Too much protein can be harmful: Signs you are eating way more than required

Yes, protein is an essential nutrient to keep overall health in check but too much of it can be harmful. Here's how too much protein affects your health.

too much protein
Too much protein can be harmful. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Tarun Sahni Published on: 25 January 2023, 08:59 am IST
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Protein is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles in the body, including building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting the immune system. Adequate intake of protein is important for maintaining muscle mass and strength, as well as for promoting overall health and well-being.

When protein intake is excessive, the body may have difficulty processing and eliminating the excess nitrogen produced during protein metabolism. This can lead to a buildup of waste products in the bloodstream, which can put a strain on the kidneys and liver. Additionally, a high-protein diet can also increase the risk of certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, kidney stones, and certain types of cancer. It is important to balance the intake of protein with other important nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

too much protein
Why too much protein is harmful? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How much protein is too much?

Depending on variables like age, sex, and level of physical activity, different daily protein intake is advised. However, a general guideline is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This translates to about 56 grams per day for the average adult man and 46 grams per day for the average adult woman. However, athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people may require more.

Consuming more than the recommended daily intake of protein is considered excessive. The upper limit for protein intake is set at 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Consuming more than this amount can put a strain on the kidneys and liver, and increase the risk of certain health conditions such as osteoporosis and kidney stones.

What happens when you have too much protein?

When you consume more protein than your body needs, the excess protein is broken down and eliminated by the liver and kidneys. However, this process can put a strain on these organs, particularly if you consume excessive amounts of protein over a prolonged period of time.

Excess protein can also lead to the production of waste products such as urea, which can cause the blood to become more acidic. This can lead to several health problems, including:

  • Osteoporosis: High protein intake can increase the loss of calcium from the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Kidney Stones: High protein intake can increase the risk of developing kidney stones, as it may lead to an increase in the excretion of certain substances in the urine, such as oxalate, which can form stones.
  • Cancer: High protein intake, particularly from animal sources, has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer such as colon cancer.
  • Dehydration: High protein intake can increase the amount of water that needs to be excreted by the kidneys, which can lead to dehydration.
too much protein
Consuming too much protein can cause dehydration. Image courtesy: Freepik

Signs that show up if you eat too much protein

Eating too much protein can cause a number of signs and symptoms, some of which include:

1. Weight gain

Consuming excess protein can lead to weight gain, especially if the protein is coming from high-fat sources such as red meat.

2. Dehydration

High protein intake can lead to dehydration. So, the next time you feel dehydrated, it could be because you are eating too much protein.

Also Read: Common signs of dehydration that you need to watch out for

3. Kidney problems

Consuming too much protein can put a strain on the kidneys, which can lead to kidney damage or kidney stones.

4. Bad breath

High protein diets can produce a strong odour in the breath. It is caused by the breakdown of amino acids in the body.

bad breath and protein
Bad breath could be a sign of having too much protein! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Constipation

Eating a diet high in protein and low in fiber can cause constipation.
Fatigue: Consuming too much protein can cause fatigue as the body may have difficulty processing and eliminating the excess nitrogen produced during protein metabolism.

Also Read: Suffering from gastric problems? Follow these tips that can help you poop

6. Stomach discomfort

Consuming too much protein can cause stomach discomfort, bloating, and gas.

7. Gout

High-protein diets may increase the risk of gout, a type of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.

Keep in mind that some of these symptoms can be caused by other factors. So, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying health issues.

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About the Author
Dr Tarun Sahni Dr Tarun Sahni

Dr Tarun Sahni is a General Physician/Internal Medicine Specialist with over 25 years of experience and has the following qualifications -MBBS, MD, DMM (Diploma In Marine Medicine, Mumbai).He is an alumnus of Armed Forces Medical College following which he served in the Indian Navy for over a decade and took voluntary release to pursue his aspirations. He then worked in the UK and UAE prior to coming back to India to establish India’s first private hyperbaric treatment center at the Apollo Hospital, Delhi in the year 2000 - which he currently heads. Dr Sahni is known as the “father of modern hyperbaric medicine in India” and has over 25 publications and chapters in books. For this contribution to education and research in the field of Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, he has been conferred the title of “Adjunct Professor" by the Apollo Hospital and Educational Research Foundation. He also has a mention in Limca Book of Records in 2000.

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