Accurate nutritional profile of Whey Protein Isolate. Who to believe?

My biggest struggle in making my own DIY Soylent recipe is getting accurate nutrition profiles. Companies appear to only show what they are required to show by law. I’ve attained some complete profiles by writing the company, but other companies insist that what is on their label is all that they measure.

Take Niacin in Whey Protein Isolate for example.

Both DIY Soylent and the U.S. Department of Agriculture show 11.628 mg of Niacin per 100g of whey isolate. I suspect DIY Soylent pulled their info from the Dep of Ag.

But Nutrition Data says there is no niacin in whey protein isolate:

As for the whey protein in DIY Soylent recipes, some users are including the Dep of Ag information and some are not. The profile for NOW brand Whey Protein Isolate shows the niacin content as 11.628 mg per 100g. This is nowhere to be found on NOW’s site, so it must be from the Dept of Ag. But I reached out to NOW, attaching a screenshot of the DIY Soylent profile, and they wrote:

“We do not measure all these nutrients in our whey protein. All the nutrients that are measured are listed on the label. The calcium is listed as 15% of the RDA. This equals 150mg per serving of calcium. As you can see, there is no vitamin A, no vitamin C and no iron. The whey has gone through a microfiltration process that removes most everything, leaving behind almost exclusively protein.”

I also wrote to Jarrow about their brand of Whey Protein (in this case NOT isolate, so not an apples to apples comparison) and they replied:

“Thanks for your inquiry, Tony. All the nutrients that we assay for in whey protein can be found on the label (or website page) and Supplement Facts panel. Whey protein is not a significant source of niacin.”

So now I am all kinds of confused. Can anyone here shed any light?

Pick whichever profile you like most and go with that. Short of paying for the test your self that’s the best you can do.

If I do that, I essentially don’t know what levels of niacin I am ingesting daily. If I go with the generic whey isolate nutrition profile of the Dept of Ag, then my total recipe’s level is way over the maximum intake. If I go with NOW Food’s label, I may be ingesting too much niacin and not realize it. (Same goes for other compounds.)

Fair enough. What are the consequences of getting too much niacin?

Your confusion may stem from the fact that you don’t realize you’re conflating two different kinds of data sources.

When the USDA analyzes a food, they test it to see what exactly is in the natural product. This is expensive and time consuming, so we do it by having a government organization do the work for various raw ingredients and publish the result for public use by everyone. You don’t have to analyze a pancake, because the USDA has already analyzed butter, flour, egg, milk, sugar, salt, and baking powder. You can measure the ingredients, and infer what’s lost due to heat degradation, and voila.

But when a food manufacturer produces a Nutrition Facts label, they do not analyze their product for everything. If they did, the product would be much more expensive… and the laws do not require them to analyze the product. The law requires them to list the amounts of certain important macros and vitamins, and the rest are completely optional - unless they have manually added them as a supplement. So if your whey adds niacin to the mix, it must be listed as an ingredient on the label, and it must show the DV. But if no niacin is added, then they don’t have to have a DV at all. The “-” doesn’t necessarily mean zero.

The only micros that are always required are sodium, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. The new guidance will drop the requirement for Vitamin A and Vitamin C (because deficiencies are rare), and will instead require the listing of Potassium, and Vitamin D. All the rest of the micronutrients are optional… unless they are added as ingredients. (Or unless the product packaging touts it as being a “food high in so-and-so…” if they write that on the box, they have to accurately list the amount of the item.)

So when you look at a food manufacturer label, it will skip most of the optional micros. And when you look up a food in the USDA database, it will have all the available information from studies that have been done.

And when you look at SELF’s NutritionData, you will find entries from BOTH sources, and it’s not obvious which one you’re looking at!

If you look up a food ingredient on SELF’s site, you will usually get the USDA analysis info. If you look up a food product made of multiple ingredients, you’ll usually get the manufacturer’s label information. In my experience, everything that shows up as “custom” has been taken from a food label, and will have incomplete information:

While things taken from the USDA database (or perhaps other authoritative sources) will show like this:

You provided the link for whey as: That’s got “custom” right in the URL; it probably came from a food manufacturer’s label.

