Why Too Much Protein is Bad for You
Mar 16, 2016 04:19 AM EDT | By Mark Jason Alcala
With the popularity of high protein diets these days, one might think that there simply is no limit to the goodness of protein. Alas, everything in excess is bad and this applies to protein as well.
Uses of Protein in the Body
Of course, protein is very important to one's daily diet. According to an article by Neil Osterweil writing for WebMD, protein is important for every cell in the body. In fact, nails and hair mostly made of protein and the nutrient is also needed in the repair and building of tissues, as well as in the production of enzymes and hormones. Bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood require protein.
Although protein is a macronutrient which means that the body needs it in larger amounts, the body has no storage mechanism for protein, unlike fats and carbs. For this reason, it is needed to be consumed daily to ensure the proper functioning of the whole body.
Dangers of Protein Over-consumption
Yet it does not mean that one can't overeat this important nutrient. WebMD lists these possible problems associated with consuming a high-protein diet:
- High Cholesterol - This is because some sources of protein contain saturated fat which could lead to higher LDL levels and further leading to a higher heart disease risk.
- Kidney Problems - For people with existing kidney problems, too much protein in their diet could put too much strain on their kidneys and worsen the condition.
- Osteoporosis and kidney stones - A high protein diet makes one urinate more often with the corresponding calcium depletion through urine. Some experts link this to osteoporosis and kidney stones.
In addition, Dr. Mercola points out some of the reasons why he thinks it is wise to limit one's protein intake.
- Weight gain - While it is true that replacing most calories obtained from carbs to protein will initial lead to weight loss, it is also possible that eating protein more than what is needed by the body, could trigger weight gain as well. Excess calories, even from eating protein, will simply be converted to sugar and then stored as fat if unused.
- Yeast Overgrowth - According to Mercola, increased blood sugar levels, even if caused by excessive protein consumption, will feed the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast and even fuel cancer cell growth.
- Cancer Risk - Dr. Mercola also warns that excessive protein intake stimulates the biochemical pathway named the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This pathway plays a major role in the development of many cancers but if one limits protein intake to what is required by the body, this mTOR remains inactivated, reducing cancer risk.
Benefit of Matching Protein Intake to the Body's Requirement
Apparently, there is another reason why one should try to achieve a protein intake on par with the body's requirement. According to Mercola, recent studies suggest a link between longevity and reduced protein intake, particularly reduced intake of methionine, an amino acid abundant in meats.
However, Mercola suggests that it could be a balancing act of sorts between amino acids. Apparently, there is another type of amino acid called glycine that could lower the levels of methionine.
This seems a bit complicated that one can't help but ask how one may take advantage of this new-found knowledge. Mercola's answer is intermittent fasting which can help normalize amino acid levels. And bone broth could be resorted to as well since it is high in glycine.
How much protein does one really need?
According to Dr. Mercola's article, there is a very simple way to calculate one's daily protein requirement based on body weight. Dr. Mercola suggests that for every pound of lean body mass, one-half pound of protein per day is necessary. This would mean that for most people, their daily protein requirement would fall between 40 and 70 grams.
This agrees with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended daily intake for adults which are 45 grams a day for women and 56 grams a day for men according to Dr. Mercola.
To be accurate, one must first find out his or her lean body mass. Using this guide, 100 percent (total weight) less body fat percentage is the lean body mass percentage. For example, if one has 20 percent body fat then in follows that 100 less 20 equals 80 percent lean mass. For a 160 pound person, 80 percent of that is 128 pounds (160 x 0.8). Finally, applying the "one-half gram of protein per pound of lean mass" rule, one gets 64 grams protein requirement per day.
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