dose apparently caused a significant increase in body weight.

The second reason: buying whey protein that tastes like a chocolate milkshake or a cinnamon bun (yes, that flavor exists) would just tempt me to consume it instead of real food.

The third reason, and the one most important to this story, is that I can taste if the product has been adulterated. Most whey powders are so heavily flavored and sweetened that they could be made of laundry detergent and no one would notice. And sure enough, upon snapping up a ‘bargain’ from a source I’d never bought from before, I found that it tasted like powdered Ebola virus mixed with oven cleaner. Blech!

What could have been added that made this “100% Whey Protein” taste so terrible? It sure wasn’t whey protein, which tastes sort of like skim milk and sort of like Ricotta cheese.

Trivia fact: Ricotta “cheese” isn’t cheese at all: it’s boiled and pressed whey.

“Glutamine Peptides” Are Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein

I’ll skip forward through several days of research: the horrible taste is hydrolyzed wheat protein, camouflaged under the name “glutamine peptides”. (van Hall et.al. 2000, Shugarman)

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is produced by boiling cereals or legumes, such as soy, corn, or wheat, in hydrochloric acid, and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. Still feel like reaching for those “healthy” Bragg Liquid Aminos?

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein can also taste extremely bitter, which was my first clue.

And here’s another useful fact: since grain proteins (especially wheat) contain a lot of glutamine (hence “glutamine peptides”), heavily hydrolyzed vegetable protein is often a way to sneak MSG into foods without listing it on the label.

The size of the resulting gluten and gliadin fragments depends on how long, how hot, and how acidic the hydrolysis was: it takes many hours at high heat to fully break down proteins into their constituent amino acids. Note that the bitter taste of hydrolyzed protein is “attributed to peptides with hydrophobic character and with a molecular weight of 1000-5000” (Maningat et.al. 1994). Since amino acids have a MW of 89-204, these peptides are sufficiently large to leave the immunogenic and disruptive gluten and gliadin peptides intact. (For some examples, see Fasano 2011.)

Finally, I don’t want my whey protein cut with cheap, foul-tasting adulterants.

No, I’m not going to “out” the company I bought mine from, because it’s a relatively common practice. There’s even a 100% hydrolyzed wheat protein product that’s been packaged and named to look almost exactly like whey isolate! Caveat emptor.

Conclusion: Avoid Any Product Containing “Glutamine Peptides”

  • “Glutamine peptides” are hydrolyzed wheat protein. They’re cheaper than whey protein, which is why some companies dilute their products with them.
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein that tastes bitter is nearly guaranteed to contain immunogenic and disruptive gluten and gliadin peptides in their intact form.
  • Therefore, no one should consume “glutamine peptides”—especially not the celiac, wheat-allergic, or gluten-sensitive.
  • Look carefully for “glutamine peptides” on the description and on the label before buying any whey protein, any whey isolate—or any other protein supplement.
  • L-glutamine is different than “glutamine peptides”: it’s a single amino acid, and should be fine to consume. I’ve never seen any added to whey protein, though.
  • Don’t trust the name to tell you what’s inside. I’ve seen “glutamine peptides” hiding in products labeled “Pure Whey” and “100% Whey”.

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Permalink: Your Whey Protein and Whey Isolate May Not Be Gluten-Free: Beware “Glutamine Peptides”
  • Paul Verizzo

    1. “Whey” I use powdered egg protein when I want something like this, not that I knew this! PEP works great to hold an oil and water in suspension, too, like coconut oil, water, and cocoa powder. (Yum!)

    2. The amount of sucralose in the experiments cited was HUGE! The smallest dose group was 100 mg/kg of body weight. The maximum “allowed” by the FDA is 5 mg/kg. It was so much that they had to gavage it in, i.e., force feed. (“Say, let's see what happens if we force a pound a day of salt into you.”)

    I'm surprised that you didn't catch this!

    [Note from JS: the mystery is solved.  Look down seven posts, to my reply at 6:28 AM.]

  • Paul:

    Where did you get the 100 mg/kg figure?  Quoting the abstract: “These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1-11 mg/kg.”

    These are dosages easily reachable via consumption of diet soda.  1.1 mg/kg is about 80 mg of sucralose for a human. Since sucralose is roughly 600 times as sweet as sugar, that's 48-60 grams of sugar equivalent, or 12-15 teaspoons of sugar equivalent.  A 16-ounce bottle of Coke has 52g of sugar, so a single 16 ounce diet soda probably gets you to 1.1 mg/kg.


  • Beowulf

    Well, that made me toss the remaining L-glutamine supplement powder in my house. I haven’t used it in ages (so it’s probably “bad” anyway), but I wouldn’t even want to eat it now knowing that it’s made from wheat.

