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Can A High Protein Diet Cause Kidney Problems

How Much Protein Do You Need A Recent Study Suggests That On Average Americans Are Eating Twice As Much Than Is Good For Us Here’s A Reliable Formula

Does a High Protein Diet cause Kidney Disease? [WARNING: Myth Alert]

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Youve probably seen plenty of it on social media: the body-building posts, the how it started vs. how its going weight loss memes the What I Eat in a Day videos . A high-protein diet is one approach to fitness that a lot of influencers promote, and maybe thats no wonderhigh protein intake is popularly associated with weight loss, muscle-building, tissue repair, and getting leaner overall.

But when we load our plates with meat, snack on multiple protein bars a day, and drink our protein shakes in the name of health, its important to keep in mind: as with pretty much anything we humans do for short-term gains, too much of this powerful macronutrient can cause long-term health problems you might not realize.

Sure, protein can slim down your waistline to showcase that beach bod youve worked so hard for . However, eating too much protein can be tough on your kidneysvital organs for filtering and cleaning the blood. And lately, its arguable that our collective love affair with protein has officially become too much: a 2020 study published in the peer-reviewedJournal of the American Society of Nephrology reveals the average consumption of protein in the U.S. is nearly twice as much as the recommended daily intake.

What Does Protein Do

First of all, protein is an essential macronutrient, and our health would quickly fail without it.

It is responsible for the growth and repair of cells, and our muscles, hair, and skin all depend on it.

Here are some of the primary roles of protein in our body

  • Responsible for the growth and repair of every cell in our body.
  • Builds and repairs muscle tissue.
  • Involved in many biological processes such as hormone and enzyme production, and it plays a part in immune response.
  • Plays a major role in the health of our bone, hair, muscle, nails, and skin.

Proposed Pathways Linking High

Mechanistically, high protein intake may lead to increases in kidney volume and weight in humans, which was demonstrated in a mouse model as mesangial matrix expansion with tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Although research has not fully elucidated the exact mechanisms of protein-induced glomerular hyperfiltration, it is thought to occur as an evolutionary feedback mechanism facilitating the excretion of increased amounts of protein-derived nitrogenous waste. Other factors proposed as underlying mechanisms to facilitate the increased excretion of nitrogenous waste include changes in endocrine mediators , leading to vasodilation, and changes in neurohormonal responses within the kidney.

Although some instances of short-term glomerular hyperfiltration, such as that which occurs during pregnancy, may not be associated with a decrease in kidney function, it is possible that prolonged, recurrent glomerular hyperfiltration induced by consumption of a high-protein diet may lead to kidney damage through multiple pathways over time . Experimental data demonstrated that, in a rat model, incrementally higher levels of protein intake caused an increase in proinflammatory gene expression in a dose-dependent manner, and that, in pig models, long-term exposure to a high-protein diet led to 55% greater renal fibrosis and 30% greater glomerulosclerosis.

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How To Read This Article

If youre just curious about high-protein diets:

  • Feel free to skim and learn whatever you like.

If you want to change your body and/or health:

  • You dont need to know every detail. Just get the general idea.
  • Check out our advice at the end.

If youre an athlete interested in performance:

  • Pay special attention to the section on athletic performance.
  • Check out our advice for athletes at the end.

If youre a fitness pro, or interested in geeking out with nutritional science:

  • Weve given you some extra credit material in sidebars throughout.
  • Check out our advice for fitness pros at the end.

Maybe You Want To Lose Fat Or Gain Muscle Or Be Healthy

The Real Truth About Protein Powders And Kidney Damage

You just want to do the right thing and eat better. But with conflicting information about protein, you dont know what to think.

Or, if youre a fitness and nutrition coach, youre wondering how the heck to clear up the confusion about protein among your clients.

Lets get into it.In this article, well explore:

  • What are high-protein diets?
  • How much protein is right for me?

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Should I Cut Out All Foods That Have Oxalate Or Calcium

No, this is a common mistake. Some people think that cutting out all foods that have oxalate or all foods with calcium will keep stones from forming. However, this approach is not healthy. It can lead to poor nutrition and can cause other health problems. A better plan? Eat and drink calcium and oxalate-rich foods together during a meal. Doing this helps oxalate and calcium bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before reaching the kidneys, making it less likely for kidney stones to form in the urine.

Plan Your Plate For Kidney Stones

What To Eat To Prevent Kidney Stones

Passing a kidney stone is excruciating! Here are some tips to reduce the chances that youll ever have to endure that pain or relive past misery

As anyone who has ever had one can attest, passing a kidney stone is something youre not likely to forget or remember fondly. Although dietary measures are not 100% effective in preventing stones, they can definitely reduce your risk.

Read Also: What Is The Quickest Way To Pass A Kidney Stone

The Higher The Intake The Faster The Decline

The studies published in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation included an analysis of 4,837 Dutch patients aged 6080years with a history of heart attack. This showed a strictly linear association between daily protein intake and decline in kidney function. The higher the intake, the faster the decline, it concluded.

