Dangers of Hemp Protein

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
hemp protein powder

While often expensive, hemp protein is widely available and a common source of plant protein for vegetarian and vegan dieters. Hemp seeds provide protein similar in content to certain grains and nuts, according to one 2010 study. While hemp protein offers numerous nutritional benefits, it's important to be aware of some potential dangers as well to help determine if taking hemp protein is the right choice for you.

Possibility of THC

Most hemp seeds and other hemp protein products don't contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component of marijuana that makes you feel "high." However, depending on how the hemp was grown and processed, it is possible to ingest small amounts of THC when consuming hemp protein. According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, you may test positive for THC after consuming hemp protein -- even if the product label says it's THC-free. Athletes should be aware of this, as hemp protein could lead to positive urine drug tests.

Loose Supplement Regulations

Because hemp protein powder is a dietary supplement, it isn't regulated as tightly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods and medications. The FDA doesn't require supplement manufacturers to prove products are safe or effective, or prove accuracy of supplement fact labels before products hit the marketplace. If problems arise after consumers use such products, the FDA can take action and remove faulty products from shelves. However, there's always a chance a protein supplement currently in stores is unsafe, contaminated with harmful substances, or contains ingredients that don't match what's listed on the label.

Protein Toxicity

Ingesting large amounts of hemp protein can be problematic if you're consuming too much protein over the course of the day. This is because your body can only use (and get rid of) so much protein at a time, and toxic by-products can build up in your bloodstream. A 2014 issue of Today's Dietitian reports that protein intakes of 200 to 400 grams daily takes a toll on your liver, leading to excess nitrogen in the blood. This can cause diarrhea, nausea, and even death. Three tablespoons of hemp protein powder contain about 15 grams of protein.

Digestive Problems

Protein supplements (including hemp protein) can cause digestive problems due to high fiber content, according to the University of Michigan Heath System. This means you could experience gas, bloating, upset stomach, constipation, or diarrhea after consuming large amounts of hemp protein. To reduce your risk of digestive problems after eating hemp, start with small servings of about two tablespoons at a time and drink lots of water.

Medication Interactions

Always chat with your doctor before taking any type of dietary supplement, including hemp protein - especially if you're taking medications. Supplements can interact with certain medications, and hemp protein is no exception. The University of Michigan reports that oils in hemp can increase bleeding, especially in people taking anticoagulant medications.

Use Hemp With Caution

While hemp protein is an excellent source of dietary protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, potential dangers and side effects do exist. Always check with your doctor, especially if you have health conditions or are taking medications, to make sure the hemp product you're taking is safe for you.

Dangers of Hemp Protein