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
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 --