The result of an epidemiological study conducted in South Korea pointed to the same direction: persons with the highest protein intake had a 1.3 higher risk of faster GFR .

The analysis added it was unclear whether it makes any difference if the proteins are animal- or plant-based. The recommendation is to abstain in general from a high protein intake, it said.

Claim: High Protein Causes Heart Disease

Does A High Protein Diet Cause Kidney Damage or Stones (Clinical Evidence Included)

Eating animal-based protein daily is associated with an increased risk of fatal coronary heart disease , whereas plant-based proteins arent linked to higher rates of heart disease.

This suggests that where you get your protein from may matter more than how much protein you eat.

However, just like cancer, the link between heart disease and high-protein diets is from questionnaires rather than a double-blind randomized study .

There are many confounding factors. For one, consider the type of animal does seafood cause the same issues as red meat, for example?

We dont yet know the whole story here.

Verdict: Limited evidence that protein causes heart disease and the source of protein is a major confounding factor.

A new study in the Journal of American Medical Association looks not only at protein intake, but where people got their protein from.

More than 131,000 people were asked:

  • how much protein they ate and
  • if it came from animals or plants.

This study took over 35 years to do .

What they found:

Eating more animal protein was associated with a higher risk of deathif you were also doing something else that was a risk factor.

Such as:

  • history of high blood pressure
  • low intake of whole grains, fiber, and fruits and vegetables

Eating more plant protein was found to be associated with lower risk of early death.

What does this mean?

You might think at first glance that you should eat less animal protein, since this study seems to say that animal protein is bad for you.

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How Much Protein Is Too Much

The body is in a constant state of flux, constantly breaking down and rebuilding its own tissues.

Under certain circumstances, our need for protein can increase. This includes periods of sickness or increased physical activity.

We need to consume enough protein for these processes to occur.

However, if we eat more than we need, the excess protein will be broken down and used for energy.

Even though a relatively high protein intake is healthy and safe, eating massive amounts of protein is unnatural and may cause harm. Traditional populations got most of their calories from fat or carbs, not protein.

Exactly how much protein is harmful is unclear and likely varies between people.

One study in healthy, strength-training men showed that eating around 1.4 grams per pound of body weight every day for a year didnt have any adverse health effects .

Even eating 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for 2 months did not appear to cause any side effects .

But keep in mind that physically active people, especially strength athletes or bodybuilders, need more protein than less active individuals.


Extremely high protein intake is unhealthy. It is unclear at what intake level protein becomes harmful. It likely depends on the individual.

Animal Vs Plant Proteins

More and more, it seems that where you get your protein has a huge impact on your health.

Eating a high-protein plant-based diet improves health outcomes compared to low-protein diets and high-protein animal-based diets. Again, it comes down to the quality of your protein more than how much protein youre eating.

If youre a diehard carnivore, no worries just add some more plant protein to your diet. Diversity is good. Hug some lentils today.

Also Check: Why Do My Kidneys Hurt

How Much Protein Should I Eat Choose The Right Amount For Fat Loss Muscle And Health The Real Story On The Risks Of Eating More Protein

Will protein help me lose weight? Should I eat it at every meal? Could too much damage my kidneys? At Precision Nutrition, our inbox is filled with questions about the pros and cons of eating more protein. In this article well set the record straight, so you can finally separate the facts from the fiction.


Protein And Lean Body Mass

Can A High Protein Diet Cause Kidney Problems

Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a huge role in helping to keep clients healthy. Further, it’s essential to building muscle mass. While some clients might be quick to jump on a high protein diet, others might do the opposite due to preferences or belief in myths. Either way, dietary protein consists of amino acids that are responsible for everything. For example, our structure, hormones, enzymes, and immune chemicals all need protein.

Because there’s such an ongoing functional need for amino acids, keeping a consistent pool of them is like keeping a sink full without a drain plug. They’re constantly lost as they’re broken down which means there’s an ongoing need to consume a diet high in protein rich foods. This is especially the case in goals that involve muscle growth and weight loss. Our clients must realize protein supplies the building blocks of muscle and connective tissue . So, in the case of resistance training, the body is intentionally breaking down muscle tissue to force it to adapt and build bigger or stronger lean body mass. Therefore, achieving a specific protein intake each day is essential for health, fitness, and weight loss goals.

Also Check: What Causes Uric Acid Kidney Stones

Myth Busted: Researchers Show That A High

A widely held and controversial myth that high-protein diets may cause kidney damage in healthy adults has been debunked by scientists at McMaster University, who examined more than two dozen studies involving hundreds of participants.

The meta-analysis, published in The Journal of Nutrition, challenges the perceived dangers of a protein-rich diet, a notion first introduced in the 1980s which suggested processing large amounts of protein leads to a progressive decline in kidney function over time.

Its a concept thats been around for at least 50 years and you hear it all the time: higher protein diets cause kidney disease, says Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster who oversaw the study.

