High protein diets are one of the most popular and most followed diets for weight loss all around the world. Bodybuilders and nutritionists recommend a high protein diet for muscle building and in increased athletic activity. But dieters often get confused and relate this with low carb-high protein diets which is the basis of most of the fad diets like Atkins diet and South Beach diet.
While adequate protein intake is required for muscle building, muscle strength and toning, increased protein intake coupled with restricted intake of other nutrients (carbohydrates & fats) can be harmful for the body. Diets with up to 30% protein are considered reasonable by experts, whereas diets with over 50% protein and restricted nutrients are high protein diets.
Are High Protein Diets Safe?
High protein diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Protein is important for the body but so are carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Eliminating whole grains, fruits and vegetables can increase your risk of Vitamin B and Vitamin E deficiency. Also restricting required daily intake of fat can lead to poor skin, hair and absorption disorders.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy to the body. If restricted, body is forced to derive energy from fat and protein. This in turn leads to production of harmful bi-product named ketone bodies. When excessive levels of ketones get accumulated in the system, it can lead to multiple organ failure and can be fatal. Even if restricted diet is followed for a short term and the level of ketones does not reach dangerous levels, it can be damaging to body organs particularly kidneys.
High protein diets require your body to process more calcium. Protein diets low on dairy products can be harmful for bones. Research shows that women who eat high protein diets based on meat have a higher rate of bone density loss than those who don't. Women who eat meat lose an average of 35% of their bone density by age 65, while women who don't eat meat lose an average of 18%. In the long run, bone density loss leads to osteoporosis.
Not all protein is created equal. Some high protein diets promote foods such as red meat and full fat dairy products, which can lead to increased cholesterol levels and may increase your risk of heart disease.
One should always aim for a healthy and gradual weight loss. As it is a very personal and individual process, a health expert can help you design a diet that works best with your lifestyle, includes food that you enjoy and has the right combination of nutrients required by your body. Choose smart carbs such as whole grains, seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as chicken breast, eggs, low fat milk and milk products, fish etc. and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, healthy oils to achieve your ideal weight the right way.