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What happens when you consume too much protein?

Although high-protein diets claim to help you lose weight, if one exceeds the total caloric requirement, then it is stored as energy reserves that could lead to increased fat stores

protein overconsumption, eating too much protein, how much protein should one eat, what happens when you eat too much protein, excess protein, protein side effects, indian express newsIdentify how much protein the body needs. Each Individual’s protein needs depend on many aspects. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Overconsumption of anything is bad for health, and that includes proteins as well. According to the ICMR (latest 2020 guidelines) a healthy adult would need about 0.8 to 1 gm of protein per kg of their body weight. In India, people either over consume protein just by a rough estimate, or hardly even reach 0.6 gm per kg body weight.

Dr Eileen Canday, HOD – Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, says consuming more than double the requirement of protein for a prolonged period of time can pose a risk to vital organs to metabolise the waste from the body’s system.

The doctor adds that risks associated with chronic protein overconsumption in individuals who already have a compromised organ function, include:

– Cardiovascular disease
– Blood vessel disorders
– Liver and kidney injuries
– Further damage to these organs could be fatal

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Overconsumption has also been linked to

– Increased risk of complications in people with type-2 diabetes
– A higher risk of cancer for those who over-consume processed meats
– Osteoporosis and osteopenia if consuming protein devoid of essential minerals

The doctor explains some of the dangerous side-effects that could result from protein overconsumption:

1. Weight gain

Although high-protein diets claim to help you lose weight, if one exceeds the total caloric requirement, then it is stored as energy reserves that could lead to increased fat stores. This could interfere with the weight loss regime by excess protein being retained as fat.


2. Kidney damage

Excess protein can harm patients who already have renal disease.The abundant nitrogen contained in amino acids that make up proteins is the reason behind this. Kidneys that have been damaged must work harder to eliminate excess nitrogen and waste products from protein metabolism.

3. An increased risk of cancer

Certain high-protein diets, particularly those excess in red meat-based protein, have been associated with an elevated risk of several health problems, including cancer, according to studies. Colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer are all linked to eating more red and/or processed meat. Eating protein from other sources, on the other hand, has been linked to a lower risk of cancer.

4. Heart disease

A high-protein diet that includes a lot of red meats with saturated fats and full-fat dairy foods can contribute to heart disease. This might be linked to greater saturated fat and cholesterol consumption. According to a 2010 research, women who consumed a lot of red meat and high-fat dairy had a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Poultry, fish, and nuts were shown to reduce the risk. Long-term eating of red meat can also raise trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a gut-produced molecule related to heart disease, according to a 2018 research.


5. Calcium deficiency

It was previously thought that calcium loss can occur if you consume a high-protein, meat-based diet. This has been linked to osteoporosis and poor bone health in the past. A review of data published in 2013 indicated a link between excessive protein consumption and poor bone health. However, recent findings suggest the effect of protein on bone health remains unproven. Adequate intake of protein, particularly from dairy sources is essential to support bone growth.

According to Dr Canday, if one wishes to consume high proteins, they must keep in mind the following:

* Identify how much protein the body needs. Each Individual’s protein needs depend on many aspects such as weight, age, body composition goals, stage of life cycle, medical issues.

* Choose good quality protein source from egg whites, low fat dairy products such as buttermilk, curds, paneer or cottage cheese, soya or tofu, lean meats such as fish or lean cuts of poultry, other sources such as legumes, lentils, dals, nuts and seeds.

* If you suffer from any organ disorder such as compromised liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer or medical conditions that need close monitoring of protein intake, consult a dietician so that the amount of protein can be accurately calculated.


* While avoiding overconsumption, be cautious so as to not to drop the levels to such an extent that it leads to deficiencies and loss of muscle mass.

“Healthy people need not double or triple their protein intake. Generally people who are physically active such as athletes, weight trainers (gym goers) additionally, pregnant, lactating women, people who are undergoing medical treatment for cancer or on dialysis would need higher that 1 gm per kg body weight, but this has to be prescribed by a qualified nutritionist or a dietician,” the doctor concludes.


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First published on: 30-03-2022 at 10:00 IST
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