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Here's What You Need to Know About Overdosing on Protein

Can protein kill you?

High protein diets are favored by many because when people are working hard to lose weight and build up their strength. High protein foods like meats, beans, and nuts having varying levels of nutritious benefits including iron, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, essential amino acids, and iron. Protein-rich foods can also be high in fat and varying amounts of cholesterol.

Proteins, and the vitamins and minerals found in protein rich foods, are needed for energy, maintenance and production of body tissues and blood cells, nervous system function, bone building and immune system function. Protein is also slow to digest so eating protein with meals will help you feel fuller for longer and more able to control your hunger. When you add protein to your meals you maintain positive protein balance for about three hours after ingestion. If you want to eat a high protein diet, exercise will help you build muscle and utilize the protein from your diet. Protein is associated with helping to preserve lean body mass during weight loss and help to build lean muscle mass with strength training.

However, too much protein can be a challenge for your body. High protein diets may be restrictive in other essential foods, which can take the place of vitamins and minerals and fiber that your body needs. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for protein is a minimum of 0.8 g/kg body weight, or about 0.4 g/lb, but many high-protein diets aim for 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg. When determining how much protein you need, be sure to calculate it off your body weight, not the percentage of the calories that you aim to consume in a day.

However, there are some challenges with high protein diets. If you have renal disease or diabetes, too much protein might be harmful. A heavy focus on meat for most of your protein is also associated with higher LDL levels, triglycerides, trans-fats and saturated fats, which are not associated with good health. High intake of red meat is linked to increased risk of some types of cancer and animal based protein production is very costly to the environment.

Some people have actually died from consuming too much protein. These people had urea cycle disorders which result in a deficiency of essential enzymes needed during protein breakdown to help remove ammonia from the blood stream. Elevated levels of ammonia in the blood are highly toxic and if ammonia gets to the brain, it can cause irreversible damage or even death. Some people have mild forms of the urea cycle disorders and if identified it can be treated. However, if the disease is undiagnosed and high levels of protein are consumed, it can lead to coma or death. Urea cycle disorders are considered inborn errors of metabolism, and are typically diagnosed during infancy, although mild forms might not be diagnosed.

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