WE HAVE SCIENCEY NEWS!
Hey, I’m Bec, I’m Huel’s Nutrition Manager and we have just had our first science article published in Frontiers in Nutrition Journal (Frontiers | A Pilot Pre and Post 4 Week Intervention Evaluating the Effect of a Proprietary, Powdered, Plant Based Food on Micronutrient Status, Dietary Intake, and Markers of Health in a Healthy Adult Population)
The trial looked at the effect of a 100% Huel diet on health and micronutrient status over the course of 4 weeks, helping to give us more robust data when answering the question - “but is Huel good for me”? There are loads of great science nuggets in the article but some of the highlights are:
Improved total cholesterol status
Increased vitamin D, B12, iron and selenium
Improved blood glucose markers
To think about for a future study
Even though the aim of the study was for weight maintenance and the suggested daily intake of Huel was calculated from their own baseline week energy intake, the participants lost weight during the 4-week trial. The reason for this is that many of the participants wanted to lose weight and thereby chose not to consume all the recommended Huel. The other participants that weren’t aiming to lose weight but consumed less than what was suggested said that the reason for this was because they felt satiated enough with fewer calories.
Most people don’t have Huel for 100% of their diet, and that’s not what Huel is intended for, so future studies could look at different levels of Huel alongside a person’s standard diet.
We know that many of you will be sceptical about this article because we obviously had a hand in it and funded it and I was on the research team. However, what is important is to look at the science, not just the funding. If you dismiss all research that is funded by companies then there won’t be much research left! I quite like this quote from researcher Alan Aragon. It goes without saying this paper has also been peer-reviewed.
Let us know what you think, and drop any questions down below and I’ll answer them when I can!
I had my first discussion about this with a person who doesn’t consume Huel. Paraphrasing their claim after they read the results of the study:
“Improved total cholesterol status and improved blood glucose markers happen automatically as a result of losing weight, which is what happened to all the participants, so the same thing would have happened if the participants ate regular food and maintained caloric deficit. There’s nothing special about Huel and Huel shouldn’t claim that it improves cholesterol or blood sugar markers.”
On the one hand, they are right, Huel is simply food. On the other hand, they simply don’t wish Huel to work, so they’ll never admit Huel is better than how almost all people eat regular food.
Is that even the case? Sounds odd – surely it also depends on what makes up your calorie deficit? I mean – you could do the same exercise eating only one type of food and eat 10 Ball Park Beef hot dogs in a day and still be squarely in a calorie deficit. Your fat intake would be more than double what it should be as would sodium. Your cholesterol would be right on the top level of the recommended daily intake too so sure – you’d be eating less calories than you should but your cholesterol wouldn’t reduce would it?
I think their point wasn’t about “how almost all people eat regular food”. But just the same as yours: “Huel is food so it won’t matter: if you have the same balance you get from Huel from regular food, the results are the same”.
They’re just missing the point of how easy and convenient it is to achieve that goal with Huel compared to regular food.
Exactly, you guys have nailed it. They’re correct in that you would expect total and non-HDL cholesterol to decrease with weight loss. However, the aim of this trial was to see what happens physiologically if someone follows a Huel-only diet rather than to compare against an equivalent diet made up of whole foods. If so, the study design would have included two study arms: A) 100% Huel and B) a nutritionally-matched whole food diet.
The beauty of Huel is that it is just as good (not superior) to a well-balanced nutritious meal…but it’s quick & convenient.
“Just”, as it would be easy to get a well-balanced nutritious meal you make it sounds easy (it’s not if not with Huel!)
I’m curious to know whether the FiN paper has had any consequences at Huel HQ — do you think you’ll make any changes to the recipe as a result?
I think you could potentially have a TL;DR version of your own response along the lines of
Scientists say Huel is probably fine.
Might even be a little bit good for you.
Be careful not to starve.
I assume participants lifestyle (exercise, sleep…) remained the same over the trial?
Were there plant-based/vegetarian/vegan participants?
Why not having blood tests every week?
Good questions @lilyeuhh. The participants were advised not to change how they would habitually live, so yes if they typically exercised they would continue with this, kept sleeping patterns as per usual etc.
There were 3 vegans and 2 vegetarians in the trial and the data was further analysed to determine if there were any differences in weeks 1-5 in those participants. We found significantly higher iron levels post-Huel diet. As vegans & vegetarians have to be more conscious about their iron intake this was a really positive finding
Some markers will take a while to change following dietary intervention so it wasn’t necessary to complete numerous blood tests. It’s also reasonably disruptive to bring participants into a lab to run numerous testing so we may have had people dropping out of the study.