We’ve all met someone who looks fabulous after shedding pounds on a high-protein, low carb diet. The science behind it works for many folks who stick to the regimen to reach their goals, however, some medical research suggests an over-consumption of protein may be problematic.
With high protein foods available in snacks packs, enriched cereals and countless other items, it’s evident marketers have succeeded with making protein a positive marketing tool. However, protein used as a marketing tool is about marketing, not health.
Getting protein is, of course, an important part of a balanced diet. Our bodies simply wouldn’t be able to build and repair its cells without the stuff.
According to the Dietary Reference Intake, the average adult needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight a day, which comes out to roughly 56 grams of protein a day for men and 46 for women.
That means if you weigh 160 pounds, you should eat no more than 60 grams of protein daily. To put that in perspective, one cup of chicken breast has 43 grams of protein or about two thirds of your recommended amount of protein. If you eat meat of any kind (poultry, beef or pork) at lunch and dinner, chances are, you may be eating too much protein. People who exercise frequently and at a high intensity require about a gram per pound of body weight. Bodybuilders and athletes may require even more.
Two interesting studies published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that low protein intake may hold the key to a long and healthy life, at least until old age. They also emphasize the need to examine not only calories when deciding what constitutes a healthy diet, but also where those calories come from – such as whether protein is animal or plant-based.
Another key finding indicated long term high protein consumption may reduce lifespan by linking it to increased risk of cancer, diabetes and death in middle-aged adults, although this was not the case for older adults who may benefit from moderate protein consumption. Also, the harmful effect is much reduced when the protein comes from plant sources. The second study concluded that diets low in protein and high in carbohydrates are linked to the longest lifespans.
A few warning signs of too much protein in your diet include weight gain, kidney problems or constant dehydration.
Bottom line — medical experts suggest the ideal diet for a long and healthy life is one with moderate amounts of high-quality protein, low in fat, and high in complex carbohydrates. Plus, remember to consult with your doctor before following a new diet or exercise regimen to be sure it’s safe for you.
To check on your doctor’s license, please visit the Medical Board of California’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov.