High-protein diets are indeed excellent and healthy for weight loss. But what if you continue high-protein diets for an extended period? This article discusses the ill effects of a high protein diet on your health.
Weight loss buddies, bodybuilding freaks, sportspersons, diabetics, and people with wellness-oriented lifestyles rely more on a high-protein diet to help achieve their goals. Such people require higher protein than normal to build muscle mass, lose fat, and stay healthy. The protein requirement of a normal healthy adult is 0.8 to 1.8 g/kg. On average, an ordinary sedentary man needs 56 grams of protein per day, and a sedentary woman requires 46 grams of protein per day to prevent protein deficiencies. But the amount of protein that one needs differs based on their physical activities, age, health condition, etc.
A high-protein diet refers to the intake of more than 60 g of protein per day or more than 30% of the total calorie intake of protein source.
Some foods with high-protein content include,
Soy protein isolate.
Boiled green soybeans.
Whey protein isolate.
All these foods have 19 to 80 g of protein per 100 g. Meat is a good source of protein, but it also has a lot of fat content compared to other protein sources like fish, chicken, and egg. So consuming meat in high quantities causes high cholesterol levels, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer. Hence, a high-protein diet is not suitable for everyone.
Some research reveals that a high-protein diet can cause osteoporosis. This is because the digestion of protein requires the processing of more calcium. Our body tends to extract calcium from our bones whenever it needs to process high amounts of protein. It has been observed that women who take a lot of protein in their diet lose 35% of their bone density in the long run. Loss of bone density eventually leads to osteoporosis.
2. Kidney Impairment:
High protein diets increase the load on the kidney as kidneys are responsible for filtering protein from the blood and excreting the waste products of protein metabolism. At the initial stages, a high-protein diet increases the frequency of urination. Large amounts of protein cause diuretic effects. Due to this, the body will respond to diuresis by extracting water from the tissues and cause frequent urination and thirst. Eating more protein also increases the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). It is the amount of blood the kidneys can filter every minute.
Our body converts all the food we take into acid and alkaline bases. A balance between these acid and alkaline levels needs to be maintained for healthy living. The American Academy of Family Medicine says that excessive protein in the diet, especially protein sources from animal-based products, increases the acidic levels in our body or blood. This can adversely affect our health by increasing the tendencies to form kidney stones and extract calcium from the bones.
Dehydration is one of the drawbacks of a high-protein diet. Our body gets rid of excess protein and harmful waste products of metabolized proteins with the help of water in the form of urine. For this, they use more amounts of fluids and water from our bodies. This ends in dehydration. Though one may not feel thirsty, their hydration levels are actually low. Hence, if you are on a high-protein diet, make sure to consume plenty of fluids than usual.
4. Organ Damage:
Large amounts of fat breakdown take place in people taking a high-protein and low carbohydrate diet. This fat metabolism leads to the generation of ketones. Such large amounts of ketones begin to accumulate and are not good for the body. This can lead to the damage and failure of vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys. A protein-rich diet cannot be handled if the liver is damaged. It starts to accumulate ammonia in the bloodstream (1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is sufficient in liver disease).
5. Nutritional Deficiencies:
A high-protein diet leads to increased IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1, a hormone signal to synthesize muscle proteins). High-protein diets also restrict carbohydrate intake. This results in nutritional deficiencies derived from carbohydrate sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Dietary fiber intake is also restricted, which can cause constipation. This type of diet does not provide some essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A diet rich in carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains reduces blood pressure.
6. Weight Gain:
High-protein diets are mainly preferred by many for weight loss. But they actually lead to weight gain in the long term. While increasing the intake of protein sources to increase the protein levels, one is actually consuming more than the required amount of calories for the day. Over time, these excess calories start accumulating in the body in the form of fat, leading to weight gain.
1. Cancer: Quite shocking, but researches show that regularly having a high-protein diet can increase the risk of developing cancer. Unlike a low-protein diet, where there are low blood levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a high-protein diet increases IGF-1 levels which can cause cancer.
2. Menstrual Disorders: According to some studies, high-protein diets cause hormonal changes in women leading to heavy menses, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), and bloating.
3. Hair Loss: Proteins are used by the body to make keratin, an essential nutrient for hair. Proteins also help in the formation of blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. Though proteins are vital for hair health, a high-protein diet restricts carbohydrates and calories from where other crucial nutrients for hair health are derived. This results in hair loss.
Considering the risks and benefits of a high-protein diet, we suggest that it is always advisable to consult a dietician and physician if you are into weight loss or muscle building journey to arrive at a conclusion on whether or not high-protein diets are suitable for you after assessing your overall health.
Yes, eating a high-protein diet can help you lose weight because it helps you avoid overeating. A high-protein diet can boost your body’s metabolism and reduce appetite. It also reduces the hunger hormone, and this hormone reduction is one primary reason for you to lose weight.
Few calories are used to digest and metabolize the food, which is termed the thermic effect of food. Proteins have a greater thermic effect when compared to carbohydrates and fats. Around 20 to 30% of the protein calories are burned while the body digests and metabolizes the protein.
A high protein diet is known to increase the risk of kidney damage in people who have already been diagnosed with kidney disease. But higher protein diets do not adversely affect the kidney in healthy people.
Some of the signs of eating too much protein are:
- Weight gain.
- Bad breath.
- Kidney damage.
- Heart disease.
- Loss of calcium.
The fruits that are high in protein are:
Drinking water will not reduce the protein in urine unless the protein levels are high due to dehydration. Drinking water helps to dilute the urine. Instead, it will not stop the kidneys from leaking protein.
Diet, stress, strenuous exercises, and pregnancy can result in a temporary rise of protein levels in the urine. A rise in urine protein levels due to an infection or fever mostly resolves on its own.
Some high-protein breakfast to kickstart your mornings are:
- Chickpeas and egg scramble breakfast bowl.
- Quinoa with eggs and smoked salmon.
- Eggs with avocado hollandaise.
- Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes.
- Chickpea pancake.
The foods that are high in protein but low in calories are:
- Lean meat.
- Low-fat dairy products.
- Nuts and seeds.
The vegetables that contain more protein than meat are:
- Green peas.
- Brussels sprouts.
Last reviewed at:
24 Jun 2022 - 4 min read
Query: Hi doctor, I am 29 years old. My problem dates back a few years from now. If I am working sometimes I do not get to eat anything maybe have a cup of tea while working. Then I start feeling quite dizzy. I get water and it is still there for quite a while. It goes for 10 minutes or so after eating. E... Read Full »
Query: Hello doctor, I have a very lean body build. I want to increase my muscle mass. What should I do? Shall I take any medicine or any diet suggestions? Age 23, male, weight 59kg, height - 179cm. Read Full »
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