Does Pea Protein Cause Inflammation? (Science-Based)

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Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of serious health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and even depression.

So it’s reasonable to wonder if pea protein causes inflammation before you potentially start drinking a shake or two on a regular basis.

We’re going to look over a few studies on pea protein and inflammation quickly in this short post. Overall, they show that pea protein decreases inflammation if anything for most people.

Claims About Pea Protein and Inflammation

There’s a good chance you came to this page because you saw someone claim that pea protein causes inflammation.

There are 2 main claims that I’ve come across:

  • Purines in pea protein lead to inflammation
  • Allergies and intolerances to pea protein cause inflammation

Let’s go through these one at a time.

Are There Purines in Pea Protein

Purines are found in many foods, and aren’t a problem in normal quantities.

However, if someone consumes too many foods high in purines, they can break down into uric acid and cause inflammation (source).

But while some legumes like soybeans are relatively high in purines, peas are not particularly high in purines (source).

Pea Protein Allergies and Intolerances

I’ve written a detailed guide to pea protein allergies if you’d like more detail on this topic, but I’ll summarize the key points here.

Since peas are legumes, just like peanuts, they do share some of the same protein allergens. Pea allergies are possible, but much less common than peanut allergies.

Pea allergies also come with other symptoms than inflammation, so they can often be detected fairly easily.

Pea protein can also be the cause of a food intolerance, which can cause inflammation. Again, it’s not particularly common, but it is possible, and a lot harder to detect. Intolerances can be hard to identify, but often come with signs like stomach trouble that can be spotted.

SUMMARY

There’s a relatively low amount of purines in pea protein, so they are not likely to cause inflammation. But while pea protein intolerances are not common, it is possible that someone with an intolerance to pea protein could experience inflammation. 

Research on Pea Protein and Inflammation

There’s not any research available at the moment on pea protein and inflammation in humans, but there are a few studies on mice models.

One study added pea protein extracts to drinking water for mice for 4 days and found:

All treated groups showed intestinal anti-inflammatory effect, evidenced by reduced microscopic histological damage in comparison with untreated colitic mice

Another study found that pea protein has an anti-inflammatory effect on several other inflammation markers.

It reduced:

  • Nitric oxide production (an inflammatory compound in excess amounts)
  • The secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (by up to 80%)

While conclusions from mice models don’t always transfer to humans, for now, research does suggest that pea protein has both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

Why Would Pea Protein Be Anti-Inflammatory?

There’s good reason to expect that pea protein would actually reduce inflammation for most people.

Plant-based diets are often prescribed for autoimmune diseases because of their anti-inflammatory effects. Most plant foods are anti-inflammatory (alkaline), while many animal products are acidic and can lead to inflammation.

In general, the worst foods for inflammation are the ones that most people already know are unhealthy like alcohol, sugar, and those that contain trans fats.

While not all the reasons behind this are fully understood, some research has shown that the types of protein in plant foods like albumin have an anti-inflammatory effect. It turns out that albumin is one of the main types of protein in pea protein.

Summary: Pea Protein Does Not Cause Inflammation

With the current research available on pea protein and plant-based diets, it’s reasonable to conclude that pea protein doesn’t cause inflammation for most people, as long as they don’t have an allergy or intolerance.

In fact, pea protein is likely to decrease inflammation if anything, and can be a part of a healthy diet.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.