    I’m happy I’m not a Splenda person. I’ve never figured out how they got away with the advertising slogan “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” My grandmother has tried to serve me items containing it several times. After tasting the weird flavor, I check the package and sure enough it’s that darn sucralose.

  • Paul Verizzo

    I only read the abstract, and it says “Splenda was administered by oral gavage at 100, 300, 500, or 1000 mg/kg to male Sprague-Dawley rats.”

    So, not sure how they got down to 1.1 mg/kg.

    To throw another confounder into this, while Splenda uses the maltose carrier, I’ll bet that the soda companies don’t bother with that and use straight sucralose. No reason to pay for the maltose, which is there mostly to give a retail “volume for volume” equivalent to sugar.

    I trust you to get to the bottom of this, even if it proves me wrong!

  • Beowulf:

    Pure L-glutamine is fine to consume…it's “glutamine peptides” that you don't want.  Perhaps I should clarify this in the article.  (Though I admit I've never been clear on the benefits of consuming isolated glutamine.)


  • Jason Seib

    @Paul From the abstract: These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1-11 mg/kg (the US FDA Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose is 5 mg/kg).

  • Jason Seib

    @Paul, Sorry I guess J covered this while I was typing. 🙂

  • Paul:

    That's because packets of Splenda are mostly made of dextrose and maltodextrin: if they were pure sucralose, there would only be a few grains in the packet!  (It's 600 times as sweet as sugar: think about it.)  The dextrose and maltodextrins are there to fluff it up and give it a similar volume to the quantity of sugar it's intended to replace.  

    Thus, oral gavage of 100-1000 mg/kg of Splenda gives the mice 1.1-11 mg/kg of sucralose.  Mystery solved! 

    Of course, when sucralose is used in an actual product, they don't bother with the maltodextrins.


  • I hold the ingredient principle close when buying food in packaging.

    If the list of ingredients is longer than the description of the food, chances are there’s a load of stuff you just don’t want to eat. Buy a tub of Greek Yoghurt, I don’t want to see sugar, preservative and flavouring in the ingredients – I want it to say “milk”.

    Another big one to watch out for is transglutaminase – meat glue. Next time you have a nice marbled steak, take care to establish that it is not simply smaller pieces of meat stuck together. This stuff is apparently undetectable to even cultured palates and looks the business.

  • Howard

    You did not mention the *reason* for the addition of wheat proteins to damned near *everything* that comes in a box or can (you have to carefully read labels in order to find the rare exception).

    As Dr. Wm Davis (the author of Wheat Belly http://sn.im/wheatbelly ) discovered, it is added because it is a powerful appetite stimulant. You add gliadin to just about anything, and people will consume more of it (even if the taste is yucky), and therefore will buy more, increasing sales and profits for the companies that use it.

  • Marilyn

    Wouldn’t a Gnoll GROWL rather than WHOOP at such a discovery?

    “Most whey powders are so heavily flavored and sweetened that they could be made of laundry detergent and no one would notice.” Around here, I can buy Dean’s heavy whipping cream, which has one ingredient: cream. All the other brands of “heavy whipping cream” first list “milk” (skim milk, if my memory serves me), then eventually “cream,” along with several additives, one of which *IS* a detergent! I guess if you’re going to make “whipping cream” out of skim milk, you have to have something to make it foam up when you whip it?

    But it’s all good, ya know, because the cream with the additives is lower in fat and lower in calories than the Dean’s brand. . .

  • Kassandra

    Well that explains why I couldn’t use the “100% whey protein” I tried a while back. I had a reaction just like glutening when I attempted it, so I threw it out, but I could never figure out what on the label was the offending ingredient. (I have celiac, and I’m reasonably sensitive to even small amounts of gluten contamination). Thanks for the clarification, I’m glad to have that mystery solved!
    Since then I’ve been able to rearrange some of my schedule to allow for more cooking, so I’ve just been eating real stuff, but it’s good to know there are gluten free options if I decided to try supplements again.

  • Elihu

    The Splenda study referenced seems to have been refuted, as per the item below. I have no way of knowing if this refutation is valid, or industry-influenced, but you should have noted it.

    Expert panel report on a study of Splenda in male rats.
    Brusick D, Borzelleca JF, Gallo M, Williams G, Kille J, Wallace Hayes A, Xavier Pi-Sunyer F, Williams C, Burks W.
    Independent Consultant, 123 Moody Creek Rd., Bumpass, VA 23024, USA. brusick41@aol.com
    A recent study in rats investigated the retail sweetener product, Granulated SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener (Splenda) (Abou-Donia et al., 2008. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal P-glycoprotein and cytochrome P-450 in male rats. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A, 71, 1415-1429), which is composed of (by dry weight) maltodextrin ( approximately 99%) and sucralose ( approximately 1%). The investigators reported that Splenda increased body weight, decreased beneficial intestinal bacteria, and increased the expression of certain cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and the transporter protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the latter of which was considered evidence that Splenda or sucralose might interfere with the absorption of nutrients and drugs. The investigators indicated that the reported changes were attributable to the sucralose present in the product tested. An Expert Panel conducted a rigorous evaluation of this study. In arriving at its conclusions, the Expert Panel considered the design and conduct of the study, its outcomes and the outcomes reported in other data available publicly. The Expert Panel found that the study was deficient in several critical areas and that its results cannot be interpreted as evidence that either Splenda, or sucralose, produced adverse effects in male rats, including effects on gastrointestinal microflora, body weight, CYP450 and P-gp activity, and nutrient and drug absorption. The study conclusions are not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented.
    [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    Pasted from

