Nutrition

Is Too Much Protein Harmful To Your Health?

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Protein is vital for proper growth and development. It plays a critical role in tissue repair and is involved in multiple important biochemical body functions.

No wonder so many people switch to high protein diets or take protein-packed supplements.

The problem is, people don’t know whether or not they need protein. Only a medical expert could say that you’re deficient in protein and need to take supplements.

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In other cases, too much protein can ruin your health. Here’s how high protein consumption can be harmful:

1.Calcium deficiency

According to a scientific review, protein promotes a raise of the body’s acid load, making the body neutralize the acid by flushing calcium out of the bones.

While no study has proved that high protein intake can worsen bone health and result in osteoporosis, there’s still a risk you should take into consideration.

It doesn’t mean you should eliminate protein from your body or limit its consumption, though. Moderate intake of protein found in whole foods might help in treating bone loss.

2.Cardiovascular diseases

Unless you’re on a vegan or vegetarian-friendly high protein diet, you might face some serious cardiovascular diseases if you take too much protein.

Most high protein diets include full-fat dairy foods as well as red meat, and thus, they increase bad cholesterol levels in your body.

A research revealed that consuming a lot of high fat dairy and red meat contributes to the development of coronary heart disease in females. At the same time, eating nuts high in protein like walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and almonds, can help to reduce the likelihood of heart disease.

A study published in the European Heart Journal, stated that regular red meat intake can stimulate the production of a gut-generated chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is linked to cardiovascular diseases. Lowering red meat consumption or switching to plant-based diet helps to ward heart disease.

3.Kidney damage

Researchers and medical experts suppose that too much protein – especially if it comes from chemical-packed supplements – might trigger kidney damage.

A scientific review published in Advances in Nutrition found that long-term excess protein intake might trigger clinical and metabolic issues, including renal dysfunction and loss of bone mass.

Moreover, eating too much protein might be dangerous to people diagnosed with kidney dysfunction. There’s also evidence that healthy individuals might also have problems with kidney if they include too much protein into their diets.

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It might occur due to the excess nitrogen in the amino acids that bond together and form proteins. When your kidneys are damaged, they must work extra hard to eliminate the metabolic waste products and excess nitrogen.

The healthy kidneys also have to work hard to remove the metabolites of protein out from the body. When you consume too much protein, it automatically increases the workload of your kidneys and makes them work harder.

Eating too much protein or taking the higher doses of protein supplements may be detrimental for those diagnosed with kidney disease.

Even though it might not apply to healthy people, high protein intake can increase strain on the kidneys.

4.Constipation or diarrhea

When you’re deficient in fiber and have the high levels of protein in your system, you have a risk of dealing with constipation.

If you eat protein rich foods like poultry, fish, and fried meat or you eat dairy products while being lactose-intolerant, diarrhea might happen. Eating plant-based protein doesn’t cause diarrhea or constipation, though, as plant-based sources of protein include fiber in their content too.

Diets that are high in protein but restrict carbs are generally not rich in fiber. This causes problems with bowel movements and result in constipation.

Again, it doesn’t apply to plant-based protein. If you’re taking any protein supplements, it’s critical to drink a lot of water and eat more fruit and veggies.

5.Cancer

A couple of studies found that many protein rich diets, which are especially rich in red meat, might cause a variety of health problems, including cancer.

Diets high in red meat or/and processed meat might increase the likelihood of developing prostate, breast, or colorectal cancer. Scientists believe that it’s because meat contains fats, carcinogenic compounds, and hormones. Plant-based protein isn’t linked to any types of cancer, though.

6.Dehydration

When your kidneys work hard to get rid of the metabolites of protein in the body, it also flushes out water or other fluids from the system, too.

Not all protein-rich foods cause dehydration, though. If you eat processed meat or take protein supplements, you’re more likely to experiment dehydration. Plant-based protein doesn’t trigger dehydration.

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7.Bad breath

This fact hasn’t scientifically been approved, but you might experience bad breath if you eat too much protein.

It’s suggested that bad breath might happen when the body goes into ketosis, which is a metabolic state that stimulates the production of chemicals that result in unpleasant breath. Drinking more water can handle it.

More research is needed to prove this fact, though.

8.Weight gain

While protein is best known for aiding in weight loss, it can also contribute to weight gain if you increase your protein consumption.

A group of researchers have found that high dietary protein consumption can cause weight gain and overall increase the risk of death.

When you replace carbs with protein, get ready to deal with extra pounds. That’s because extra protein is stored as fat.

How Much Is Too Much?

It’s not easy to determine that you’re eating more protein than recommended.

The recommended daily intake of protein depends on many factors, including gender, age, health, lifestyle, diet, etc.

If your daily physical activity is minimal and your meal plan consists of many whole foods, the recommended protein intake is 0.8 gram per kilogram of your weight.

If your daily physical activity is increased – whether you train hard or work physically – you should be consuming about 2 grams per kilogram of your weight.

Unless you’re one of elite athletes, avoid eating more than 3.5 grams per kilogram of your weight.

While high protein consumption is considered to be relatively safe and healthy, sticking to a diet loaded with more protein than other nutrients might be dangerous. Humans tend to get most of their calories from carbs or fat, not protein.

Medical experts claim that it’s extremely difficult to get too much protein from whole foods. Even if you consume too much protein that comes from healthy food, you’re less likely to experience any side effects.

If you consume protein supplements and powders, be careful. Protein powder, in particular, may damage your kidneys and even cause kidney failure.

What Are the Symptoms of Protein Poisoning?

When your body receives a lot of protein and little to no fat and carbs, you might experience protein poisoning.

While you might be getting enough calories by consuming protein only, your body still requires carbs and fat. Otherwise, malnourishment can happen.

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People who take protein powder or supplements and stick to high protein meal plans have an increased risk of experiencing protein poisoning.

In rare cases, protein poisoning leads to death, so it’s important to ensure that your diet is rich in all nutrients – especially if you’re on a high protein diet.

Remember, your body needs vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs, and protein to function well. If there’s too much or too little of any of them, you might experience different health issues.

Even if you’re receiving enough calories from a single macronutrient, it’s still vital to eat all macronutrients for optimal health.

The first signs of protein poisoning are reduced heart rate, diarrhea, intense food cravings, constant feelings of hunger, low blood pressure, fatigue, weakness, mood swings, headache, and/or nausea, among the others.

What Are the Natural Sources of Protein?

Protein poisoning never happens if you’re getting protein from natural sources.

Legumes and beans like chickpeas and lentils are overflowing with protein and they make a healthier alternative to protein powder. When it comes to dairy products, look for cheese and yogurt. Other protein-rich foods are nuts, seeds, eggs, soy products like tofu, and fish, poultry, and lean meat.

You can read more on 16 Protein Foods You Need To Eat

Try to stay away from high-fat dairy products and meat. The processed protein sources, such as processed and lunch meats or salted nuts and seeds, aren’t healthy choices, either. Canned beans can be a good option only if you buy a low sodium version.

To conclude, it’s vital that you consume a healthy, well-balanced diet, not just a high-protein one. Whether you’re trying to build muscles or lose weight, make sure you don’t overdo with protein powder and supplements – especially if you have kidney-related problems.

Moreover, check out your calcium intake as protein might trigger calcium loss.

In case you’re planning to start a protein-rich meal plan, consider talking to your doctor or nutritional expert in order to ensure this kind of diet won’t damage your health.

On the other hand, moderate consumption of protein have also been proven to be effective for losing weight, diminishing fat, retaining muscle, and improving satiety.

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