Protein diet: why is it harmful?

A protein diet consists of increasing the protein in the diet in an unbalanced way . In this way, the contribution of other nutrients such as carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, fruits and vegetables) is decreased . “It is an unbalanced diet and very low in energy,” says Maria Gil , a graduate in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Lleida. Therefore, “protein diets are not recommended for anyone.”

What objectives does it have?

” The main objective of this diet is usually a rapid weight loss . This weight loss is caused by the reduction of muscle and liver glycogen. Glycogen is stored with water and, when used as an energy source, it disappears from muscle and liver, along with water, “explains María Rosario Pastor Martín, director of the Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the Isabel I University from Castilla, and Juan Francisco Mielgo Ayuso, nutritionist and doctor from the University of the Basque Country.

They can also be used, erroneously, to achieve an increase in muscle mass. “Although a slight increase in protein consumption is necessary, it is not necessary that it be excessive, since the carbohydrates themselves increase the muscular volume in their storage next to the water”, indicate Pastor and Mielgo.

What health problems are there?

An excessive and sustained consumption of protein over time could cause problems related to cholesterol , kidney diseases (kidney stones) or even osteoporosis .

Gil emphasizes that the protein diet has no benefit and agrees that it can lead to serious health problems. To the aforementioned pathologies, add the following drawbacks:

  • Metabolic acidosis.
  • Lack of energy, tiredness and fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Constipation.
  • Decreased basal metabolism: which favors the rebound effect and, therefore, ends up gaining weight more easily.

Does it have any benefits?

Pastor and Mielgo point out that the greatest benefit is rapid weight loss. In addition, “it is capable of satisfying more than a diet rich in carbohydrates, which favors adherence to the protein diet.”

However, Gil insists that all this is at the cost of health.

What foods are eaten in greater quantity?

Gil explains that “the foods that provide the most protein are meat, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy”. In this type of diet, what is especially increased is the consumption of meat, fish and eggs.

What famous protein diets are there?

Pastor and Mielgo give the following examples of protein diets and advise against their use:

  • Atkins diet.
  • Dukan diet.
  • Paleolithic Diet.


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