  • eddie watts

    the above refutation does not specify how it does not show what they initially thought it did.
    who paid for the more recent study and how did they compare the two?
    oh look there was no new study to refute the previous one, they just decided it was wrong based on “The study conclusions are not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented.”
    which tells us precisely zero.
    oh but look http://www.vivus.com/corporate-information/scientific-advisory-board/982-dr-xavier-pi-sunyer just one person i googled due to name, can anyone else see the conflict of interest?

  • Elihu


    I have access to only the abstract and don’t know what the full review said. And I did note that I couldn’t vouch for its veracity, and that the question of industry influence loomed. All that said, however, you seem to want to believe that Splenda is bad for us (and of course it may be) and therefore you reject the conclusions of this review without presenting any supporting evidence. Perhaps someone has access to the full review and can tell us what it says.

  • Bill

    Great article! Care to speculate about alanyl-glutamine? do you think this specific dipeptide would be problematic for those with gluten sensitivity?

  • Ivor Goodbody

    Why on earth fret and worry like this when the obvious solution is to just say no to supplements and yes to real food?

    Or, when you “don’t have access to real food or the time to cook it”, to intermittent fasting?

  • Alex

    Can anyone give me the name of a “clean” whey protein? I am looking to use it to help treat ulcerative colitis.

  • Alex said:

    Can anyone give me the name of a “clean” whey protein? I am looking to use it to help treat ulcerative colitis.

    Whereabouts are you? I think this one is about as good as it gets:

  • pam


    since i think i’m gluten intolerant (not celiac, but i have not been tested), it seems one has to be very watchful about the hidden stuff.


  • Alex

    Thanks for link Paul but I’m in Canada.

    I found this brand which seems ideal for gut health. http://www.iherb.com/Well-Wisdom-ImmunoPro-Rx-Non-Denatured-Whey-Protein-10-6-oz-300-g/4797

  • Daniel Taylor

    JS: L-glutamine is a “gut healer”. Just ask Dr. BG.

    Anytime Ive had anything with Splenda in it I have terrible cravings for sweets afterwards. Like worse than if I just had something sweetened with sugar to begin with.

    The pervasiveness of gluten never ceases to amaze me. It’s in everything. Which is why I don’t go to grocery stores anymore. I buy all my animal products from US Wellness, except eggs which I get with my veggies from a farmers market. Anything else is a condiment and the longer I’m paleo the less I even need that mess.

  • eddie watts

    this also explains why my recovery drink had “warning: contains gluten” on the label.
    but my whey does not.

  • EDouble


    Thanks for this. Just wanted to say I’m probably your biggest fan here in Ethiopia. Just this past weekend I went for a hike in the hills above Addis Ababa and heard the hyenas whooping it up and it brought to mind visions of the Gnolls.



  • Angel

    Okay, so I’m a little familiar with the taste of oven cleaner, but what does powdered Ebola virus taste like? Y’know, just in case I come across it. 😉

    A couple of years ago, my (now ex-)husband and I started the “6 Week Cure” diet which required imbibing a lot of whey protein. I had never had a problem with whey protein before, but we had bought a different, recommended-by-somebody-trustworthy name brand for the diet, and whatever was in it seriously messed up my gut (it never caused a problem for him, though). I had to quit after 4 days, but whatever damage was done persisted for weeks afterward. I found out a month later that I was gluten-intolerant. This post is probably the best explanation I’ll ever have of why that whey protein caused me so much trouble. Thank you for doing the research and sharing – much appreciated!

  • Jeffrey of Troy

    Thank you very much for this post, JS!

    Wow, they are on a mission to get wheat into everything.

    I have been using WPI for 10 years, I love it. Always been aware of the artificial flavors issue, been using Jay Robb Whey exclusively for a few years now. No sucralose, no aspartame, no rBGH, etc. It’s even from pastured, grass-fed cows.

    Another supp company whose website I read/post on has recently come out w/ a new glutamine peptide product, I’ll have to ask about this.

  • Paul:

    We can take that principle even farther.

    Real food doesn't have ingredients: real food is an ingredient.

