In the last post we talked about whether or not our bodies are designed to eat meat. Clearly after reading the post, you hopefully came to the conclusion that we do have the ability to eat meat, but our bodies are designed to do so only in small amounts or in survival situations. The reason that post was important, is because we equate the word "protein" with "meat," and we as Americans eat way to much meat, and in turn eat a diet that is too high in protein - a form of protein that is hard for the body to break down, digest, and use. This is significant because your body's health depends mostly on what you are putting into your mouth at each meal, and to much protein, especially from meat sources, can have devastating consequences on your health. This post is all about the dangerous health consequences from eating excessive protein. I hope to also dispel some of the myths you've been told about protein and the role it plays in the body.
Let me first start out by saying that protein is good, we need it, and we can't live without it. Protein is essential for our growth and development. It is necessary for manufacturing hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and tissues. Without protein, we would be reduced to a giant puddle of disconnected bones and fluids!
This may sound confusing at first, but there are two types of protein: physiological protein and dietary protein. Physiological protein is produced by the body's own cells using amino acids and ATP (energy) and is good and natural to the body. Dietary protein, the type you would get from a hamburger, is foreign to the body. Dietary protein will replenish your amino acid supply but if you eat more than your body actually needs, your health will suffer. The protein of the hamburger itself cannot be absorbed - your body has to break down the meat into amino acids before it can even be used. Its the amino acids of the dietary protein that the cells can then use to create its protein...the protein used for the functions listed above.
Although protein is essential to the body, you know from reading my earlier post on protein that its hard for us to break down meat because of our dull teeth, enzymes, stomach acid, and long digestive tract - so the amount of "meat" we do eat and the source of dietary protein we turn to for supplying our protein (or should I say amino acid) demands can play a leading role in destroying our health. In fact, Dr. M. Ted Morter Jr. believes that protein is primary culprit in the health issues of American today. "Too much protein - that time-honored foundation of nutrition - puts such radical physiological stress on the body that the healing process is sabotaged. This, in turn sets us up for developing the chronic diseases that plague our population." When Dr. Morter referred to "excess protein," he was talking about the amount of protein consumed over the amount you actually need. This excess comes from your daily diet of beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, grains, dairy products, nuts, breads, pizza and pasta.
Below, is the recommended daily allowance for protein consumption:
|Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein|
|Grams of protein |
needed each day
|Children ages 1 – 3||13|
|Children ages 4 – 8||19|
|Children ages 9 – 13||34|
|Girls ages 14 – 18||46|
|Boys ages 14 – 18||52|
|Women ages 19 – 70+||46|
|Men ages 19 – 70+||56|
Now, let's assume we are all over the age of 19 and you have either 46 or 56 grams of protein to work with on a daily basis. Note that ALL foods grown in nature contain protein.
- Let's look at the typical American breakfast: two eggs and two pieces of toast will yield you 20 grams of protein. Add a cup of milk and you get another 8 grams.
- Lunch: One hamburger contains about 23 grams of protein. Add cheese and you get another 7 grams of protein. Add 20 fries and you get another 4 grams of protein. Add the bun and you get another 3 grams of protein.
- Supper: Let's have a 6 ounce steak and you get 46 grams of protein. Add another glass of milk for 8 grams. Add a potato with butter, cheese, or sour cream and you are up at least another 2-7 grams.
This very simple list adds up to about 122 grams of protein a day! Note that most people drink a whole glass of milk (which is 2-3 servings) several times a day, have bacon, ham, or sausage with breakfast, cook with butter, eat ice cream for dessert, and eat far greater portions than those listed above (think double cheeseburger, 1/2 pound steak, large fries, half a pizza, etc.). Now 122 grams is way over the recommended amount for people in our age bracket, now how do you think this amount affects children?
Now, get ready to stomach the reality that your body only needs 10% of its daily calories from protein...regardless of the source! Your body really only needs 20 grams of protein to function at its best! This amount may change slightly for people who work out excessively or are pregnant but usually no greater than 13-17%.
The body's main source of energy is carbohydrates (including fruits and veggies), which should make up 60% of your daily diet. Good fats come in at 30%, which leaves protein at 10%. If you are getting 122 grams of protein a day, are you adhering to your body's biological requirements for good health?
Let's find out how all of this excess protein sabotages our health:
- Cells need protein to function but if cells get to much protein, they become toxic. Toxic cells create toxicity in the body.
- To much protein disrupts the osmotic balance of cells (water inside the cell versus outside) and causes fluid retention and edema.
- Your body has a pH system - an acid/alkaline balance that must be obtained. Dietary protein is very acidic and disrupts the pH balance of the body, which is slightly alkaline. This acid ash has to be neutralized by the body's own mineral supply. This wouldn't be such a big deal if people ate only small amounts of protein along with fresh fruits and vegetables, but most of the modern American protein laden meals consist of: eggs, bacon, toast with butter and milk, or a burger with fries, or steak and potatoes. These acidic meals day after day overload the body and can set you up for all sorts of chronic diseases.
