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Health Risks Associated with a High Protein Diet

written by: Rose Kivi • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/15/2008

High protein diets are popular with body builders and dieters. People on high protein diets may be eating too much protein. What are the health risks associated with a diet that consists of too much protein?

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    High Protein Low Carb Diet

    High protein diets are advertised as a method to lose weight and build muscle mass. Although these diets induce rapid weight loss, there are associated health complications to consider.

    Dieters on a high protein diet generally severely limit or eliminate carbohydrate intake and eat high amounts of protein. When carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet, the body reacts by burning fat instead of carbohydrates for an energy source, thus the rapid weight loss.

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    Ketosis

    High protein low carb diets put the body into ketosis. Ketosis is when ketones are formed and released into the bloodstream in the process of the fat being used as a fuel source. Appetite is reduced when the body is in ketosis, which is seen by dieters as an added benefit of the high protein diet. Ketosis is not a healthy state for the body to be in.

    Ketosis causes increased levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. Increased levels of uric acid can cause joint inflammation, kidney damage and heart disease.

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    Too Much Protein in the Diet and Health Complications

    The body may have trouble processing excessive amounts of protein, causing stress on the liver and kidneys.

    High protein diets can increase the risk of some types of cancer. Cancer risk is increased due to the lack of essential vitamins and antioxidants in the diet.

    Too much protein in the diet increases the risk of osteoporosis. High amounts of protein can cause the body to excrete calcium in the urine.

    High protein diets that rely on large amounts of animal protein can increase the risk of heart disease, due to higher cholesterol intake.

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    A Balanced Diet

    The healthiest diet is a balanced diet. A diet rich in whole grains, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean sources of protein is ideal. The optimum diet for a healthy adult should consist of fifteen percent protein.

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