    Meat.  Ingredients: meat.

    Blueberries.  Ingredients: blueberries.

    Egg.  Ingredients: egg.  May contain traces of egg.

    And so on.


    In this particular case, I believe it's because hydrolyzed wheat protein is a lot cheaper than whey protein!  But the appetite-stimulating effects of gluten exorphins are indeed intriguing.


    On a similar note, I've seen “Fat-Free Half and Half” on store shelves.  I'm almost afraid to look at the ingredient label.

    Note that the whoop is how spotted hyenas (and gnolls) communicate over long distances.  There are inflections which communicate meaning, but it's mainly an attention-getter on the order of “I'm over here,” “Pack, I have something to say,” or “You'd better leave our territory, whoever you are.”  So any important discovery, good or bad, would probably start with a whoop — followed by a conversation made of all sorts of ominous noises.  

    Spotted hyenas are very vocal, but it takes practice to understand them…their vocalizations aren't the same as those of dogs or cats.  Their facial expressions and body language, however, are remarkably transparent to an attentive human.


    The better brands take such issues seriously, and will usually say “Gluten-free” or “Contains no gluten” on the packaging.


    More soon!


  • Elihu:

    While I don’t have access to fulltext, that particular paper looks very much like an industry-commissioned smear job.

    To add to eddie watts’ example above, the two “independent consultants” look very much like paid hatchet-men.  David Brusick, for example:

    Former Vice President of Gobal Toxicology for Covance Labs., Associate Editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology Consultant to most major pharmaceutical and chemical companies.


    Joseph Borzelleca works for the “Roundtable of Toxicology Consultants”, which, according to their web page, “Collectively, we represent clients in the pharmaceutical (drug), chemical, foods, consumer product and medical device industries.  Also, many of the RTC members provide litigation assistance to attorneys as expert witnesses or consultants.”


    And these are just the two I looked up.

    More importantly, I looked to see if the paper has been cited by anyone.  Since being published in 2009, it’s only been cited once, by this study: 

    Cob(I)alamin reacts with sucralose to afford an alkylcobalamin: Relevance to in vivo cobalamin and sucralose interaction

    Which seems to show that based on the biochemistry and in vitro experiments, sucralose could very well bind and inactivate vitamin B12 in vivo! 

    Finally, my N=1 is that whenever I consume heavily sucralose-sweetened whey protein, I produce terrible, room-clearing gas.  Unsweetened whey protein doesn’t have this effect.

    Conclusion: I’m open to further evidence — but my current bias is towards the conclusions of the original paper.


    Good catch.  I looked up a couple more, with the results above.


    To my knowledge, no dipeptide could possibly pose a problem.  Proteins are typically absorbed as small di- and tri-peptides AFAIK: it’s the longer peptides that pose a problem if they sneak through.


    In a perfect world, none of us would ever have the urge to cheat, hunger would be completely ignorable, canned tuna wouldn’t be contaminated with methylmercury, and McDonalds would serve local grass-finished beef topped with fresh salsa and avocado in a lettuce wrap.  Also, I would never forget to defrost meat before I get hungry.

    Yes, I IF (intermittent fast) frequently — but after I’'m done with a hard workout, I don’t really feel like fasting any longer!  Whey protein is very rapidly absorbed, and is an excellent post-workout protein source.  And it’s easy to find whey protein uncontaminated by gluten.

    Mainly, though, I’m trying to bring helpful information to the millions of people who consume whey protein — and would rather not be consuming gluten unawares.


    I'’ve had good experiences with NOW unflavored whey isolate.  Their products are generally reputable AFAIK, and it actually states “Contains No Gluten” on the label.  Plus it’'s nice and fluffy and tastes like it'’s supposed to.  (10 pound bag, 5 pound can)


    More soon!


  • pam:

    Thank you!  I’'m glad I’'ve been able to turn my wasted money into useful information for my readers.


    That one's probably fine.  I'm a bit skeptical about the health claims, though…I'm not sure cow proteins do our own guts any good.  Mainly whey is good because our enzymes break the proteins down very quickly, letting us absorb the protein quickly.  (If that's indeed what we want.)


    I know our intestines suck up most of the L-glutamine we ingest…I'’ll have to ask her about what it actually does for gut health.

    Yes, gluten is pervasive, as are corn and soy.  They'’re pervasive because they’re cheap, and they'’re cheap because our government pays Big Ag billions of dollars every year to overproduce them.


    Most likely.  The more ingredients, the easier it is to hide cheap fillers like hydrolyzed wheat protein.


    Ethiopia?  Wow!  Going to Harar to hang out with the city'’s hyenas is on my bucket list.

    Can I ask what you’'re doing in AA, and how you came across The Gnoll Credo?


    It'’s possible that you had a reaction to the whey itself…but it’'s more likely that you found one that had been “fortified” with “glutamine peptides”.

