Lead In Metamucil: Health Concerns and Alternatives

Metamucil is a brand of psyllium husk fiber that even the least health conscious consumers know of. This is one of many fiber supplement products that may be used for sought after health benefits including management of constipation, blood sugar levels, appetite control, and weight loss.

However, while third party tests show that Metamucil does contain its labeled amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, these tests have also found high levels of lead. Independent labs tests from July 2023 identified high levels of lead in Metamucil for each suggested serving size. In the realm of pros and cons, the con of lead far exceeds any pro of fiber. Particularly when there are countless other fiber supplement options available to us as consumers.

Procter & Gamble Co.’s Metamucil Facing Class Action Lawsuit

Metamucil class action lawsuit filed last year in California federal court says Procter & Gamble falsely markets Metamucil products as providing health benefits that they do not provide. Additionally, a New York federal court lawsuit was filed accusing Procter & Gamble of misleading consumers.

Procter & Gamble makes a range of products, including many familiar household consumables like Crest toothpaste, Tide laundry products, Pampers diapers, Dawn dish soap, Secret deodorant, and even pharmaceutical drugs. Metamucil is often recommended to patients by health professionals as a widely available and palatable fiber supplement.

Their fiber supplement Metamucil is advertised as being safe and effective, but third party testing reveals dangerous levels of lead.

Dumping the Metamucil as soon as I read about lead levels found in third party testing.

Lead Toxicity

Lead has persisted in our environment since the start of the Industrial Revolution. But it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that lead poisoning in children began to be recognized, starting with lead-based paints.

Lead is ‘a potent neurotoxin with measurable negative effects on cognition at vanishingly low blood lead concentrations’. Lead can also cause anemia, hurt the kidneys, affect reproductive organs, and has even been linked to diabetes and cancer.

It can be a challenge to completely remove it from the environment, even without the mounting popularity of powdered supplements.

Contamination Not Uncommon In Supplements

Lead contamination has been an ongoing issue in the world of supplements. Unfortunately, testing is showing us that the presence of heavy metals are not uncommon to find in commonly consumed nutrition supplements. Protein powders, green drink mixes, and magnesium supplements are some that have been found to have contaminants like lead, cadmium, and arsenic. In the Clean Label Project’s study, 70-74% of plant based protein powders had measurable amounts of lead.

Multivitamin and mineral supplements have also been found to contain lead. I strongly recommend choosing products that regularly undergo third party testing.

Why Do People Use Metamucil Fiber?

Psyllium fiber comes from the husks of psyllium seeds. The fiber supports regular bowel movements, helping to bulk and soften stool by attracting water with its 80% water soluble and 20% insoluble fiber. Fiber is also known to bind with cholesterol, helping to keep levels in a health range. Additionally, fiber can create a feeling of fullness, promoting satiety and controlling appetite.

Dosing Fiber As A Supplement

It is generally wise to go low and slow with fiber, starting with small amounts of approximately 1/2 tablespoon and working up to a full tablespoon 3x/day. Fiber and water work together, so I do not recommend fiber pills. Mix fiber with a full 8-12 ounce glass of water.

Transitioning From A Low Fiber Diet?

If you have been eating a low fiber diet, gradually increasing your fiber intake is recommended to avoid digestive discomfort, including bloating, gas, and stomach cramps. Gradual adjustments allow your digestive system to adapt to the increased fiber intake.

Here are some tips for safely increasing your fiber intake:

  • Drink plenty of water: Fiber absorbs water, so it’s essential to stay well-hydrated when increasing your fiber intake. This helps prevent constipation and eases the passage of stool.
  • Add fiber slowly: Start by incorporating small amounts of high-fiber foods into your meals. This could include adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to your diet.
  • Choose whole grains: When selecting grains, choose whole grains over refined ones. Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients. For example, opt for whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
  • Include a variety of fiber sources: Don’t focus on just one type of fiber. There are two main types of dietary fiber—soluble and insoluble—and they each have unique benefits. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, beans, and fruits, while insoluble fiber is found in vegetables and whole grains.
  • Monitor your body’s response: Pay attention to how your body reacts to the increased fiber. If you experience discomfort, consider slowing down the rate at which you’re introducing fiber or reassessing the types of fiber-rich foods you’re consuming.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help promote regular bowel movements and alleviate some of the digestive discomfort associated with increased fiber intake.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions. They can provide personalized advice based on your individual health needs and goals.

Metamucil or Something Else? Different Fiber Supplement Sources

Fiber supplements can be made of a variety of different fibers. Differences in source, solubility, and FODMAP content set them apart. Let’s look at some of the commonly found types of fiber in popular supplements and why you might choose one over another.

