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Where's the Beef? Where's the Health Benefit?

Protein for health and weight loss
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Dangers of Eating Too Much Protein continued...

NOTE: The Atkins diet contains about 53% of total calories from fat and 20% from saturated fat alone.

*Higher protein means lower fiber

Fiber comes to us courtesy of plant foods, and plant foods are our main source of carbohydrates. So if you eat a very high-protein diet, chances are pretty good you are eating a lower-carb, lower-fiber diet, too. In its Dietary Reference Intakes report, the Institute of Medicine noted several adverse health effects associated with eating a lower-fiber diet:

  • constipation
  • increased risk of cancer
  • increased risk of obesity
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Likewise, if you're eating a low-carb diet, you are also likely to be lacking important phytochemicals (that come from plant foods) and certain vitamins and minerals.

* Higher protein could mean low bone density

When your body breaks down the protein you eat, several types of acids are triggered. Your body neutralizes these acids with citrate and carbonate from the bone. Simply put, this means calcium loss increases as protein consumption increases. The Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes suggests, although it is still considered to be controversial, that as you double the amount of protein in your diet, the amount of calcium lost through your urine increases by 50%. This not only increases the loss of bone calcium but also increases the risk of kidney stones by as much as 250%.

More Protein Dangers

It doesn't matter whether you get your protein from animals or plants -- they have the same effect on calcium loss through urine, says Linda Massey, PhD, a researcher and calcium and protein expert with Washington State University in Spokane. But some plants, like grains and legumes (beans), have a little something going for them: They contain high amounts of potassium, and potassium helps decrease urinary calcium. Milk products can help lessen this effect, too. The high amounts of calcium in milk and milk products help compensate for the calcium that will be lost in the urine due to the digestion/absorption of the protein in milk.

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