    As I said in the article, that’'s one reason I always buy unflavored…because I can tell by the taste if it’'s been adulterated.  And unflavored whey, while it'’s not delicious, isn’'t a bad taste at all…at least it shouldn'’t be.

    I'’m glad I could help solve the mystery, and I hope this helps you if you ever decide to buy some more in the future.


    I'’ve heard that Jay Robb is good stuff: thanks for the confirmation.  And do let us know what you find out.

    On the cheap end of things, I can personally vouch for NOW unflavored whey isolate: though it’'s not pastured or organic, it’s definitely gluten-free, cold-filtered, etc. I linked to it one comment up.


    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and suggestions!  Please forward this article on to other, non-paleo sources — as there are a lot of people with wheat allergies, intolerances, or frank celiac, and most people who consume whey protein are at least trying to work out and be healthy.


  • Otherworld

    JS, this post makes my head swim. I have a longstanding habit of checking labels and have often wondered what “hydrolyzed wheat protein” and “hydrolyzed soy protein” were. Are they “manufactured” in the same way? Because they referred to protein, I assumed they were a reasonable addition to a product.

    How is it that we can digest protein ourselves in a few hours if it takes a day in a vat of acid to obtain the hydrolyzed end product? As well, I am not clear on the MSG connection and would appreciate your addressing it in greater depth.

    Thanks, as always, for the clarity and courtesy of your responses.

  • Jeffrey of Troy

    False alarm; the supps I was thinking of are BCAA peptides, not glutamine.

    Before I discovered Jay Robb, I was using ON (Optimum Nutrition) Natural Whey (no artificial sweeteners) for a while. Just checked the label on their website, seems decent. It was ok, as I recall.

    As far as whey shakes not being paleo: neither is the computer I’m using to access the interwbez right now (how did our h-g ancestors get on the interwebz w/o computers?). It’s impossible to fully replicate that experience, nor should we even want to; it’s about identifying what our needs are, so we can use what we have now to meet them.

    Your protein needs go way up post-workout, much higher than normal. Not getting a big shot of pro then is missing a window of opportunity.

  • Andy

    Thanks for this info.. Glad I ditched ON Whey a while back. It was giving me acne and made me feel not so good mentally (which gluten also does to me).. And it did have the “glutamine precursors” and artifical sweeteners. I wasn’t sure what the offending ingredient was, but I take BCAAs now pre/post workout now.

  • Kenneth Shonk

    There is a good deal of information on whey protein and criteria for picking a good brand at http://www.mercola.com (do a search on whey protein). Mercola also sells a high end whey protein which is derived from milk from organic, grass-fed, cattle with milk being unpasturized and non-homogenized. It most likely is the best available though I am sure there are a few other equivalent brands. Microfiltered and cold filtered are required to preserve the beneficial BCAA’s (branched chain amino acid of which lysine is the most beneficial one in stimulating the body’s HGH production and glutathione production after a work out. Must be consumed within 1 hr after a high internsity workout or there is no effect. Ori Hofmekler’s book “The Warrior Diet” goes into detail on how it stimulates HGH production and triggers the mTOR gene to build muscle.

  • Marilyn

    Otherworld, having had a couple of MSG reactions, I have long been on the lookout for MSG (monosodium glutamate) and all its aliases. The aliases are numerous and can be as innocuous sounding as “flavoring” or “spices.”


  • Kenneth:

    The BCAA content doesn't depend on the processing method: even hydrolyzed whey will contain the same proportion of amino acids (unless it's been otherwise adulterated).

    There may be other benefits to certain proteins that tend to appear (or appear in greater quantities) in cold-filtered whey, but they don't markedly change the amino acid composition.  So while I agree that it's best to consume sustainably raised ingredients, I'm very skeptical of the health benefits claimed.


    I very much doubt that free glutamic acid, by itself, is the source of MSG issues.  You can't eat a paleo diet (or any diet) without encountering some amount of free glutamate — that's why they're called “amino acids”.

    For example, parmesan cheese contains a huge load of free glutamate.  So does Roquefort…yet I don’t see anyone complaining of headaches when they eat Roquefort.  Other sources include green tea, grape juice, cured ham, and peas.  Furthermore, no double-blind study has shown that people can tell whether they've eaten MSG — even people who claim to be sensitive to it can't tell!

    Given this, I tend to believe that other additives in cheap Chinese food, and cheap processed food, are the source of “MSG reactions”.  But I'm open to being convinced otherwise.


  • Ugly Cat

    New user here. Thanks JS for this tidbit on labeling! I plan to order this product from LifeSource. Their product seem to not contain hidden ingredients (so far). They used stevia so I don’t know how good or bad it is. Here’s the link: http://www.lifesource4life.com/protein.html#supplement

  • It's probably fine — but I don't like their baloney about “dead proteins” and how they're hard to digest.  Of course they're dead…they're a powder in a jug!  And I see no evidence that pasteurization denatures proteins in a way that makes us not digest them.

