How to counteract too much protein?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much protein?”. We will further elaborate on the symptoms and causes of too much protein. 

How to counteract too much protein? 

Protein is an important nutrient for controlling cellular processes, building tissues, and supporting blood in transporting oxygen throughout the body. It helps in muscle growth, prevents hunger, and supports weight loss, so adding enough of this macronutrient to your diet may seem like a good move. 

However, high protein diets (defined as an intake above the current recommended dietary allowance) are promoted intensively by the nutritional supplements industry and they are considered to be “the gold standard” by many athletes (especially bodybuilders) for muscle development and/or body fat loss (1). 

But regardless of many health benefits, ingesting too much protein can have some severe effects on your weight and health.

If your blood or urine tests have reported high levels of protein, the best thing you can do is to consult your doctor. Do not try to cure elevated protein levels at home without asking your physician in the first place. 

Once you find out the underlying reason for the raised protein levels, you can join up to find the best cure that works for you.

As there are multiple different reasons for increased protein (in both blood and urine), the most promising method to counteract the protein levels and to remove the surplus is by curing the underlying problem. To make sure you have determined the actual reason, you require to consult your physician.

For instance, if you have increased protein in your urine due to high blood pressure, you have to make efforts to bring the blood pressure back to normal, healthy levels. In most circumstances, if you work on that, protein levels get back to their normal ranges on their own.

On the contrary, if increased protein levels are because of dehydration, you might be able to wash out surplus protein (or dilute the levels) by consuming plenty of water and assuring that you are obtaining sufficient electrolytes. Increased albumin levels in plasma indicates dehydration, while increased alpha globulins indicates pregnancy and Increased alpha globulins can indicate adrenal insufficiency or advanced diabetes mellitus. If the protein levels in the blood are altered, it is necessary to look for a physician (4).

This acts as an antidote to dehydration and, also, helps protein levels get back to their typical ranges.`

If protein levels are increased due to emotional instability, you might be able to counteract them by routinely taking part in stress lowering approaches, which may be yoga or meditation, and by communicating to a psychotherapist who can support you to work on your sentiments so you can manage them competently.

Another obvious thing you would do is to avoid consuming rich sources of protein for now such as grass-fed lean meats and pasture-raised poultry, wild fish, eggs from pastured hens, grass-fed and organic dairy, legumes, nuts, whole grains (1). 

It must be noted that some of the problems that result in increased protein levels (either in the blood or urine) are serious and potentially lethal if not treated appropriately and under medical care.

Symptoms of too much protein

High protein consumption has been found, under various conditions, to lead to glomerular hyperfiltration and hyperemia; acceleration of chronic kidney disease; increased proteinuria; diuresis, natriuresis, and kaliuresis with associated blood pressure changes; increased risk for nephrolithiasis; and various metabolic alterations (2).

Symptoms of too much protein include (6): 

  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal pain and indigestion
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Unexplained fatigue

In case of chronic overconsumption (5):

  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Seizures
  • Liver and kidney problems 
  • Blood vessel illnesses
  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Death

Risks of too much protein 

Weight gain

Extra protein in the body is typically stored as fat, while the extra amino acids are eliminated. This can cause gradual weight gain, particularly if you take too many calories while attempting to boost your protein consumption.

Bad breath 

Consuming too much protein can result in bad breath, particularly if you limit your carbohydrate consumption.

This can be partly because your body undergoes ketosis, which produces substances that release an unpleasant fruity odor.

Diarrhea

Consuming excessive dairy or processed food, with too little fiber, can lead to diarrhea. This mostly occurs if you are lactose-intolerant or eat fried meat, fish and poultry. Consume healthy proteins rather.

To prevent diarrhea, drink lots of water, avoid caffeinated drinks, restrict fried foods and too much fat consumption, and improve your fiber consumption.

Increased cancer risk

Some diets rich in protein are related to an elevated risk of numerous health problems, which also include cancer. Up to 80%of breast, bowel, and prostate cancers are attributed to dietary practices, and international comparisons show positive associations with high meat diets. For instance, more red or processed meat is linked to prostate, breast and colorectal cancer (3).

Heart disease

Consuming too much red meat and full-fat dairy products in a protein-rich diet may result in heart disease. This could be linked to more increased consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol.

A study made on mice based on a high protein diet of a period of 2 months was able to recapitulated the predicted satiating effects and weight loss benefits of high protein diets noting reduced food intake, resistance to diet-induced obesity, reduction in whole body fat content, and concomitant improvement in glucose disposal as gauged by glucose tolerance tests. However, despite the salutary metabolic effects, high-protein fed mice developed increased atherosclerotic plaques at the level of the aortic root. These results indicate that high protein diets increase heart disease risks (2).

Calcium loss

Diets that are rich in protein and meat may lead to a loss of calcium. This is often linked to osteoporosis and inadequate bone health. Possibly because of the associated acid load, high protein diets in healthy humans have been linked with reductions in bone density, increased bone resorption, and fractures. Additionally, there is some concern that high protein diets may increase the propensity to form kidney stones, a common and important cause of morbidity that can lead to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure (1).

What is the normal range?

The current recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 g protein/kg body weight/day for adults (for children 1.5 g protein/kg body weight/day, and for  adolescents 1.0 g protein/kg body weight/day). That means, Tthe normal intake of protein one should have in a day is 56 g for men per day and 46 g for women in a day. However, these ranges are not very certain (2).

You can consume 46 g of protein in a day by consuming one serving of low-fat greek yogurt, a four-ounce serving of slim chicken breast and a bowl of cereal with skimmed milk.

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much protein?”. We have further elaborated on the symptoms and causes of too much protein. 

References 

  1. Delimaris, Ioannis. Adverse effects associated with protein intake above the recommended dietary allowance for adults. Int Scholar Res Not, 2013.
  2. Zhang, Xiangyu, et al. High-protein diets increase cardiovascular risk by activating macrophage mTOR to suppress mitophagy. Nature metabo, 2020, 2, 110-125.
  3. Friedman, Allon N. High-protein diets: potential effects on the kidney in renal health and disease. Am J kidney dis, 2004, 44, 950-962.
  4. O’Connell, Theodore, Timothy J. Horita, and Barsam Kasravi. Understanding and interpreting the serum protein electrophoresis. Am fam phys, 2005, 71, 105-112.
  5. Pedersen, Agnes N., Jens Kondrup, and Elisabet Børsheim. Health effects of protein intake in healthy adults: a systematic literature review. Food nutr res, 2013, 57, 21245.
  6. Gautam, Bhanu Pratap Singh, Manjul Gondwal, and Navneet Kishore. Adverse effect in human beings associated with excess dietary protein intake. Biomedical Applications of Natural Proteins. Springer, New Delhi, 2015. 115-128.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.