Can High Protein Diets Damage Your Kidneys?
In this era of social media dominance, especially of Instagram, people are increasingly prone to diet and fitness advertisements. Personal instructors and top models provide tips on how to lose weight and stay fit; sometimes selling magical packages of workout along with diets that can change your body shape in just a few weeks, in their opinion.
Rapid weight-loss diets, which are increasingly popular among the youth today, are usually based on a high-protein intake and a very limited amount of carbohydrates. For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful, particularly when followed for a short time. Such diets may help with weight loss by making you feel fuller.
Although there is evidence that high-protein diets may help with short-term weight loss, you may gain weight when you end your diet, as fast as you lost it.
When you ingest protein, your body produces protein waste. Healthy kidneys have millions of nephrons that can sift this waste and discharge it from your body through urine. If your kidneys are not healthy, this ability reduces, and protein waste builds up in your blood. The excess of protein waste can cause nausea, weakness, anorexia and taste changes.
On the other hand, obesity and its consequent diseases (hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) are increasing substantially. Although these are seemingly two contradicting aspects of our era, they both may lead to serious concerns and trigger the risk of developing kidney disease.
A study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition found that people who reported eating more red and processed meats were more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. Kidney diseases are often silent killers and have no symptoms at early stages.
You may be suffering from a form of kidney disease without being aware of it, quickening the onset of your illness by undertaking an unbalanced diet. Indeed, persons with high risk of kidney disease or those with only one kidney should avoid high protein diet, and patients with more severe kidney disease should maintain a low protein diet.
Eating too much protein can affect people who already have kidney disease because of the excess nitrogen found in the amino acids that make up proteins. The kidneys have to work harder to get rid of the extra nitrogen and waste products of protein metabolism.
If you want to follow a high-protein diet, it is essential to choose the protein wisely. Some of the good supplements include soy protein, beans, nuts, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products.
It is best and advisable to consult a dietician in case you need to lose weight. Even though you might be losing weight slower, the results are likely to be lasting and in the long run give you more satisfaction on all levels. However, if you still wish to opt for a high-protein diet, ensure that your kidney functions are normal. This can be done by measuring your blood creatinine (to estimate how much blood is being purified by the kidneys) and by a urine sample (to check whether there is protein in the urine).
Keep in mind that having a balanced diet and practicing regular physical exercise is vital for a healthy, stable and permanent weight-loss. Trends and advertisements may allure you, but at the end of the day we all have different bodies and different needs, hence a personalized diet plan prescribed by a dietician is what is highly recommended if you wish to lose weight.
Dr D Divakar, MBBS, MD, General Medicine, Fellowship in Nephrology is a Consultant, Nephrologist, Fortis Malar hospital, Chennai