Is There Harm In Eating Too Much Protein?




This is yet another question that several people ask me.  Like I mentioned previously, we Americans seem to have a love affair with protein.  We eat far more than is recommended.  So, the natural series of questions typically follow — 1) How much is too much?, and 2) What happens if I eat too much protein?   Let’s tackle each question separately.

How Much Is Too Much Protein?

Well, there is no absolute answer to this.  You see, everyone’s body is different – both in size, in health status, and in nutritional need.  If you are a man who is 6’4″ who is very athletically active, your protein need will be quite different from a woman who is 5’2″ who is overweight and sedentary.  That being said, here’s the best rule to follow:  determine your optimal calorie intake (there are lots of ways to find that out), then simply do some quick math to determine what 5% of your total calorie intake is.  That, in rough terms, is your ideal protein daily consumption.

What Harm Is There If I Eat Too Much Protein?

There has been lots written about this subject in scientific journals, although the vast majority of people still have no awareness that there really is danger in eating too much protein.  The potential danger of too much protein basically falls into two categories:

Stress on the Kidneys

Depletion of Calcium

Stress on the Kidneys

Let’s address the kidneys first.  The excess protein that we consume is broken down in the liver.  This breakdown product is called BUN – or Blood Urea Nitrogen.  This is actually something that is measured in your blood when you get a typical blood test.  The urea in this product actually acts like a diuretic – which means it will make you urinate more.  This makes your kidneys work a lot harder, and you end up excreted more and more water.  It truly is not optimal to make the kidneys work this hard.  If the kidneys are really overworked, they can begin to fail.

As your kidneys excrete more and more water, the water grabs minerals along the way.  So, you end up excreting valuable minerals in the process.  One of the minerals you excrete is the important mineral Calcium.

Depletion of Calcium

As you likely may already know, calcium is very important for bone strength.  This is commonly explained in the media.  Certainly, there are a lot of supplement companies promoting their products so that you can increase your calcium in your body.  However, what is NOT explained is that it is a delicate process of input and output that must be understood.  Taking calcium into the system – in the form of food or supplements – is one of the variables.  The more important variable, however, is the excretion of calcium from the system.  If you decrease your protein intake, the excretion of calcium will also go down.  It is far better, far healthier, and far more efficient to cut down the excretion of calcium than it is to increasingly add more calcium into the system.  You see, it is like adding cups of water to a bowl that has a hole in it.  It just doesn’t make sense!  In fact, you cannot get ahead.

A long term study was conducted with people who have an ‘average’ protein intake of 75 grams a day and also consume a ‘high’ level of Calcium daily (1400 mg). Even these people would lose more calcium every day than what is actually absorbed in any given day!  This phenomenon is known as “Negative Calcium Balance”.  The high level of protein ‘leeched’ lots of calcium and excreted this valuable mineral from the body .This is definitely NOT a state that you want to be in.  Imagine how much worse it is for someone who doesn’t even consume  high levels of daily calcium – which, by the way, is the vast population of westerners ….

Bone health is very important.  Osteoporosis is far too common these days.  Keeping your calcium level high — the smart way — is a great way to prevent osteoporosis.  Understanding the Protein-Calcium connection is an important first step to ensuring you give enough calcium to your body every day.   So, I encourage each of you to reflect upon your diet and make changes so that you consume the optimal amount of protein each day.

Here’s to your improving health!

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