  1. Psyllium Husk Fiber:
    • Source: Derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant.
    • Solubility: Mostly soluble fiber (approximately 80%).
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP (individual tolerance may vary, many individuals tolerate Sun Fiber better, sourced from guar gum).
    • Applications: Used as a bulk-forming laxative and may help with constipation. It can also be used to promote a feeling of fullness.
  2. Inulin:
    • Source: Often extracted from chicory root.
    • Solubility: Soluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: High FODMAP in large amounts. This one will make you feel super bloated if you have any SIBO going on).
    • Applications: Used as a prebiotic to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It can also contribute to improved digestive health.
  3. Guar Gum:
    • Source: Extracted from guar beans.
    • Solubility: Soluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP.
    • Applications: Used as a thickening agent in food products and as a dietary fiber supplement. It may help with constipation.
  4. Acacia Fiber:
    • Source: Derived from the sap of the Acacia senegal tree.
    • Solubility: Soluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP.
    • Applications: Acts as a soluble fiber supplement and is often used to support gut health.
  5. Chia Seeds:
    • Source: Derived from the Salvia hispanica plant.
    • Solubility: Mostly insoluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP.
    • Applications: Rich in ALA omega-3 fatty acids and can be used to add fiber to the diet. It forms a gel when mixed with liquids, contributing to a feeling of fullness.
  6. Flaxseed:
    • Source: Derived from the flax plant.
    • Solubility: Mostly insoluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP.
    • Applications: High in ALA omega-3 fatty acids and can be used to promote bowel regularity. It may also have cardiovascular benefits.
  7. Beta-Glucans:
    • Source: Found in oats, barley, and certain mushrooms.
    • Solubility: Soluble fiber.
    • FODMAP Content: Low FODMAP.
    • Applications: Known for their potential cholesterol-lowering effects and immune system support.

While many fibers have low FODMAP content, individuals with specific digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may still react differently to certain fibers. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian is recommended before adding fiber supplements to the diet, especially for those with specific dietary restrictions or sensitivities.

Fiber TypeSourceSolubilityFODMAP ContentApplicationsSupplement Brands*
Psyllium Husk FiberPlantago ovata plant seedsSolubleLow FODMAPBulk-forming laxative, may help with constipation, promotes a feeling of fullness.Metamucil*, Konsyl, NOW Psyllium Husk Powder
InulinChicory rootSolubleHigh FODMAP (in large amounts)Prebiotic to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, contributes to improved digestive health.Benefiber, Jarrow Formulas Inulin-FOS, NOW Foods Inulin
Guar GumGuar beansSolubleLow FODMAPThickening agent in food products, dietary fiber supplement, may help with constipation.Sun Fiber, Now Foods Guar Gum
Acacia FiberAcacia senegal tree sapSolubleLow FODMAPSoluble fiber supplement, supports gut health.Heather’s Tummy Fiber, NOW Foods Acacia Fiber
Chia SeedsSalvia hispanica plantMostly insolubleLow FODMAPAdds fiber to the diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, forms a gel when mixed with liquids. Contributes to a feeling of fullness.Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds, Healthworks Chia Seeds
FlaxseedFlax plantMostly insolubleLow FODMAPPromotes bowel regularity, high in omega-3 fatty acids, may have cardiovascular benefits.Spectrum Essentials Organic Ground Flaxseed
Beta-GlucansOats, barley, certain mushroomsSolubleLow FODMAPPotential cholesterol-lowering effects, immune system support.Beta-glucan supplements are typically extracted and not intended to be used for a source of fiber. Choose food sources to increase fiber intake and get beneficial beta glucans.
*It is recommended to seek third party testing of all supplement products to avoid contaminants like lead.

Conclusions

We take supplements to help improve our health, but can we always trust that every supplement on the market is safe and effective for the health benefits we are seeking?

Nope.

You have to do your own research, sort of. Third party testing is the key to finding products with integrity, quality, purity, and ultimately making a good choice that is worth your investment.

The most expensive supplement is the one that does not work, or worse, actually harms you.

For help with choosing the best supplements (and diet choices) to support you and your health goals, contact rd@rootdeepnutritiongmail.com to learn more about our nutrition services.

To start, check out this post about anti-inflammatory diet with a link for a free PDF copy of it. This diet is high in fiber and a great start that may clear up issues you are having.

References

Halmo L, Nappe TM. Lead Toxicity. 2023 Jul 4. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31082141.

Wani AL, Ara A, Usmani JA. Lead toxicity: a review. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2015 Jun;8(2):55-64. doi: 10.1515/intox-2015-0009. PMID: 27486361; PMCID: PMC4961898.

White CM. Lead in Mineral or Multivitamin-Multimineral Products. Ann Pharmacother. 2022 Mar;56(3):339-345. doi: 10.1177/10600280211023328. Epub 2021 Jun 6. PMID: 34096339.

 | Website

Anne Marie Berggren RDN, MS, CDN, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's Degree in Nutrition, training in integrative and functional nutrition, nutrition for mental health, obesity and weight management, is a board certified nutrition support clinician, and an adjunct professor for the Stony Brook Graduate Nutrition Program teaching advanced clinical nutrition.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top