High protein diets: dangerous or beneficial for health?

High protein diets have been linked to a number of health benefits. For example, high protein diets increase feelings of fullness, reduce hunger, and increase resting energy expenditure, which may promote weight loss.

Studies show that high protein diets promote weight loss and improve body composition in many populations. In one high-quality study, 54 overweight or obese women exercised and followed either a high-protein or low-calorie, high-carb diet for 14 weeks. Women who followed the high-protein diet lost significantly more weight and body fat than those who followed the low-calorie, high-fuel diet. High protein diets may also help improve body composition by increasing muscle mass. Studies have shown this in different populations, including trained athletes and older adults.

In addition to improving body composition and possibly promoting fat loss, high protein diets may improve blood sugar control, reduce blood fat levels and increase bone density in older adults.

Are high protein diets dangerous?

There have been some concerns about the safety of high-protein diets, including their effects on kidney, heart and bone health. However, most of these concerns are not supported by scientific research.

Is excess protein dangerous?

kidney health

A common misconception about high protein diets is that they are harmful to kidney health. Research has shown that although high protein diets increase the workload of the kidneys, they do not have a negative effect on people with healthy kidney function.
In fact, one study looked at protein intake and kidney function in 48 trained men and women. Consuming a diet containing 3.4 grams per kg for 8 weeks, along with resistance training, did not result in any negative health effects for participants.

It did not change any blood parameters, including markers of kidney function such as glomerular filtration rate (GFR), blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine. Although high protein diets may be safe for people with normal kidney function, people with reduced kidney function should avoid them. A high-protein diet may accelerate the decline of kidney function in this population. The kidneys filter and remove waste products from the body’s protein metabolism. In people with reduced kidney function, a high-protein diet can lead to kidney damage and the buildup of toxic substances.

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Research has shown that people with kidney disease benefit from low-protein diets because they slow the rate at which kidney function declines.

heart disease

Some people worry that a high-protein diet increases the risk of heart disease. However, research shows that high-protein diets are generally not harmful to heart health. For example, a study in 12,066 adults found no association between animal or plant protein intake and increased risk of heart disease. Another 2020 study of 38 overweight adults found that a high-protein diet did not harm heart health or blood vessel function after a 34-month intervention, compared to a diet. moderate protein.

Some research also suggests that high-protein diets may help lower blood pressure levels, decrease belly fat, and increase HDL (good cholesterol), which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Additionally, a 2020 study found no association between higher total protein intake and risk of death from heart disease. However, the study found that a higher intake of plant protein may have a protective effect against death from heart disease, while a higher intake of animal protein may be associated with an increased risk.

Researchers have also claimed that excessive protein intake can accelerate atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Scientists need to conduct more well-designed studies to examine the effects of different dietary protein sources and different macronutrient ratios on heart health.


Studies have shown that total protein intake is not significantly related to the risk of breast, esophageal, colon, ovarian or prostate cancer. A 2020 review found no association between higher total protein intake and the risk of death from cancer.

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In fact, a 2016 study found that higher protein intake was associated with better survival rates in women with breast cancer.
However, research shows that specific protein sources may increase cancer risk. For example, processed meat products are associated with an increased risk of colorectal, breast and stomach cancer.

Bone health

Older studies have raised concerns that high protein diets may lead to low bone mineral density. However, more recent studies have shown that high-protein diets may benefit bone health. A 2019 review of 13 studies found that protein intake higher than the current RDA was significantly associated with reduced risk of hip fracture and increased bone mineral density. Additionally, a 2017 analysis of 36 studies found that high protein intake had no negative effect on bone health. It also revealed that a high protein intake may have beneficial effects on bone mineral density in the lumbar spine, compared to a lower protein intake. Protein is essential for bone health, along with other nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D. In fact, more than a third of bone mass is made up of protein.

This is why organizations like the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) recommend higher protein intakes of 1-1.2 grams per kg per day.

Should I follow a high protein diet?

Protein is essential for health, and high protein diets have been linked to certain health benefits. However, this does not mean that following a very high protein diet is the right choice for you. Keep in mind that the overall quality and nutrient density of your diet is what matters most when it comes to promoting health and preventing disease. The exact macronutrient composition of your diet is less important.
As mentioned above, your protein needs depend on many factors, including your body weight, age, body composition goals, overall health, and activity level.

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Most physically active people benefit from following a diet that provides them with 1.2 to 2 grams per kg of protein per day. However, other people may need more. These include athletes, people with physically demanding jobs, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with certain health conditions. If you’d like to learn more about high protein diets or aren’t sure how much protein you should be consuming per day, talk to your doctor. They can help you develop a plan that best meets your needs.

In summary, high protein diets have been linked to a number of health benefits. They are popular for promoting weight loss, building muscle mass, and more.


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