Fitness

Although the Atkins and keto diets are high in protein, it might not be worth the risk to your health.

High-protein diets can be satiating and help with weight loss. New research shows that high-protein diets can cause more harm than good when used improperly.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland discovered that heart disease risk in men who eat high amounts of protein was 33% higher than those who ate a low-protein diet.

This is because diets high in protein like Atkins and keto are becoming more popular.

An in-depth look at protein

Researchers gathered data from almost 2,500 men aged between 42 and 60 in the period 1984 to 1989. The researchers asked participants to keep track of their food intake for four days. They then followed them for over 22 years. There were 334 cases during that period of heart failure.

The researchers looked more closely at diet and discovered that a higher intake of protein was associated with a greater risk for heart failure.

Researchers also looked at the sources of protein intake. The researchers found that men who consumed the most protein from animals had a 43 percent higher risk of developing heart disease than those who ate less.

A 49 percent increase in risk was seen for those who ate a lot of protein from dairy sources. The risk for those who eat most of their protein from plant sources was 17 percent.

Despite higher levels of protein being associated with higher risk of heart failure, protein from fish and eggs was not associated with an increase in risk.

 

Is your diet high in protein?

Heli Virtanen MSc, PhD student and researcher at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at University of Eastern Finland Kuopio, said that they studied protein intake using a fairly normal diet. She points out that the diets in the study weren’t extreme and are therefore not too different from what most people eat.

The high-protein group actually ate 19% of their calories from protein, 41% from carbohydrates and 37% from fats.

The men in the highest protein group ate an average of 112 grams daily. The lowest group had a protein intake of 76 grams.

This is a good example of how protein can be weighed. A 3 ounce serving of chicken, turkey or pork would have approximately 25 grams.

What experts think

Low-carbohydrate diets have made protein more appealing. Experts warn that too much protein can lead to a less balanced diet.

“Persons who eat high-protein diets feel satisfied quickly and forgo the other nutrients derived by ‘heart-healthy diets’ such as vegetables, legumes, and whole grains,” Dr. Benjamin J. Hirsh, director, preventive cardiology, Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, Manhasset, New York.

He said that high-protein foods also contain more saturated and trans fats than others, which has been linked to heart disease.

Another explanation could be that high dietary protein levels can raise blood sugar. Extra protein will be converted into glucose and stored, according to Dr. Regina S. Druz of the Integrative Cardiology Center on Long Island.

“Protein is made up of amino acids. These are the building blocks for muscles. She said that if these are used in excess, they can increase acidity and contribute to oxidative stress, which could adversely affect vascular function and myocardial contraction.

Virtanen said that while the study did show that diets high-in plant protein had a slightly higher risk of developing heart disease than diets low in protein generally, it is not a cause for concern.

She stated that statistical significance was not found for the association between plant protein intakes and heart disease risk. This finding shouldn’t be too concerning, considering that previous studies have shown no or decreased risk of heart disease from plant protein.

What does this mean for your diet

According to Virtanen, there is evidence that focusing on plant protein and fat instead of animal products could prove more beneficial if you are willing to reduce your carbohydrate intake.

This concept is echoed in more recent research published by the International Journal of Epidemiology. Loma Linda University scientists examined the heart health of 81.337 men as well as their protein intake. The researchers found that people who ate a lot of meat protein experienced a 60% increase in their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that people who ate a lot of nuts and seeds had a 40% reduction in their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Druz stated that Druz’s findings are consistent with previous studies showing a benefit to nuts or seeds. Druz stated that healthy saturated fats as well as fatty acids found in nuts and seeds could be protective. Additionally, fiber content is high.

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