You might also look at this: That’s the entry for the ingredient Whey, dried, acid. This has a rather complete nutrition profile. At the bottom, it explicitly says that the source is the USDA:

Notice that the “-” means missing or incomplete, it does not mean “0.0”…

Of course, 100 g of the custom isolate has 88 g of protein… while 100 g of the ingredient whey has 12 g of protein. For the custom isolate, the carbs from the whey have been removed, concentrating the remaining ingredients… assuming that the Niacin is not lost in the carb-removal process, then you’d need 88/12 = 7.33 times as much pure whey to get to 88 grams of protein - that’s 733 g of whey - so you’ll have 7.33 times as much Niacin. The Whey has 1.2 mg of Niacin per 100 g, implying the custom isolate may have around 1.2 * 7.33 = 8.8 mg of Niacin per 100 grams of product.

Fortunately, there are precious few items on which you need have any concern about over-consumption. You do want to know the true macro content (and all labels list the macros accurately), and you want to avoid excesses of things like sodium (again, always listed.) There are very, very few areas where hypervitaminosis is a real concern from consumption of normal foods… if a deficiency or an excess happens with any frequency in the population based on normal food consumption, then that item is required to be listed on labels. That’s why Iron is required to be listed (many people are deficient) and Sodium is required to be listed (many people get too much.) For the other items, hypervitaminosis is only observed when people take the substance as a supplement, and usually only when they take Super-Mondo-Mega-Product!

Most of the micros that have notable risk when you take too much - like Manganese - are not common as sole supplements, and are in multivitamins in very small amounts. That’s no accident.

For things like Niacin - and, indeed, all the water-soluble B vitamins - you don’t need to worry about reasonable excesses at all… even several times the DV. In fact, there’s good evidence that an abundance of them (well above the DV) is beneficial.

The DIY soylent calculator has “Max” values built in on those nutrients where we may have concerns about higher dosages, especially on items where people commonly use high-potency supplements, or on items where normal foods may get you high levels naturally.

If you’re looking for more information about specific vitamins, I highly recommend:


MentalNomand assuaged my fears a little bit with his reply, but I am finding many pages with information such as the following.

“While it’s unlikely you’ll ingest too much niacin by eating niacin-rich foods, taking high doses of niacin supplements can lead to toxicity. The Institute of Medicine notes the tolerable upper intake level, which is the highest amount unlikely to cause health problems, is 35 milligrams of niacin daily. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that taking doses of 50 milligrams of niacin or more daily can cause side effects, such as burning and tingling in the face and chest, red flushed skin, stomach ulcers and liver damage. It can also interact with certain medications.”

1 Like


Thank you for taking the time to explain this. It is above and beyond. I have a much clearer picture now, and I will research the links you posted.

1 Like

The problem with that article is it makes it sound like if you go above the tolerable upper limit (UL) you will have all these horrible side affects. The UL is when people start seeing side affects starting with the most minor ones first. As MentalNomad pointed out you really have to take crazy large doses for a long period of time before the really bad side affects happen. Also that article says that niasin from food isn’t that dangerous. It’s the supplements that you have to be careful with. Notice it says 50mg or more daily. How much more? For how many days? It doesn’t really say.

1 Like

Sounds like we’re talking about amounts WAY below what is needed to cause liver damage or hepatitis. My current recipe has 44 mg of niacin at most.


“Hepatotoxicity (liver cell damage), including elevated liver enzymes and jaundice, has been observed at intakes as low as 750 mg of niacin per day for less than three months (84, 85). Hepatitis has been observed with timed-release niacin at dosages as little as 500 mg/day for two months, although almost all reports of severe hepatitis have been associated with the timed-release form of niacin at doses of 3 to 9 grams per day used to treat high cholesterol for months or years (25).”

1 Like


When you go over 50 or 100 mg, you start running the risk of “niacin flush,” a skin reaction that happens until your body gets accustomed to that dosage. Some people have health conditions which are treated with high doses of niacin - hundreds or thousands of mg per day - which is why we know about the possible serious side effects (and why very-high-dose supplements are produced.) You’re in the safe zone.

And, getting your facts from the LPI, you’re in good hands. :wink:

1 Like