Is too much protein bad for your kidney?

Is too much protein bad for your kidney?

By Dr Manjunath S

The past decade has witnessed a significant rise in the number of health and fitness enthusiasts in our country, with ways to stay and look fit becoming a top priority. However, the interests are mostly for vanity and often the health aspect is ignored. The need to have a perfect body shape and washboard abs have resulted in people following different types of diets and consuming supplements. These diets and supplements can be beneficial if taken under proper guidance for a stipulated amount of time.  However, in the pursuit of easy and quick results, we tend to bend the rules which can have a grave impact on our bodies in the future.  

Protein supplements: Good or Bad?

Protein as a nutrition component needs no introduction. It is one of the three essential macronutrients required for a healthy body. Protein plays a prominent role in repairing cells, protecting the body from viruses and promoting proper growth and development in children, teenagers, pregnant women, etc. Without adequate consumption of protein, there is a risk of missing out on these key functions.  

Protein is, therefore, one of the most popular supplements for gym goers and fitness freaks. There are numerous diets that focus on a high-protein low-carb food intake to ensure faster weight loss and lean body. Though these diets may prove to be fruitful in the short run, they can have harmful impact if continued for a longer duration. Numerous research studies have shown that high protein diet, if consumed for long, can result in permanent kidney damage. 

Kidney is a vital organ of the body that helps in flushing out metabolic wastes, toxins, excess minerals and water from the body. Approximately 25% of the blood pumped by the heart goes through the kidney. The kidney of an adult filters approximately 180 litres of blood in a day. Following a high-protein diet for an extended period can increase the risk of kidney damage. The primary reason for this is the excess nitrogen found in amino acids which make up protein. The kidneys are forced to work harder in order to remove the excess nitrogen and other products of protein metabolism. A study conducted in 2002 observed that excessive protein consumption also leads to abnormal BUN and more concentrated urine.  

How much do you need?

The protein requirement of a person can vary on various factors including body weight, lifestyle and physical activity. Therefore, it is advisable to keep the protein consumption within the limit to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. The recommended daily protein amount is 1gm/kg/day.  

For people who are into weight training for more than one hour a day, the requirement may vary from 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight. It is also important to understand the benefits of consuming natural protein instead of artificial supplements. Choosing the right source of protein can help lower the risk of high-protein side-effects. The healthy sources of proteins include poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and whole grains.

It is important to understand the requirements of the body prior to taking up a diet. Consulting an expert and undergoing a physical examination will help create a diet chart which will benefit in the longer run. 

(Author is nephrologist, BR Life SSNMC Hospital)