- Dietary protein is a negative energy food in that it does not "give you energy" but takes away your energy. In other words, it takes away more essential substances (vitamins, minerals, water, etc.) from your body than it provides. If you eat to much protein, you will experience a deficit of energy and essential nutrients. (Note, this is not the same as negative calorie foods like celery. Meat gives you the calories without the nutrients.)
- Protein doesn't increase energy, although you may initially feel like it does (similar to drinking a cup of coffee)- it actually stimulates "nervous energy" or hyper stimulation. Key examples include: fidgety foot-bouncers, finger-tappers, channel changers, tapping silverware or playing with food at the table, impatience, restlessness, and inability to listen and concentrate.
- Protein is second only to drugs as a major stimulant. Coffee, tea, and soda are nothing compared to the stimulating power of a steak. The downhill side of this "energy" exhausts the adrenal glands and leaves one reaching for other stimulating foods.
- Excessive protein interferes with a good night's sleep and is a leading cause of insomnia and sleep disorders.
- Your body does its rebuilding and repairing while you sleep. If its stimulated by protein (which can take 8 or more hours to digest) your body never gets into its replenishment mode. You'll wake up feeling un-rested in the morning and the abuse will eventually set up the perfect environment for a chronic disease.
- Because protein lowers your resistance (because of lack of sleep, leaching of vitamins and minerals, and its acidic effects on the body) people who consume excess protein are more prone to getting colds, flue, and sicknesses.
- Dietary protein takes a lot of energy to be metabolized which is why it is advocated for weight loss. It can rev up your metabolism by 30% compared to the 4% of carbohydrates. This sounds good right? Unfortunately, most people don't understand that GLUCOSE from complex carbohydrates is the body's main source of energy and the only source of energy for the brain. When one consumes to much protein, ketosis can result. The body will try to convert fat to energy which produces ketones, and if there is no fat available, it will start breaking down muscles and tissues to use for energy. This in turn can produce an even slower metabolism as your body tries to conserve its nutrients and will send you into an acidosis state. Then you will notice that you suddenly have trouble "losing the weight" and if you even look at a piece of cake, you'll gain 10 pounds. (You know what I'm talking about riiight?)
- To much dietary protein is a leading cause of gallstone formation and gall bladder attacks.
- To much dietary protein is a leading cause of high cholesterol, heart disease, hardened arteries, kidney stones, irritable bowel disease, constipation, and arthritis.
- It also causes excess nitrogen to build up in the body which produces uric acid that must be eliminated via ammonia in the urine. The uric acid that is not eliminated leads to various conditions including gout.
- Excess protein depletes your calcium and sodium levels and is a leading cause of osteoporosis.
- Do you have dark circles under your eyes? This is a sign of kidney stress often due to protein consumption, soda consumption, and lack of minerals in the body.
- If you consume to much protein before working out, acid is generated in the body. Then you head to the gym and strenuously exercise, which creates even more acid. If there is nothing in the body to neutralize the acid and bring its levels back to normal quick enough, death could result (and often does). *Protein should be eaten after a work-out, never before. To be safe, anyone involved in sports or those who exercise regularly (including marathon runners) should make sure to add lots of vegetables to their diet and consume these at the same meal as the protein.
- Without adequate amounts of "organic sodium" (think celery, nuts, sea vegetables...not table salt), excess protein can be deadly. The body uses sodium as its first line of defense against to much protein. Calcium is second on the list.
- Excessive protein consumption is a leading cause of hair loss, especially in men.
- Excessive protein causes dehydration and overburdens the kidneys.
- A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin and published in the Journal of Nutrition compared calcium levels to protein consumption. "Subjects given 1,400 mg of calcium suffered an average calcium loss of 84 mg when fed 142 grams of protein." In other words, calcium was taken to breakdown and neutralize protein, Or... more calcium was lost than consumed." When subjects were given only 47g of protein they actually retained an extra 10 mg of calcium." In other words, the body didn't need to use its own minerals to breakdown the protein and actually gained some calcium with the lowered intake.
The report also showed that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by 50% while adding protein did not improve the calcium loss. *This study suggests that subjecting the body to high amounts of protein will leave it unable to function naturally, regardless of how much fruits and veggies one consumes. The key is to reduce protein consumption!
Note: As you saw above, the average American consumes at least 122 grams of protein a day. Add a couple of sodas and some sugar and you have depleted your calcium levels even more!
In my next "protein" post, I will talk more about amino acids, sources of protein, and which sources may be better than others. For now, I hope that this post gave you a guide to evaluating your own diet and whether you are consuming to much protein, and the role excess protein could be playing with your own health issues.