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Is Whey Protein Bad For Kidneys

Our Kidneys Filter Proteins Waste Products

Is Whey Protein Damaging For Your Kidneys?

As our body metabolizes protein, the process generates various nitrogenous waste products such as urea, uric acid, creatinine, and hippuric acid .

These waste products need filtering out of the body for excretion, and this responsibility belongs to our kidneys.

This task requires a lot of hard work, which is quite normal for the kidneys they receive and process approximately 1.2 liters of blood per minute. This amount accounts for around 25% of all cardiac output, which shows the importance of the organ .

If waste products build up in our body, they become toxic, and so the kidneys play a crucial role in removing these products.

As a result, many people assume that higher protein intake leads to a higher kidney workload, and the extra demand causes kidney strain.

Safe Levels Of Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate contains a little less protein by weight than isolate does, usually between 70 to 80 percent. The additional content is made up of lactose, fats, and minerals, often derived from milk

This means it will take a little longer to reach your EAR and RDI levels, but you still need to be aware of these levels when using the protein. You also need to be aware of your intake of fats and other minerals by reading the nutritional breakdown on the packaging, although these additional minerals will make concentrate a better option than isolate as a meal replacement.

Higher Protein Intake Is Not Associated With Decreased Kidney Function In Pre

In this study, 355 pre-diabetic men and women were split into following two different dietary systems

  • A moderate protein diet: 15% of energy
  • A high protein diet: 25% of energy

The higher protein diet worked out at 1.6 grams protein per kilogram of body weight.

Throughout the study, lab tests demonstrated increased serum urea and urea excretion were consistent with increased protein intake.

After a 12-month period, there were no indications that the participants on higher protein diets had experienced any adverse effects on kidney function.

Interestingly, there was even a slight indication of improved kidney function with increasing protein intake.

In short, the study found no detrimental effects of a high protein diet on kidney health and no negative changes to any health markers.

Key Point:

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An analysis of multiple studies by Chinese researchers found that a men should ideally release sperm around 2-4 times a week. This practice is associated with a low risk for prostate cancer. Having said that, ejaculating more often than the recommended times does not further reduce the risk for prostate cancer.

Protein Intake And Kidney Function


So, can high protein diets cause kidney damage?

Not according to the evidence.

Although it was theorized that long-term high protein consumption would cause side effects, clinical trials on human participants do not support this hypothesis.

In recent years, there have been several studies that investigated this issue, and they all show no link between protein intake and adverse markers of kidney health.

However, some studies suggest that keeping protein intake at a moderate level may help people with pre-existing kidney disease .

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How Your Kidneys Work

To grasp why protein would have an effect on your kidneys, its helpful to understand how your kidneys actually work. Your kidneys, which are located just below your rib cage on each side of your spine, are one of your bodys major filtration organs. Their main job is to filter wastes and any extra fluid out of your blood and then out of your body, through your urine. Your kidneys also filter metabolic byproducts, like acid, to maintain the proper balance of water, salt and electrolytes.

All of your blood passes through tiny filtration vessels called nephrons, which filter your blood, removing the waste products and returning any necessary nutrients to it. When your kidneys are healthy, they remove waste and extra fluid out of the blood, but allow protein to stay. On the other hand, if your kidneys arent working properly, some of the protein in your blood can make its way into the nephrons and, eventually, into your urine.

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So What The Heck Is Protein

To me proteins are simply amazing. Proteins are literally the building blocks of our body, plus they perform what seems every biological function in our body. To demonstrate this, here are just some of the most important functions performed by proteins:

Blood Clotting fibrin is a protein in the blood which causes the blood to coagulate, and therefore stop bleeding. Carrier Proteins haemoglobin is a carrier protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. Energy in a nutrient depleted state, the body will switch from carbohydrates and fats, to proteins as its source of fuel . Enzymes did you know enzymes are actually proteins? Enzymes help make chemical reactions occur in the body. Fluid Balance albumin, a specialised protein, is used by the body to maintain fluid balance within the blood. Hormones hormones, such as insulin, are created from protein. Immune system immunoglobulins and antibodies are protein molecules that help fight infections. pH Balance proteins assist in the management of pH levels in your blood. Repair and Growth Structural Proteins the most well known examples of structural proteins are bones and muscles, but also include, hair, nails, skin, eyes, and internal organs .Simply amazing right? I sure think so.

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But What Is A High Protein Diet Exactly

If were going to start talking smack about high protein diets, we need to define what we mean, and people are generally bad at doing that. Sometimes its defined as percentage of total calories, sometimes its grams per pound of bodyweight, and the cutoffs are always arbitrary and vary by researcher, field, or consensus.

The RDI suggests 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight, or 0.8 grams per kilogram. Anyone whos been in the strength game for a while will be more familiar with another number: 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, every day. Two hundred grams for a two-hundred-pound person.

Were not trying to say that is the optimal amount of protein to consume many get by just fine on much less but thats the number we hear thrown around the most.

Can Eating Too Much Protein Affect Your Kidneys

Is whey protein bad for your kidneys?

