February 27 is observed as National Protein Day and awareness about regulation of protein intake is important since the capacity for protein intake differs from person to person while the worst case scenario for overconsumption could be fatal. Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet as it helps to build and repair muscle, organs and bones but overconsumption of protein can severely damage the cardiovascular system, the liver or the kidney.
While high-protein diets have been shown to be helpful with reducing fat, losing weight, increasing satiety or a feeling of fullness and retaining muscle, high-protein diets have also been associated with several risks that are important to be aware of and understand. Nutritional experts don’t advocate consumption to exceed the recommended daily amount.
Accrding to Anam Golandaz, Certified Diabetes Educator and a Clinical Dietician at the Masina Hospital, “Protein is an essential micronutrient needed by the human body for daily growth and maintenance but there is evidence that Too much of protein intake could be useless or even harmful for healthy individuals. High protein intake with low fluid intake will be A major risk factor for kidney stones in young adults.”
How much protein intake does your body requires?
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Eileen Canday, HOD – Nutrition and Dietetics at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, shares, “Many people are unaware of the quantity of protein their body requires. This leads to consumption of random amounts of proteins daily without assessing the requirements. As per the ICMR (latest 2020 guidelines) an healthy adult would need about 0.8 to 1 gm per kg of their body weight. In India, some people either over consume protein just by a rough estimate while some hardly even reach 0.6 gms per kg body weight in their consumption.”
Given healthy people need not double or triple their protein intake, Dr Eileen Canday highlights those who need more than 1 gms per kg body weight of proteins. She revealed, “Generally people who are physically very active such as athletes, weight trainers (gymgoers), pregnant, lactating women, people who are undergoing medical treatment for cancer or on dialysis would need higher than 1 gms per kg body weight but this has to be prescribed by a qualified nutritionist or a dietician and not by someone who has been self-experimenting or is a self-claimed nutritionist who themselves have managed to lose weight by consuming extra proteins.”
She added, “In case where people consume more than 1 gms per kgs body weight without a scientific and medical evaluation for any underlining disease, such as people having kidney or liver issues are the people who could be at a risk of exerting an extra pressure on organs to process the by-products of protein metabolism. Similarly people who consume high protein diet by eating meats that is also high in saturated fats are the ones at risk of heart diseases. People who are having high protein diets by consuming excessive processed meats rich is nitrosamines are at a risk of cancer. It would be better that they get an evaluation done form a medical professional and a qualified dietician before starting any extreme diet programmes.”
A lot of people wanting to lose weight go on a very high protein diet more than double their actual requirements. Dr Eileen Canday says that these people would be at a risk of high uric acid or they could be constipated due to low fibre intake in the diet or dehydrated. “The best practise for consuming proteins in the diet is choosing good quality protein source form 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 can be combined with cereals to increase the biological value of the protein,” she advised.
However she stressed that ‘more the better’ does not hold true for proteins. According to her, it’s important to eat adequate just as much as one’s body requires for growth and maintenance. She said, “Protein preserves muscle mass and eating it in adequate amounts is beneficial for weigh management diabetes control and amino acid requirement of muscle development. Each individual’s protein needs depend on many aspect such as weight, age, body composition goals, stage of life cycle, medical issues etc.”
Echoing the same, Dr Manjusha Agarwal, Senior Consultant-Internal Medicine at Global Hospital in Mumbai’s Parel, explained, “Protein requirement of an individual depends upon body weight, body composition, physical activity, illness or injury. Recommended dietary allowance of protein is 0.8g/kg/day for sedentary individuals.20 to 30% calories of your food intake should be proteins, athletes, marathon runners, body builders will require higher protein consumption up to 1.5 to 2 gm/kg/day depending on age and type of activity performed. Nowadays high protein diets are generally self-prescribed following advice of friends, google, books usually in attempt to lose weight and curb your appetite and build muscle mass.”
She alerted that while high protein diets are high in purines, increase uric acid levels and cause or precipitate gout, leading to severe joint pains, in diabetic patients an unwarranted high protein diet can speed the progression of diabetic kidney disease. She said, “High protein diets limit intake of fruits, vegetables, non fat dairy products, whole grains which depletes the body of vitamins, minerals, fibers and phytochemicals, deficiency of which can trigger the onset of hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat which can lead to weight gain overtime if too many calories are consumed. Constipation frequently occurs on a high protein diet that is low in fibre.”
She concluded, “It’s important to be well hydrated on a high protein diet. It’s important to talk to your nutritionist if you decide to follow a high protein diet. A balanced diet wholesome in all essential carbohydrates, fats, fiber and protein is essential in maintaining a healthy body.”