December 8, 2014

Is the Protein Bandwagon for You?

I have blogged about carbohydrates (and that is natural for those of us with type 2 diabetes) because we need to reduce the number of carbohydrates we consume. I have also blogged about fat because we now know that fat is not bad for us like many doctors want us to believe that follow the teaching of Ancel Keys who has been proven wrong. Many are having better test result for cholesterol when eating more fat.

Now we are hearing about the third macronutrient, protein. Yes, most grocery stores have more foods advertised as being high protein. Although protein has, until recently, kept a low profile compared to fat and carbohydrates, it’s always been a major player in the body. Present in every cell, proteins act as building blocks for all types of tissue. Foods naturally high in protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds, also tend to be high in other important nutrients.

Some writers want to label high protein a fad, and others are saying protein is needed for the building blocks in our body. While the latter is true, high quantities of protein can have adverse effects on our body, especially for those that have renal weakness. When a writer says there are a lot of perceived health benefits to consuming more protein, remember that the meaning of perceived means - to recognize, discern, envision, or understand.

Three-quarters of U.S. consumers agree that protein contributes to a healthy diet, and more than half say they want to eat more of it. The study found that nearly half of the primary grocery shoppers in a household have bought protein-enriched foods. Americans are looking for protein to aid in satiety, weight management, boost muscle recovery, and build muscle after a workout

The U.S. is by far the world’s biggest market for high-protein products. Introductions of foods and drinks making a high-protein claim in 2012 were almost triple that of any other country. And yet, according to the most recent available data, Americans aren’t exactly pigging out on protein.

They really don’t have to, according to the government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, to be updated late next year. The guidelines, issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, give plenty of leeway when it comes to protein, recommending that adults over age 18 get 10% to 35% of their daily calories from the nutrient. Nobody’s anywhere near the 35%, says Trish Britten, PhD, a USDA nutritionist. As a population, we are at 15.5%. And the top 5% of protein-eaters get only 19.6% of their calories from the nutrient, Britten says.

The USDA recently began calculating Americans’ usual intake of protein, so information about trends over time isn’t yet available. But if saturated fat consumption is any indication, change occurs very slowly. The USDA has been tracking saturated fat as a percent of calories forever. So despite the growing popularity of protein-added products, it’s doubtful that Americans are eating much more than they were before it was all the rage.

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard says, “The current American diet contains too much refined carbohydrates. I think it’s a good idea to replace at least some of the refined carbs and added sugars with healthy sources of proteins, such as nuts, legumes, no-fat dairy products. In other words, trading a nutty chocolate bar for a handful of nuts might not be a bad idea.”

Dr. Hu continues, “If you’re engaged in a high level of physical activity, particularly resistance training, you probably need more protein than the average individual, perhaps as much as 20% to 25% of your calories.” Dr. Hu concludes by saying, “We don’t know how high is too high, although, given the USDA data, few Americans are anywhere near the upper limit of the government’s Dietary Guidelines. If you want to increase your protein, cut back on less-nutritious foods such as simple carbs.”

Yoni Freedhoff, MD, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, made this statement, "Unless you have pre-existing kidney problems I have no concerns about people eating large amounts of protein.”

The last statement is the concern you should have before jumping on the protein bandwagon. If necessary, have a talk with your doctor and find out if there are problems or if he needs to do some tests. Let the doctor know that you are interested in increasing the amount of protein in your diet. This will let the doctor know that he needs to make sure that you will not have problems with increased protein.

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