    Note that it's fortified with L-glutamine, which isn't the same thing as “glutamine peptides”, and should be fine (though I'm not sure why you need it, as whey is naturally high in glutamine).

    That said, their price isn't ridiculous, and they do carry an unflavored version…but if I'm not getting grass-fed dairy cows I'll just go for the NOW stuff.

    Also note that pure, non-“fortified” whey protein doesn't taste bad at all!  The reason companies need to flavor it is to cover up adulterants.


  • Ugly Cat

    Now’s Whey isn’t that bad. I’m thinking of giving it a try. Thanks JS!

  • […] that another name for “hydrolyzed wheat protein” is “glutamine peptides”, often found in sports nutrition products like whey protein. Beware!) What Is “Umami?” The easiest […]

  • MasterNinja

    J. Stanton said:

    Also note that pure, non-“fortified” whey protein doesn't taste bad at all!  The reason companies need to flavor it is to cover up adulterants.


    JS, I was thinking about our conversation on the other thread.  I wonder if the whey I had used before caused me problems mostly because it was a flavored variety.  I may try the NOW product and see how it works for me. 

  • Wenchypoo

    Housewife question: since I’m not a scientist, I get to ask this question–does this “glutamine peptides” have anything whatsoever to do with L-glutamine? I’m allergic to wheat, and need to know to make adjustments to my supplements.

    I use plain old eggs in my smoothies because I heard that egg protein powder is the best to use…isn’t that just dried egg white with vitamins in it? If so, why not use the real thing?

  • MasterNinja:

    It's worth a try.  Aside from Splenda, I don't know what's in the flavoring.  But since it's not supposed to contain carbs or fat, it's basically certain to not be food.  Whey is processed…but at least it's something that starts out as food.


    No, L-glutamine isn't the same as “glutamine peptides”.  As I said in the conclusion, “L-glutamine is different than “glutamine peptides”: it’s a single amino acid, and should be fine to consume.”  

    Some people use egg protein for the same reason they use egg whites: fear of fat and cholesterol.  The only problem with using raw eggs in your smoothie is that the uncooked proteins in raw egg white bind to the biotin in the yolk, so you won't get any dietary biotin out of the egg.  Raw white is also more likely to trigger allergies if you have them or are susceptible.  

    Conclusion: they're fine every so often, but I wouldn't make raw egg my only dietary source.


  • gibsongirl

    I used Isopure Zero Carb whey powder when I was working and it doesn’t contain glutamine peptides, but has “artificial flavors”. Two years later, I decided to use up the last few cups by mixing a scoop with my daily greek yogurt. After a few days I realized I *had* to put it in because it tasted so good! I felt compulsive about it. I never noticed that when I was having daily shakes, but it is obvious now that I have been living on a whole food diet for a while. I threw the rest away. It was creepy.

  • gibsongirl:

    I'm sure it's the same flavoring they put in sugar-free candy.  Frankly, it's a bit disturbing when white powder dissolved in water tastes like a blueberry donut!


  • […] Your Whey Protein and Whey Isolate May Not Be Gluten-Free: Beware “Glutamine Peptides” – I don’t do whey protein (or any protein powders, actually) but I liked the explanation of what the stuff is and how it’s produced anyway. If nothing else, this is just good info to extrapolate to other foods. […]

  • Hilary

    I make whey as a bi product of homemade Greek yogurt, I am not sure what to do with it so mostly the whey goes on the compost heap. Would there be any benefit in drinking it (tastes like hell though)?
    Thanks for a great blog. Regards from South Africa.

  • Hilary:

    It's a good protein source, but it's also very much an acquired taste.

    I didn't know there were gnolls in South Africa!  Though I shouldn't be surprised, as there are plenty of spotted hyenas.  Traveling there is on my “someday” list…


  • We have family in South Africa. I've yet to visit, but it does look like a lot of fun. All manner of good food and wine to be had.

    I recall strings of muslin hanging in the kitchen as a child, my mother, a regular yoghurt maker – we're English, so we just called it yoghurt. Occasionally, it would get a little bacterial mutation, which I later knew the name of from home brewing wine, which turned it really stringy, stretchy and would snap when stretched. We ate it anyway 😀

    That whey that drains out can be eaten. Yes, it tastes like ass, but blend it! Banana? Some berries? Whisky? It's good stuff, especially after some strenuous exercise, with something gorgeous to relax.

  • Paul N

    Hilary, if you have homemade whey, then you can use it to ferment all sorts of stuff, from fruit, veg, nuts, meat and fish (you can also make whey cheese)

    I use whey to make a “sourdough” pancake mix, using buckwheat and amaranth flours, and dessicated coconut.

