Hemp Protein - Adventist HealthCare

Hemp Protein


Hemp protein is extracted from the shelled seeds (hearts) of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L., and is used in some protein supplements and protein-enriched foods. Hemp and marijuana plants are closely related; however, hemp generally refers to varieties that are grown for food and industrial uses. Hemp plants are very low in the chemicals that give marijuana its intoxicating and psychoactive properties.1

Hemp protein usually refers to a dry hemp seed meal made by removing the outer shell of the hemp seed, expelling most of the oil through cold-pressing, and removing some of the fiber through milling and sifting. Hemp protein is usually lower in protein (35–50%) and higher in fat (about 10%, mostly essential fatty acids) and carbohydrate (20–35%, mostly fiber) than other protein supplements.2, 3

Hemp protein is lactose-free and safe for people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy and eggs, as well as those with allergies to peanuts, soybeans, and other legumes. Vegetarians and vegans may prefer supplements with hemp protein to supplements with protein derived from dairy (such as casein and whey proteins), eggs, or meat. Like proteins from other seeds and nuts, hemp protein is low in the essential amino acid, lysine, and is therefore not considered a complete protein.4

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Athletic Performance
Refer to label instructions
Theoretical considerations and animal studies suggest hemp protein may improve stamina and help athletes recover after exertion.

Researchers have found that the amino acids in hydrolyzed protein supplements are highly available for muscle repair after muscle fiber damaging exercise and other causes of muscle injury. Some, but not all, studies show that protein supplements may help athletes by reducing soreness and speeding recovery after exercise, and increasing muscle mass gains. Hemp protein has lower levels than soy and egg proteins of branched-chain amino acids, which are especially important for muscle growth and repair.

In one study, mice fed hemp protein had more stamina and reduced lactic acid levels after exertion than mice fed other sources of protein. Muscle soreness and fatigue tend to increase in the conditions that produce high levels of lactic acid. The effect of hemp protein on stamina and muscle function in athletes, however, has not been studied.

1 Star
Cardiovascular Disease
Refer to label instructions
Hemp protein may prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels and through antioxidant activity.

Researchers have found that small amino acid chains found in hydrolyzed hemp protein can act as antioxidants, and suggested that these same amino acid fragments are likely formed during normal digestion of hemp protein. These antioxidants could protect blood vessels and cell membranes from the free radical damage linked to cardiovascular disease progression.

In animal research, hemp seed meal was found to increase antioxidant activity and reduce cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract. Whether hemp protein has antioxidant and cholesterol lowering effects in humans is not yet known.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Hemp protein may contribute to the reduction and prevention of high blood pressure.

Hemp protein is high in arginine, an amino acid that keeps blood vessels healthy and can reduce high blood pressure. There is also evidence that peptides (short chains of amino acids) produced through hemp protein digestion could contribute to lowering blood pressure. In one study, the blood pressure of hypertensive rats came down after four weeks of treatment with hydrolyzed hemp protein but not after casein protein. The same study found that hydrolyzed hemp protein prevented high blood pressure from developing in young rats bred to be hypertensive. Whether hemp protein can prevent or reduce high blood pressure in humans is not known.

1 Star
Kidney Disease
Refer to label instructions
Hemp protein may reduce kidney damage and prevent complications in people with kidney disease.

In an animal study, kidney health improved in kidney-diseased rats fed hemp protein or soy protein diets, but not pea protein. In addition, the soy and hemp protein-fed rats had less heart damage due to kidney disease. It is not known whether these effects would be seen in people with kidney disease.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Increasing protein intake with hemp protein may help promote healthy weight loss.

Researchers have found that a high-protein diet might help reduce appetite and improve blood glucose control, help people lose weight and keep it off, and help preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Although most hemp protein supplements have less protein than other protein supplements, they are higher in fiber, which has also been shown to reduce appetite, improve glucose metabolism, and contribute to weight management. Whether hemp protein has real benefits or drawbacks compared to other sources of protein for people trying to lose weight is not known.

How It Works

How to Use It

The ideal intake of hemp protein has not been determined, but a typical serving of hemp protein powder is 30 grams and provides about 15 grams of protein.

Where to Find It

Hulled hemp seeds are about 37% protein, which is high compared to other plant sources of protein.5 The dry seed meal that is commonly used as hemp protein is usually about 50% protein, providing around 15 grams of protein per 30 gram (4 tablespoon) serving. Hemp protein isolate, with up to 90% protein, is made with more intensive processing techniques. Hemp protein may also be hydrolyzed (broken down into smaller amino acid chains) through treatment with enzymes. These various types of hemp protein are used in some protein powders, protein-fortified bars, and meal replacement foods.


Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Side Effects

Many people experience digestive upset after taking protein supplements. Hemp protein appears to break down more easily than some other types of protein,6 but whether this translates into fewer digestive side effects is unknown. Typical hemp protein supplements are relatively high in fiber,7 which may add health benefits but can also cause digestive symptoms in some people.

Some people are concerned that taking hemp protein regularly could cause urine drug tests to be positive due to the presence of low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. One study showed that people given the same amount of THC as would be found in 300 grams of shelled hemp seeds per day for 10 days did not have high enough urine THC levels to cause a positive drug test result.8 Since THC is found in the oil of the hemp seed, hemp protein supplements have even lower amounts than shelled hemp seeds and should not cause positive drug test results.

Although rare, allergies to hemp seeds have been reported.9


1. Lachenmeier D, Kroener L, Musshoff F, Madea B. Determination of cannabinoids in hemp food products by use of headspace solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 2004;378:183-9. Epub 2003 Nov 4.

2. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.

3. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

4. Tang C, Ten Z, Wang X, Yang X. Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54:8945-50.

5. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

6. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

7. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.

8. Leson G, Pless P, Grotenhermen F, et al. Evaluating the impact of hemp food consumption on workplace drug tests. J Anal Toxicol 2001;25:691-8.

9. Vidal C, Fuente R, Iglesias A, Saez A. Bronchial asthma due to Cannabis sativa seed. Allergy 1991;46:647-9.

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