The fact is, however, that theres just no evidence to support this hypothesis in fact, the evidence shows the contrary is true: higher protein increases, not decreases, kidney function, he says.

Health experts routinely advocate the benefits of protein for many reasons: it boosts metabolism, increases satiety making one feel fuller for longer, promotes fat loss, helps build muscle during weight training and helps to preserves muscle, particularly in the elderly.

However, the impact of protein on kidney function is much more contentious, particularly its effect on the glomerular filtration rate , which is a test to measure how well the kidneys filter blood and remove waste.

Whey Protein & Kidney Damage

Whey protein comes from cow’s milk. The process of cow’s milk being turned into cheese creates whey protein as a byproduct. Whey protein is a complete and high quality protein, with all the essential amino acids. Whey protein is a natural food substance, but is not 100 percent risk-free. Excessive consumption may contribute to kidney damage.

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Oranges And Orange Juice

While oranges and orange juice are arguably most well known for their vitamin C content, theyre also rich sources of potassium.

One large orange provides 333 mg of potassium. Moreover, there are 473 mg of potassium in 1 cup of orange juice .

Given their potassium content, oranges and orange juice likely need to be avoided or limited on a renal diet.

Grapes, apples, and cranberries, as well as their respective juices, are all good substitutes for oranges and orange juice, as they have lower potassium contents.


Oranges and orange juice are high in potassium and should be limited on a renal diet. Try grapes, apples, cranberries, or their juices instead.

Processed meats are meats that have been salted, dried, cured, or canned.

Some examples include hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, jerky, and sausage.

Processed meats typically contain large amounts of salt, mostly to improve their taste and preserve flavor.

Therefore, it may be difficult to keep your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg if processed meats are abundant in your diet.

Additionally, processed meats are high in protein.

If you have been told to monitor your protein intake, its important to limit processed meats for this reason as well.


Processed meats are high in salt and protein and should be consumed in moderation on a renal diet.

Pickles, processed olives, and relish are all examples of cured or pickled foods.

Usually, large amounts of salt are added during the curing or pickling process.


Read: Are You Unwittingly Letting Food Poisoning Happen To You

Can Protein Harm Your Kidneys and Liver? Dr.Berg on Protein Side Effects


Its no thanks to the high levels of minerals in your body. Think of kidney stones formation this way: If you dont add enough water when stirring a cup of Milo, youll end up with hard lumps in your drink.

The same thing happens in your kidneys when you dont drink enough water.

Kidney stones are quite common. About one in 10 Singaporeans will get kidney stones. It is slightly more common in males than females, said Dr Tan.

As for what causes the stones, it is largely determined by what you put or dont put enough of into your body. The common ones, according to Mayo Clinic, are:

Calcium stones: This is the most common type of kidney stones, and are often in the form of calcium oxalate oxalate is a chemical that occurs naturally in certain vegetables.

Calcium stones can also be made of calcium phosphate, which is common in metabolic conditions, such as renal tubular acidosis.

It may also be associated with certain migraine headaches or taking certain seizure medications such as topiramate, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Struvite stones: These usually form in individuals with urinary tract infections sometimes, with little warning.

The stones can grow quickly and become quite large, though there may not be signs.

Uric acid stones: As the name implies, these stones are caused by an accumulation of uric acid.

It typically happens in people who dont drink enough fluids, and those who eat a high-protein diet or have gout.

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Adding Daily Protein Does Not Weaken Your Bones

The idea of protein leading to weaker bones comes from the fact that protein increases the acidity of the body, and that this causes calcium to leach from the bones to counteract it. Excess acidity can to lead to bone weakness, but protein is not the culprit.

In fact, protein in the diet has the opposite effect: it strengthens bones. Increased protein in the diet leads to greater levels of insulin-like growth factor-1, better calcium absorption, and more vitamin D. All these effects act to strengthen the bones.

And that’s not all. A diet high in protein-rich foods, combined with weight training increases muscle mass and strength. This is especially important as clients age and naturally start to lose muscle mass. Having more muscle is associated with greater bone density.

What Are The Signs Of A Dogs Organs Shutting Down

As your dogs digestive organs shut down, they will not experience the sensation of hunger or thirst. Visible weight loss will often accompany this decrease in appetite. Even if your dog does still consume food or water, they may experience digestive issues.

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The Bottom Line On Creatine And The Kidneys

At the end of the day, the inception of this myth was caused by a poorly understood link between amino acids and the kidneys.

The perpetuation was likely due to the nature of there being a false positive, unnecessary prudence and caution, all topped off by the if its too good to be true, it usually is mentality ironically not paying attention to the usually in that saying.

Excluding some potential stomach ache and diarrhea that comes from taking too much creatine at once, usually with inadequate fluids, there are no proven or well established harms of this dietary supplement.

In other words, a mountain of evidence shows that taking creatine isnt going to damage your kidneys as long as youre otherwise healthy. And it probably wont hurt your kidneys even if youre unhealthy.

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