    You can use whey for making pickles, sauerkraut, mustard etc. In fact, and “pickle” or any condiment with vinegar in it, was originally made by fermenting, usually with whey.

    Here's an example of a recipe for fermenting fish (I have yet to try this myself).
    Lacto-fermented fish

    here is a recipe for using whey and celery juice to make your own corned beef (I *will* try this one)…

    There is no end to what you can ferment with whey.

  • Paul, Paul N:

    There are a lot of historical beverage recipes involving whey, though I haven't tried any.

    As you mention, ricotta cheese is actually pressed whey.  (And is, therefore, not technically a cheese at all, cheese curds being made from the casein proteins.)  

    Those are interesting tips on lacto-fermentation with whey: thanks for linking them!


  • […] Many protein powders have some weird stuff in them—additives and fillers to make them palatable. Powders are, by definition, processed foods, so if you try to avoid processed foods, well, there you go. If you’re gluten-free, read the fine print as some protein powders contain glutamine peptides as a cheaper filler protein. […]

  • Kenneth Shonk

    J thanks for the reference to the intestinal effects of Splenda. I interpret the intestinal changes reported as as characterisitcs I would expect with leaky-gut syndrome which may be the origin of many food allergies as well as raising whole body inflammation levels, and lead to exacerbations in variety of inflammatory autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS), etc.

  • Kenneth:

    No one knows exactly what the long-term effects of sucralose are, on the gut or otherwise…but that's certainly a possibility.  I can't think of any reason to consume it.


  • Dana

    That rat study says they fed the rats Splenda. Splenda is sucralose bulked out with maltodextrin, dextrose, or both. I want to see a study using sucralose all by itself showing the same results before I start getting scared.

    I don’t consume much Splenda daily, certainly not the proportion they’re talking about here, and I *lost* weight substituting it for sugar. It’s not been a 1:1 substitution, however; my total consumption of sweet things has taken a nosedive since I went lower-carb.

    I’m not saying it’s a perfect situation and perhaps someday I’ll ditch the sweet stuff entirely or only get it from fruit; that’ll be more likely to happen if I can kick coffee. But for right now I’m coping the best way I currently can.

    Still, I’m with you about plain whey. I don’t want it pre-sweetened or pre-flavored; I might want to use it in a savory application, and in any case I want control over how much and what kind of sweetener I use when I do use any.

  • Dana:

    I'm sure there's a dose-response curve to sucralose.  My own experience is that I get terrible gas from two scoops of sucralose-sweetened whey, but not from the same or greater amount of unflavored whey.  However, I can have one scoop without issues (though I've long since consumed or got rid of all such products).

    Like anything else that's not good for us, it's a judgment call: is the benefit greater than the harm?  Myself, I just use sugar in my (very occasional) coffee…3 grams of it with a meal doesn't matter to me.  But then, the equivalent in sucralose probably doesn't matter much either.  I'm more concerned about the fact that one can easily consume very large amounts, much like those in the study, simply by drinking diet soda.


  • cyprisq

    what about Selenium? i see bottles of “selenium hydrolyzed vegetable protein chelate” which is now used as an anti-oxidant. now is selenium itself HVPC or do they combine the two to make one formula? is selenium by itself in tablets for example still safe? there are tons of docs out there saying people should take more selenium…

  • cyprisq:

    I don't know what the selenium is doing in HVP…perhaps it's a catalyst?

    Anyway, organ meats and shellfish are very high in selenium, followed by most fish.  Even pork and beef muscle meat has a significant amount of selenium in it.  The only way to avoid selenium is to avoid meat…so anyone eating like a predator should be ingesting adequate selenium.  


  • Jimbodeen

    I really enjoyed your site on gluten and wheat sensitive issues.What a wealth of information. I had surgery for Chrons disease in 2000. I have been using Isopure flavered protein powder for a while to suppiement my workouts.I have just run out of it.I won’t be reordering it thanks to your article. The diet you need to live on for the rest of your life is impossible for me to do. It’s impossible for me to gain weight. so I need some sort of protein powder while working out. I found out that digestive diseases are not a disease at all. It’s all about chemistry and bacteria. I wish I had discovered Dr Dahlman before my surgery, I would still have all of my small intestine intact and be healed. Anybody with these concerns should check out his website at http://www.drdahlman.com Thanks for the info.

  • Jimbodeen:

    I also use whey protein as an occasional supplement when I'm trying to gain weight…and sometimes, due to poor planning, the latest package of meat hasn't completely defrosted yet and I need some complete protein in my meal.

    Unfortunately, much of Dahlman's stuff is behind his paywall, so I can't vouch for it one way or the other.


