Do Protein Powders Have Artificial Sweeteners?

Learn about artificial sweeteners used in whey proteins supplements such as sucralose, stevia or aspartame and their potential health risks.

Do Protein Powders Have Artificial Sweeteners?

Most whey protein supplements are artificially sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium. These products are created through either a plant extract or chemical synthesis, meaning that even stevia is an artificial sweetener, despite companies labeling it as “natural”. This is beneficial for masking the bitterness of protein powders. An advantage of sucralose is that it does not break down in the body, meaning that the body does not absorb unnecessary sucralose compounds.

The reason stevia gained popularity was not because it was better than the other sweeteners, but because it came from a plant. Stevia is sold as a dietary supplement, which has lower safety standards than other products. In fact, stevia was originally considered unsuitable for use in the United States due to the lack of scientific studies. Aspartame contains two amino acids as ingredients and is the most controversial sugar substitute of the four mentioned here.

Because of this controversy, many protein powders have stopped using it and now use acesulfame potassium and sucralose instead. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to buy a protein powder that does not contain aspartame. For example, sucralose tastes much better when combined with acesulfame potassium. Organic vegan protein powder is an excellent choice for those looking for a strong foundation for healthy living.

Orgain's organic vegan protein powder is one of the best products on the market today and offers a great-tasting protein shake. With more studies suggesting that artificial sweeteners may not be as harmless as we thought, many brands have chosen to eliminate artificial sweeteners from their products. Although hundreds of protein powders on the market claim to be free of artificial sweeteners and additives, not all of them are created equal. It should be noted that this is an observational study, which can only establish that there are associations.

At this time, researchers cannot prove a causal relationship between artificial sweeteners and cardiovascular disease. Transparent Labs is a brand known for being transparent about the ingredients in its products. Its grass-fed whey isolate is one of the cleanest protein supplements on the market and provides 25 grams of protein and 5.9 grams of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) per two-tablespoon serving. BCAAs are essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.

Naked Nutrition pea protein is an excellent choice for those looking for a simple plant-based protein powder without artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors. Naked Nutrition uses a chemical-free mechanical water extraction process to provide pea protein powder with a higher amino acid profile and 27 grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving. It has the Informed Choice seal, which states that it does not contain prohibited substances and is safe for athletes. Despite its amino acid profile, it is not considered a complete functional protein due to its low methionine content; methionine is one of the nine essential amino acids needed to produce a complete protein.

For a more varied and complete protein mix, Naked Nutrition recommends combining this powder with rice protein powder, which is high in methionine. Its COA reveals the presence of heavy metals, which is not unusual in the case of vegan protein powder that tends to be richer in heavy metals than its non-vegan counterparts; however, no cutoff point was specified in the COA. Garden of Life's mildly sweetened organic whey protein is made with whey protein concentrate from pasture-raised and grass-fed cows and is also soy-free, certified organic by the USDA and does not contain GMOs, verified by the project. Flavored with organic vanilla, natural stevia and erythritol based on alcohol and sugar, Garden of Life's lightly sweetened organic whey protein isn't completely free of artificial flavors, sweeteners or chemicals; it also contains tapioca fiber, a type of dietary fiber and sweetener made from tapioca starch.

While stevia may have an impact on the gut microbiome, it has the lowest adverse effect of the four non-nutritive sweeteners studied and has no measurable attenuating effect on insulin levels; however, more studies are needed to determine its level of impact on the human gut microbiome. Like all supplements, the FDA does not regulate whey protein powder to ensure its safety or effectiveness; this makes laboratory tests important for verifying purity. Third-party testing is preferred over internal testing because of its objectivity; laboratory tests also ensure that the product is not contaminated with other ingredients such as microbial contamination, molds or heavy metals. Priority has been given to products that have undergone extensive testing; in addition, most of the products analyzed have laboratory results publicly available on the Internet to confirm their ingredients and purity; however, most laboratory reports were made in-house and were not assigned to third-party laboratories which offer a more objective testing platform.

It's important to note that third-party certifications are expensive; products that haven't been tested by third parties aren't always bad; as a result heavy metal contamination in products was a common finding in these products and in many others on the market.

Ashley Wools
Ashley Wools

Infuriatingly humble food advocate. Friendly bacon specialist. Friendly beer scholar. Total tvaholic. Award-winning tv junkie. Extreme twitter trailblazer.