Apologies - this is both a post asking for advice and also a mini-rant about the levels of iron in Huel.
It may sound a simple question, but I would like opinions on how best to approach the Huel ‘lifestyle’ with my doctor, particularly in relation to a couple of medical conditions I have which the nutritional information page advised I seek advice from my GP about.
I’m 30/M and overweight/unhealthy looking to change that with weight loss and by consuming 95% of my calorie intake through Huel.
I have fatty liver disease (a combination of alcoholic and non-alcoholic) with elevated liver enzymes. I also have slightly high blood iron levels (borderline upper limit of normal levels) which I have had for a while. I do not take any medication for any of these conditions. I also suffer from hypertension - for which I do take medication (beta blockers - 2.5mg bisoprolol daily).
Let’s be honest - most GPs are not experts on nutrition, certainly nowhere near what a dietitian would be, and if I turn up with a printout of the nutrition information and what I plan (all meals replaced with Huel), he is likely going to write it off as a “fad” or just advise me not to consume Huel and give me the usual NHS guidelines on nutrition.
What is the best way to approach this with my GP?
Also - I have to say I am concerned about the iron levels in Huel, as even on a 1200kcal restricted intake of fuel per day it would mean consuming around 42mg of iron - nearly five times the RDI of iron for an adult male. This is further exacerbated by the amount of Vitamin C in Huel which assists in iron absorption (not what I need really).
I am surprised that the makers of Huel have decided to be so heavy handed with the quantities of iron and vitamin C - I know the reasoning behind both of these decisions is on the nutritional information page, but in the UK there are more people suffering from excess iron in their blood (aka hemochromatosis) than there are those with iron deficiency anaemia - in my opinion it would make more sense to be conservative with iron content, perhaps sticking to the NHS guideline RDI than 400%-500%+ which seems far too much.
I appreciate that Huel cannot cater for everyone, but with more people likely to have excess iron than a deficiency, surely it’s better to be on the side of caution and stick to the lower limit?
Also - just wanted to say, even if it turns out that Huel isn’t something safe for me personally to consume for whatever reason (e.g. iron), I still think it’s a brilliant concept.
So many people like myself stress far too much about nutrition, about getting the right balance, nutrients, minerals, the ideal macro ratio, omega balance etc etc and for something to be so finely tuned like this is great.
It will take the wider world a while to get used to, but I would be very surprised if in a hundred years time, the majority of the world’s population isn’t consuming most of their calories from something similar to Huel (especially with increasing pollution, toxicity in soil etc).
I have hemochromatosis however am also very interested in trying Huel to help with fat loss for a 4 week period. My plan would be to consume 1000 calories of Huel per day, then 1000 calories of normal food for dinner. That means consuming 34.7mg of non haem iron and I don’t know if this is safe for me to do. I have been advised against eating any foods with “added iron” on a regular basis but hope that for 4 weeks it might be OK. I know that non haem sources of iron are not absorbed by the body as easily as haem sources and I’m also looking to do this for a relatively short period. My ferritin levels are currently under control at 98 ug/l and I have 4 monthly venesections to remove excess iron.
I also appreciate the hesitation in talking to your GP, I suspect they will just give the default answer that you should eat a balanced diet. I do have a Haematology clinical nurse specialist who I can ask advice on this, so will see what she says and let you know.
Would be interested in hearing from anyone else who has an excess iron issue and has tried Huel.
I know that non haem sources of iron are not absorbed by the body as easily as haem sources and I’m also looking to do this for a relatively short period.
The problem with this may be that even if you plan on 1000kcal of Huel, that still contains nearly 200% of the daily NRV for Vitamin C - and as you probably know, Vitamin C assists in non-haem iron absorption. Which is counter-productive for people that watch iron intake or are cautious of it like you or I.
I am not diagnosed with hemochromatosis yet, but it’s a strong possibility I will be in the next couple of weeks - I have another blood test on Friday to investigate this further. My last blood test (3 years ago) suggested I was close to the upper limit of ‘acceptable’ levels’ so it will be interesting to see if my iron levels have increased in 3 years.
I’m in a similar boat though in terms of what I intend, which is consuming 1000-1200kcals per day of Huel with the intention of losing around 20-30 lbs.
We haven’t added any addtional iron to Huel - all the iron is naturally occuring from the natural ingredients we’ve used. The form of iron in Huel is nonhaem iron which has lower bioavailability than haem iron. The NRV / RDA of Huel is based on an intake of a combination of haem and non haem iron. So we have not been ‘heavy handed’ at all with the iron, because it’s all natural!
Oats and flaxseed contain phytates that are known antinutrients, ie the chelate and reduce the amounts of a couple of micronutrients that is absorbed, the main one affected being iron. Furthermore, the rich level of calcium that Huel contains (needed for optimal levels) also reduces the absorption of some iron. So, the fact that we have a high amount of iron in Huel is crucial. Moreover, one of the reasons for the high level of vitamin C is to help promote the absorption of no-haem iron to counteract some of the effects of phytates and calcium.
Thanks James. Really enjoying the convenience of Huel and feeling the benefits so far.
I’d be very interested to know, which ingredients do provide the non-haem iron in Huel? I assume from what you are saying that nothing in the micronutrient mix is a source of iron? Haem iron would be zero given it’s a vegan product.
Haemochromatosis sufferers are told to completely avoid iron supplements, excessive red meat and offal - but pretty much eat a balanced diet other than that - so you can understand why we want to check to make sure that we’re not causing ourselves an issue by using Huel.
Reassuring to read various parts of that. I’ve taken a baseline blood test for my iron levels, and will be starting a month of Huel (all meals) shortly, will then test iron levels in a month’s time. Will be drinking tea/coffee with Huel which should further prohibit iron absorption further through tannins.