IS THERE SUCH A THING AS TOO MUCH PROTEIN?

Americans actually eat much more protein than they need! The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for protein is only 44 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. But most Americans on a typical high-meat-and-milk-product diet exceed these levels by several fold. Young males rarely consume less than three times the RDA for protein. We have a fascination for protein that approaches the ridiculous. Even hair sprays and shampoos are sold on the basis of their protein content.

Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence indicates that consuming too much protein is not only foolish; it can be harmful. As you consume more than the RDA of protein, you also begin to excrete calcium in your urine. In the United States, where dietary protein is so high, scientists believe we need 800 milligrams per day to compensate for the calcium loss caused by excess protein. Physicians in America often prescribe even more than the RDA of calcium for postmenopausal women to prevent osteoporosis. But in other countries, 300-400 milligrams of calcium per day is considered to be plenty.

In Third World countries, mothers nurse their young for 20 months or more without any apparent ill effect on their bones, despite what Americans would call a low-calcium diet. Why should U.S. women have calcium loss on 1000 milligrams per day while black African women have almost none despite only 300 milligrams per day and lengthy breast feeding?

The answer seems to be that a high-protein diet with its very high calcium-to-phosphorus ratios fosters calcium loss. High-protein diets and high-protein drinks can be bad for you. Excess protein can be considered toxic - there are bad side effects. Besides losing calcium in your urine, consuming excess protein stresses the liver and kidney. These organs must work harder to get rid of nitrogen, ammonia, and urea - breakdown products of protein which your body must excrete.

If you are consuming a correct number of calories each day (at least 1700 for men and 1200 for women) but are getting excess protein, try eating more calories from complex carbohydrates and fewer from protein.

In conclusion, protein malnutrition in the United States is almost impossible because:

1. We get plenty of calories (if we choose to).
2. Plant proteins are better than we thought.
3. Most people eat two or more proteins at each meal.
4. Most people vary their proteins from day to day.
5. All essential amino acids do not have to be included at each meal.

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