New Research Says 2 Much Protein Can Hurt Your Heart

Eating too much of high protein might not be good for your heart, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh.

 Too much of high protein might make your arteries narrow and hard, a condition called atherosclerosis. The study found that having more than 22% of your daily calories from protein could increase your risk of heart disease. This discovery goes against the common idea that eating lots of protein is good for your overall health.

High Protein
High Protein Diet Picture Courtesy - timesofindia/ indiatimes

For most healthy people, short-term consumption of high protein foods usually does no harm. Eating this type of food does not make you feel hungry, this method is quite effective in reducing your weight. But if you consume high-protein foods for a long time, you may develop health problems. But if consume high protein food for a long time, you may develop health problems.

Recent findings from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine indicate that having over 22% of your daily calories from protein might lead to atherosclerosis, which raises the risk of heart disease. This is particularly linked to the amino acid leucine found in animal proteins.

The researchers did tests on both people and mice to reach this conclusion. They found that when people had meals with lots of protein, it activated certain cells in their bodies that could lead to heart problems. The study also discovered that leucine, which is a specific type of amino acid found in foods like beef, eggs, and milk, might contribute to atherosclerosis. Furthermore, plant-based proteins usually contain much less leucine compared to animal proteins. This suggests that leucine could be one of the main reasons why eating too much protein is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

According to Lead researcher who is a professor of cardiology at University of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance of these findings, said, “Our study reveals that increasing your protein intake to improve metabolic health may not be a cure-all. It could actually harm your arteries.”

Even though protein is necessary for good health, the key is moderation. Too much of high protein consumption might harm your heart, especially if you’re already at risk for heart problems. So, it’s essential to balance your meals with a variety of foods.

Regular consumption of high protein foods results in limited carbohydrate intake, lack of nutrients, or fiber. This food habit can cause long-term problems like bad breath, headaches and constipation.

Certain high-protein diets consists of red meats, processed meats, and other foods high in saturated fat. These food can elevate your risk of heart disease by increasing your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly known as “bad” cholesterol.

This study holds significance because many individuals in the United States consume high amounts of protein, primarily from animal products. However, the key finding isn’t just reducing protein intake.  The scientists recommend incorporating more plant-based proteins such as beans and nuts into your diet, as it could be beneficial for your heart.

In addition, some experts warn that eating a high protein diet may pose other health risks, such as not getting enough nutrients into the body or increasing the risk of kidney problems. This can happen because the body may not be able to get rid of all the waste products of protein that’s broken down.

In that case, it’s important to avoid processed meats and fatty foods, choose lean meats, fish, and available plant-based options and choose wisely to meet your protein needs as described below:  

  • Soy protein
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Lean chicken with no skin
  • Low-fat dairy products

The initial study, published in 2020, indicated that high protein diets elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the study from 2023 did not show any significant statistical difference in cardiovascular outcomes between standard and high protein diets.

“I wouldn’t change my approach,” Dr. Stephen Tang said that Nevertheless, it provides more evidence that high protein may not be the best option. Cardiologists typically prioritize managing cholesterol and high blood pressure over protein intake. This research reinforces the benefits of a plant-based diet for heart health.

Get advice about your protein intake

“How much protein should we take each day? And when does it become too much? According to Caroline Thomason, a dietitian based in Washington, D.C., the study’s results are intriguing, but they might not accurately reflect real-life situations of excessive protein consumption. While many Western societies tend to over eat high protein and neglect nutrient-rich plant-based foods, protein is inherently satisfying and challenging to overindulge in when part of a balanced diet,” Thomason explained.

Anne Danahy, a dietitian nutritionist, said that excessive intake of any nutrient could lead to imbalances and health issues. Anne Danahy emphasized the importance of a balanced diet, containing appropriate proportions of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Danahy suggested consulting a dietitian to determine individual protein needs, but generally recommended 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal for healthy adults, divided evenly throughout the day.

Danahy warned against surpassing this recommended protein intake, as it may not aid in muscle synthesis and could lead to consuming too many calories, potentially harming health. Instead, Danahy suggested including more plant-based protein sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables in the diet, rather than depending on supplements. These plant-based proteins are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that can reduce the risk of heart disease, unlike animal-based proteins which may contain saturated fats and other compounds that can increase inflammation and the risk of heart disease.

Although this research is never conclusive, it only provides us with important information. Much more research is needed. If you have any questions about protein intake, be sure to talk to a doctor or dietitian. Protein is necessary, high protein consumption could negatively affect your heart. The key is maintaining a balanced diet with diverse food options, including plant-based proteins, to support heart health. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to note that this article represents just a perspective, and protein remains crucial for overall well-being.

Disclaimer : If uncertain about your protein intake, seeking advice from a doctor or registered dietitian is recommended for personalized guidance. This article is solely for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or suggest medical advice. Seek medical advice regarding your protein requirements and any other specific health advice.