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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Is a high protein diet safe

Saturday, November 07, 2015
Is a paleo or high carbohydrate diet safer? It may surprise you learn that the current debate about protein content of diets has actually been going on for over a century. Research has found that our protein needs change as we age; but our bones and kidneys might be affected by the acid load a high protein diet creates. On the other hand, weight management is easier with more protein. What’s the best amount for you?

It’s complex, involving aging, weight management, bone health, and kidney function.  Protein is important: without enough body growth and maintenance suffers. Protein builds bodies; this is one reason people in the western world are so much taller - we eat more protein. 

With aging we’re less efficient at absorbing and applying protein, although we need more, and our kidneys have to work harder to manage the metabolic by-products of protein consumption. It’s a paradox. 

When it comes to weight management a higher protein diet could help tone down your cravings for sugary foods: a high protein meal stimulates ‘reward’! emotions in your brain, easing the drive to search for more food. 
The question of high protein diets and bone health is a tangled one: Protein helps intestines absorb calcium. But protein is an acid-forming food, and too much acid isn’t good, because in order to neutralise an acid load beyond what your kidneys and lungs can neutralise your body will leach calcium from your bones.

We don’t know yet how much acid-forming food it takes before bones are affected: For example, in the Iowa Womens Health study of 41,000 women, the women ingesting a higher protein diet experienced fewer hip fractures. Perhaps boosting your intake of alkalising foods (like greens and raw veg) could be the way to offset this effect.

If you have a kidney disease or kidney stones a high protein diet could be dangerous, because your kidneys manage the metabolic by-products of protein digestion. But if you have this medical condition then your doctor or dietician has most likely set a safe protein intake for you.

The current state of the science proposes a minimum of 0.8g protein per kilogram of your ideal body weight, and up to 1.5g/kg as safe. (That means 56-219g of protein each day for a 70kg person). Pretty easy to achieve if you’re an omnivore: a 100g steak contains about 20g protein, and an egg 6g. The upshot of it all is: Eat the amount of protein that works best for you.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'Protein supplement or real food - what's better' here

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