Can High Protein Diets Hurt Your Health?


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Can High Protein Diets Hurt Your Health?

We all have been there – eating eggs and lean meats to build muscles and get a leaner physique. But what a majority of us don’t know is that too much protein is bad for health. Our body requires its nutrients in moderation and any nutrient more than the required quantity could disrupt the natural body functions.

The logic behind high protein diets for fitness is simple. Muscles are made of protein and each muscle burns at least 7 calories. By consuming more proteins, you increase the muscle mass in your body for acquiring leaner physique. This increased muscle mass, in turn, helps burn more fats and achieve the fitness results faster. Apparently, this strategy seems to be an ideal one for optimal fitness.

But, do you know that by consuming too much protein, you might be putting your health at risk? Do you know that high protein might be increasing your chances of kidney cancer? The answers to many questions related to high protein diet and health are given below.

Breakdown of Protein as a Macronutrient

Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are the three primary macronutrients required in our body. Macronutrients can be broken down and re-assembled in the body. However, most of the proteins do not store in our body like fats. These are processed in the kidneys, liver and digestive system, and excreted from the body. Low protein can make our body plunder, but high protein can interfere with the basic functions of the body.

According to the Recommended Daily Allowance, you need 0.36 grams protein for every pound in your body. As the weight of a person increases, protein requirement also increases. It is important to remember that Recommended Daily Allowance ranges were created to provide a general idea of how much nutrition you require. If you are trying to reduce muscle mass in your body, decreasing the amount of protein from your diet will not kill you, but proper guidance is necessary to avoid any medical complications.

This simply means that 225 grams of prime ribeye steak has 40–48 grams protein. Therefore, when you eat this quantity of steak, make sure to balance out the protein requirement in other meals. You can eat 1 egg (6.7 grams protein) or half a cup fat-free yogurt (8 grams protein). However, if you weigh 150 pounds, you cannot eat egg, yogurt, and steak in the above mentioned quantities on the same day.

A high protein diet does not necessarily mean low carbohydrate diet. Sometimes, people consume more than the required protein while maintaining the requirement of other nutrients. Generally, protein coming from under 15% of your diet is suitable. Protein comes from fruits, dairy, eggs, cheeses, and meats.

Health Issues Related to High Protein Diet

High protein diets have been associated with kidney disease, liver disease, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Kidney Disease

According to a research study by Friedman AN, high protein diet may accelerate chronic kidney disease. Since chronic kidney disease is a silent disease, the patients experiencing its symptoms must undergo urinary dipstick test and serum creatinine measurement for proteinuria before treatment.

Does high protein trigger kidney disease? No! The relationship between kidney disease and high protein diet is similar to a broken arm and writing. If you write with a broken arm, your arm would hurt. But, writing does not break your arm. Similarly, the scientific evidence of a high protein diet affecting healthy kidneys is not available. However, a patient of kidney disease is recommended to reduce the protein intake. Why? It is because excess protein is processed in our kidneys and excreted through it.

Healthy kidneys effectively process the protein, but if you have unhealthy kidneys, one kidney, or a kidney disease, consuming excess protein will only increase the workload on your kidneys and harm their health, just like writing would hurt a broken arm.

Liver Disease

Liver not only processes and cleanses the excess protein, but it also removes the unwanted fats. When it comes to liver, the source of protein greatly matters. Most of the animal proteins are rich in fats. If your primary source of protein is animal meat, the chances of fatty liver are quite high. The liver is also affected by aflatoxin, an inactive carcinogen found in the nuts and seeds. The P450 enzyme system that bioactivate aflatoxins, is itself activated in the presence of high protein.

Unhealthy liver conditions, such as jaundice, could be aggravated with high protein diet, specifically when the source of protein is lean meat. According to a research study, protein is tougher macronutrient to digest. Therefore, excess protein is excreted from the body when the body is supplied with an alternate, easy to digest nutrient, such as fructose sugar. However, the source of sugar should be fruits and vegetables. Also, you need to drink a lot of water for absorption and excretion of excess protein and to prevent fatty liver.


Around one-third of the bone mass is made up of proteins. Calcium and protein replace the ruptured cells in the bones with new cells. Since more than a century, protein has been associated with causing osteoporosis. The theory says that protein (amino acid) is acidic in nature and it leaches calcium from the bones. The truth is that inappropriate balance between protein, calcium and other minerals could cause osteoporosis. Let’s explain. The nutrients are first adsorbed in the blood and then in other parts of the body. The protein count in the blood increases due to the consumptions of high-protein diet. As the protein ratio in blood increases, the calcium from bones releases into the blood to balance the protein to calcium ratio. During this neutralization process, the calcium from bones is lost and the bones become weak.

If the practice of high protein and low calcium diet continues, the calcium keeps releasing from the body and causes bone diseases. The studies suggest that high protein does not affect bone health as long as sufficient calcium is taken to balance the protein.

According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the alkalizing fruits and vegetables can also assist neutralization process in the blood and help protect the bones.


Extra protein in your diet after middle age increases the risk of cancer by at least 4%, Forbes reported. According to the study, meat lovers should not only be worried about cancer, but they should also consider the fact that their risk of dying of diabetes or any other disease increases by 74%.

People who consume less than 10% protein in their diet are likely at three times lower risk than people who consume more than 10% protein in their diet. Yet, the question that how much protein is too much remains there. The researchers have claimed that if protein sources make up only 10% of the total diet, only then the diet is suitable for maintaining health and preventing diseases. The risk of dying of a disease decreases by 21% if one switches to 10–19% moderate protein diet.

According to another theory, too much protein might not trigger cancer, but it can help cancer cells to grow. The study claims that the risk of dying with high protein diet is equal to the risk of drying due to smoking.

On the other hand, the researchers are insisting to keep an eye on your source of protein. For instance, if a person consumes protein from red meat in moderate quantity, the risks of prostate cancer, liver and kidney diseases, and digestive disorders are high. However, protein sourced from fish helps clear the gut, improve digestion, kidney and liver functions, and reduces the chances of prostate and breast cancers, as it is not only rich in minerals but also has low density cholesterol.

Are you planning to switch to high protein diet? Do you need assistance evaluating your current health condition? We can help. Get in touch to know more.


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