  • […] grass-fed cows. I don't know how gluten intolerant you are, but some whey powders contain gluten: Your Whey Protein and Whey Isolate May Not Be Gluten-Free: Beware “Glutamine Peptides” &… Reply With […]

  • Youngevity

    Sucralose is a molases extract. Its not from the devil, rather, a simple process extracts and amps the sweetness. Just because something sounds sciency, doesnt mean its bad for you.

  • Youngevity:

    Don't presume to lecture me on science.  It's been established that sucralose lays waste to our gut flora…and gut flora imbalances are currently being implicated in everything from obesity to IBS to depression.

    Furthermore, sucralose is created from sucrose, as its name implies — not from molasses, which is the remnants of sugarcane after most of the sugar has been crystallized out.


  • Titus Demaris

    Nice post, but I’m kind of sad because I just bought a L-glutamine supplement powder a few days ago and it’s pretty much complete and it would be a waste of money to throw it. I think I’m just going to use it all and then avoid it and find a glutamine-peptides free to buy!!

  • Titus:

    As previously mentioned, L-glutamine is a single amino acid and is fine to consume.  It's the “glutamine peptides” we need to watch out for.


  • Supplement Judge

    I still don’t understand why you’re worried about Glutamine. I did a review of published literature on behind l-glutamine and found that it’s actually pretty safe to take!

  • Supplement Judge:

    L-glutamine is not the same thing as “glutamine peptides”.  As I said in the article”

    “L-glutamine is different than “glutamine peptides”: it’s a single amino acid, and should be fine to consume.”

    Yes, L-glutamine should be safe to consume at any non-pathological dose.


  • Supplement Judge

    Hey J,

    Sorry, I completly skipped that part when I was skim reading over the article.

    But, in response to what you’re saying, it feels like these peptides which aren’t in the form of L-Glutamine are going to be quite rare to come across in the world of supplements.


  • SJ:

    With the continuing increases in the price of whey protein, it's becoming more and more common to adulterate it with everything from maltodextrin to hydrolyzed wheat protein (“glutamine peptides”). 


  • Eja

    Thanks for the info.

    In relation to the link Alex provided, the ingredients include OATS. While oats them self are believed to be gluten free, a lot of ceoliacs (including myself) have had negative experiences.

    Can anyone suggest a protein powder as good as the ON Gold 100% Whey Protein that’s 100% gluten/wheat free?

    I was looking at these http://www.gnc.com/Sunwarrior-Warrior-Blend-Raw-Protein-Natural/product.jsp?productId=12580081&cp=12312424.12316500

  • Eja:

    I don’t see oats anywhere in the ingredients of that particular whey protein — but my favorite continues to be the NOW unflavored whey isolate, which I personally use and can vouch for. Here’s a 5 pound can, and here’s a 10 pound bag.


  • Rob

    There are some seriously suspicous products on the market in the health scene. Low quality ingredients litter the market place. If a company does not say where their protein is from then it is suspicious. I use this whey protein isolate, they claim it’s from france and I have had a great results from it. I would try it if you can get hold of it.

  • Brookethechicken

    Man!!! I’m getting totally screwed by this gluten thing. I wasn’t actually gluten intolerant, but I just started eating a gluten free cereal one day because I really liked it and started cutting down on breads because I was trying to make better choices, and as it turned out many of my other food choices were naturally gf. Inadvertently I’ve turned myself gluten intolerant because as with anything, the body adapts, though there was probably a mild intolerance there to begin with but now I eat one bread roll and I’m in agony with a belly that looks like I swallowed a python. But now Splenda too?!?! Crap. I’m also a type 1 diabetic and Splenda is the only fake sugar I like the taste of in my coffee!!

  • Brooke:

    I, too, found that I reacted very strongly to gluten after a couple months of being strictly Paleo (including gluten-free). However, I’ve found that over time, I’ve been able to tolerate the occasional cheat much better…though if I continue cheating meal after meal I definitely begin to notice the effects!

    The fact that you have a problem with Splenda strongly suggests a degree of gut dysbiosis: as I note in the article, Splenda is known to do a number on your gut flora. You’ll probably have to find another zero-calorie sweetener: you might try “stevia FSE”, as it enzymatically modifies the bitter part of the stevia taste.

    Beyond that, I recommend a tablespoon of vinegar, taken with each meal, in order to help shift the balance away from bad bugs and towards good bugs. (Any kind is fine, though usually apple cider or red wine vinegar taste better.) Then, give things some time, and you may well find that the problem slowly resolves itself.


  • Lou

    In you article you stated “still feel like reaching for those “healthy” Bragg liquid amino”? The label states it is gluten-free. The only ingredients are vegetable protein from soybeans and purified water. I use it and have had no problems with it.
    Good article otherwise.

  • Lou:

    I’m mainly poking fun at it for being a fancy version of “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” e.g. just another way to deliver free glutamate:

    Personally, I prefer gluten-free soy sauce.


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