By Dr. Jack Rutherford
News from the Mayo Clinic suggest that for most healthy people a high-protein diet generally isn’t harmful, if followed for a maximum of three to four months, and may be beneficial for weight loss.
However, using a high-protein diet for longer periods of time may pose significant health risks.
Part of the reason is that a high-protein diet is often used in combination with carbohydrate restriction, which can cause problems.
For example, insufficient carbohydrate intake can result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fiber, potentially leading to health problems such as constipation and diverticulitis as well as certain forms of cancer.
High-protein diets may promote heavy consumption of red meat and dairy products, both of which are high in saturated fat and can increase the risk of heart disease.
They may also worsen liver or kidney problems, because the body may already have difficulty eliminating the waste products of protein metabolism. Protein powders do not alleviate this problem. In fact, most protein from the powder is not used in the muscle, ending up in the urine instead.
Using a high-protein diet for weight loss purposes should be done only as a short-term aid.
When selecting protein sources, choose lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products. Include fish, skinless chicken and beans. Do not fry foods as this adds more fat.
Don’t eliminate carbohydrates from the diet. Instead, choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and low-calorie, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
Also, if you’re taking medication for a chronic health condition or already have liver or kidney disease, talk to your doctor before starting a high-protein diet.
Likewise, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your physician first.