Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

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

Protein for health and weight loss

Dangers of Eating Too Much Protein continued...

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.

What happens to bone when people eat very high-protein diets for a long time? This hasn't been studied, but it's likely to be associated with increased bone loss. But the answer isn't a very low-protein diet since the recommended amount of protein is needed to keep bones strong as well.

* Higher meat protein could mean higher colon cancer risk

Reviews of the literature on colon cancer suggest that though a high-protein diet, per se, doesn't l increase your colon cancer risk, a diet high in meat may be the ticket that does increase the risk. Following along these lines, a recent Japanese study concluded that as dietary animal protein and fats and oils increase, incidence of colorectal cancer increases as well, but colorectal cancer incidence decreases as dietary plant protein increases (along with amounts of carbohydrates and cereals).

* Don't regular exercisers need more?

The answer is "probably not." The Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes report recently released concluded: "In view of the lack of compelling evidence to the contrary, no additional dietary protein is suggested for healthy adults undertaking resistance or enduring exercise."

But What About All That Weight Loss?

Is it the protein or the calorie cuts that lead to weight loss? The high-protein diet programs and gurus will most certainly tell you it's the protein. But two recent studies say it's the restriction of calories rather than the protein that is the most important determinant of weight loss. In an Australian study, 36 obese adults, mostly women, were assigned to a 12-week energy-restricted diet that was either moderately high in protein (27% calories from protein) or lower in protein (16% calories from protein). The weight loss was similar in both diets. Researchers at Stanford University analyzed all research published on low-carb or ketogenic diets over the past 37 years. They concluded that the successful weight loss from low-carb diets was "principally associated with decreased caloric intake and increased diet duration but NOT with reduced carbohydrate content."

One of the most popular features of the low-carb, high-protein diet is the quick weight loss. Don't be fooled here. You cannot physiologically lose more than 2 pounds of body fat a week. So what are all the pounds that people lose in the first few days of starting the diet? Water. To make up for the lack of dietary carbohydrates, the body uses its own carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscle tissue (called glycogen), which in the process also mobilizes water. Many of the early and rapid pounds lost are due to -- that's right -- excessive urination!

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections