The Dangers of a High Protein Diet

December 13, 2010   Filed under weight loss

There are a number of high protein diets that have been very popular in recent years. Many of them were built on the premise that if protein was a fat burner, then more protein would mean more fat burning. These diets suggested that you could lose weight and be healthy by eating extreme amounts of protein while severely limiting the amount of carbohydrates (even the healthy ones). Protein can be dangerous in amounts over the recommended amount and may be even more dangerous to those who have certain health conditions or diseases. Before starting any kind of diet plan, it is important to consult your doctor for suggestions and recommendations.

How Protein Works in Your Body

When you eat protein, it is broken down by the body into amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed by the body and used to make new ones, as well as hormones that are used in a number of functions in the body. The body cannot make eight of these amino acids, which are called the essential amino acids and must be delivered through foods or supplements. These eight essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and lysine. (In children, there is an additional amino acid that is needed through dietary sources because they cannot make histidine.) Animal proteins are considered to be complete because they have all eight of these amino acids. Plant proteins are not complete because they lack one or more of these amino acids. The one exception to this is soy protein, which is complete. (Source: The Vegetarian Society)

Protein is vital to every cell in the body and works not only to build muscle, but connective tissue and cell membranes as well and contributes to the bone matrix. Protein is needed in the body to maintain the fluid balance, to regulate the pH balance of the blood and to contribute to the immune function, since antibodies are proteins. (Source: Nelson 2009) Proteins are even needed to build RNA and DNA as well as neurotransmitters, the messenger service of the central nervous system.

Protein Recommendations

How much protein does the average person need? The suggestion is that around .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is the right amount, however, there are factors that affect the right amount. It is not true that body builders get huge because they eat huge amounts of protein – while they do eat slightly more protein than the weekend warrior, they do not go overboard. They develop huge muscles because they have good genes and they work hard.

A sedentary person may only need half as much protein as someone who is very active. Not getting enough protein is a problem, but the average diet has more than enough. No matter what, the safest level that is recommended by doctors and even the American Heart Association is 35% of the total daily calories.

There are a few times when you need additional protein, including when you are sick, or recovering from trauma, burns, surgery or bed sores. There are also a few conditions that might benefit from additional protein, such as those who are HIV positive. Pregnant women should also increase their protein, with the recommendation of 60 grams or more per day.

The only person that can fully know how much protein is right for you is your medical professional. Diabetes and other diseases are serious and the nutrition that you get every day should be a top concern, so it is important that you follow all recommendations for you best health.

Too Much Protein

There are a number of reasons that a high protein diet can be a problem, especially for the serious athlete. Too much protein can hurt performance by:

– Lowering the amount of stored glycogen in the muscles and the liver

– Lowering endurance

– Lowering the maximum effort that you can give

– Lowering the serum glucose levels enough to put you at risk for hypoglycemia

It also can hurt the overall health by:

– Increasing the risk of some cancers

– Increasing the rate of calcium exertion in the urine which increases the risk of osteoporosis

– Decreases the absorption and effectiveness of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.

– May cause more tooth decay and gum disease by changing the makeup of saliva, which allows more bad bacteria to thrive

– May negatively impact the pancreas and spleen as well as the liver

And it may be a problem in these specific conditions:

– Chronic fatigue syndrome. People with CFS may find protein to be hard to digest and may have problems with increased gut permeability.

– Psoriasis. People with this skin condition may find that their symptoms may improve after following a lower protein diet or eliminating animal proteins from their diet.

– Diabetics should follow the recommendations of their doctors or dieticians

– Anyone with kidney disease should be careful with protein intake because it may increase the risk for kidney stones, especially the most common kind, the calcium oxalate stone.

A Better Protein Diet Plan

If the goal is to lose weight, experts suggest that a slight increase in protein coupled with a slight decrease in fat grams might be a better and much healthier suggestion. The protein is more satisfying, allowing you to reduce overall calories without feeling like you are starving (the reason that most diets fail in the first place.) The calorie intake should be 50% complex carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat for the day. (Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Another option is a hybrid version of the old Atkins diet and the Mediterranean meal plans. Instead of suggestions of eating burgers without buns, slabs of bacon and dozens of eggs, this plan suggests fish as the main protein source at least every other day. It also suggests better, leaner animal protein sources than the old diet plans, including turkey or chicken breasts. The plan does drop carbohydrates down to around 30% of the overall calories, with most of them coming from healthy vegetables. Fat is not omitted from the plan, with olive oil being the best choice. (Source: Cochran, RD 2010)


If you are trying to lose weight, the idea of skipping a meal or two might seem like a good idea. The only thing that you will be successful in reducing will be your metabolism if you do this often enough. If you are on the road or always on the go, it might be a better idea to opt for the preemptive snack or meal replacement that will keep you from learning the fast food drive-thru worker’s names. Having a protein rich snack can keep you satisfied for much longer and can help keep you on track with your weight loss plans. There are a number of protein supplement options, which include:

– Protein powders (whey, soy, egg and rice)

– Shakes

– Liquid protein shots

– Snacks (puddings and bars)

Make sure that the protein supplement that you choose has high quality ingredients and protein without added sugars or fat. Profect, a liquid protein shot from Protica, is less than three fluid ounces but delivers a full 25 grams of protein per serving. At only 100 calories, it is a perfect snack for between meals or for after a workout and comes in a number of flavors.

Protica Research (Protica, Inc.) specializes in the development of Capsulized Foods. Protica manufactures Profect, IsoMetric, Pediagro, Fruitasia and over 100 other brands, including Medicare-approved, whey protein bullets for bariatric surgery patients. You can learn more at Protica Research – Copyright


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