While no major studies link high protein intake to kidney disease in healthy people, excess protein does force your kidneys to work harder and can cause problems for people with existing medical conditions. Kidney disease aside, the healthiest diet is a varied one that contains a balance of nutrients. Women only need about 46 grams of protein per day, while men need about 56 grams but most Americans consume more, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Evidence In Healthy Individuals

Although the efficacy of high protein diets for weight loss has been evaluated, there have been no reports of protein-induced diminutions in renal function despite subject populations that are generally at risk for kidney disease . A randomized comparison of the effects of high and low protein diets on renal function in obese individuals suggested that high protein diets did not present a health concern with regard to renal function their study population . In this study, 65 overweight, but otherwise healthy, subjects adhered to a low or high protein diet for six months. In the high protein group, both kidney size and GFR were significantly increased from that measured at baseline. No changes in albumin excretion were noted for either group and the authors concluded that, despite acute changes in renal function and size, high protein intake did not have detrimental effects on renal function in healthy individuals. Similar findings were recently reported by Boden et al. in a study of 10 subjects who consumed their typical diet for 7 days followed by strict adherence to a high protein diet for 14 days. No significant changes were noted in serum or urinary creatinine and albumin excretion, suggesting no ill-effects of a high protein diet on renal function.

Estimated Average Requirement And Recommended Dietary Intake For Your Age Group

Before taking whey protein, its best to understand the average requirement and recommended dietary intake for each specific age group as shown below.

Adult males aged 19 to 70:

EAR = 52 g/day, or 0.68 g/kg of body weight RDI = 64 g/day, or 0.84 g/kg of bodyweight

Adult males aged over 70:

EAR = 65 g/day, or 0.86 g/kg of body weight RDI = 81 g/day, or 1.07 g/kg of body weight

Adult females aged 19 to 70:

EAR = 37 g/day, or 0.60 g/kg of body weight RDI = 46 g/day, or 0.75 g/kg of body weight

Adult females aged over 70:

EAR = 46 g/day, or 0.75 g/kg of body weight RDI = 57 g/day or 0.94 g/kg of body weight

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Protein And The Liver

In healthy persons and rats, there is no evidence to suggest a relatively normal style of protein intake is harmful to the liver when habitually consumed as part of the diet. There is some preliminary evidence, however, that very high protein refeeding after prolonged fasting may cause acute injuries to the liver.

When is damage seen?

The current standards for treatment of hepatic diseases recommend a reduction in protein intake due to the possibility of ammonia build-up in the blood which may contribute to encephalopathy.

At least one animal model suggests that damage may be seen when cycling periods of sufficient protein intake, and periods of protein malnutrition. Similar effects were seen after 48 hours of fasting when fed a diet containing 40-50% casein. The latter study noted that the 35% and 50% casein groups had higher AST and ALT levels than the lower protein controls, effectively controlling for refeeding syndroms in general and its adverse effects on liver enzymes. The increases in liver enzymes seen in this study were concurrent with a decrease in the expression of the cytoprotective gene HSP72 and increases of c-Fos and nur77, which are upregulated in response to injury.

Thus, said animal study is some preliminary evidence that high protein refeeding after 48 hour fasting may harm the liver. Shorter fasts were not examined.

The above is not an adverse effect of high protein diets per se but should otherwise still be noted.

How Does Protein Get Into Urine

The Real Truth About Protein Powders And Kidney Damage

Protein gets into the urine if the kidneys arent working properly. Normally, glomeruli, which are tiny loops of capillaries in the kidneys, filter waste products and excess water from the blood.

Glomeruli pass these substances, but not larger proteins and blood cells, into the urine. If smaller proteins sneak through the glomeruli, tubules recapture those proteins and keep them in the body.

However, if the glomeruli or tubules are damaged, if there is a problem with the reabsorption process of the proteins, or if there is an excessive protein load, the proteins will flow into the urine.

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Can Too Much Whey Protein Cause Kidney Stones

The University of Connecticut did a study called Dietary Protein Intake and Renal Function, which found that persons with healthy kidneys who consume a lot of whey protein shouldnt be concerned.

According to the study, recent research on high-protein diets for weight reduction and athletics has revealed no harmful effects on renal function. According to the studys findings, no indication increased protein intake causes kidney injury or functioning.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Whey Protein

If your regular meals cover your dietary protein needs, supplementing whey offers no extra benefits.

But if you struggle to hit your protein targets, adding a protein shake can make a difference. Especially if your goal is to build muscle. This is when your protein needs are higher than usual.

Takeaway: protein supplements offer no direct health benefits. But they can help athletes meet their elevated protein demands.

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My Partner Died Of Kidney Failure

Around 2003, I had a very successful nutritional supplement business specific for athletes and bodybuilders. I had a business partner who was much older than me and at the time, someone I *thought* was also wiser and more knowledgeable.

I really looked up to him at the beginning of our partnership and friendship.

Unfortunately, over time, the longer I got to know him, the less I respected his decisions and views on health, fitness, and longevity.

One of them was the use of high-protein diets.

I remember him telling me that in order to really increase my muscle mass, while minimizing fat gain, I need to eat a lot more protein. He suggested a minimum of at least 2 grams per pound of body weight and it would be much better if I had 3 grams.

At that time, I was eating 1 gram per pound. Thus, I weighed about 200 lbs and ate 200 grams of protein.

But he suggested I increase it to 400 grams and preferably 600 grams, daily to start seeing the real muscle-building benefits.

He himself, being very muscular and lean at 250 lbs, was eating almost 1000 grams of protein daily and said that was ONE of his secrets. Most of the protein is from fast-digesting Whey protein.

And so, I decided to give it a try because I trusted him.

After all, he was 7 inches shorter than me and yet, he had an extra 50+ lbs of muscle.

Over the next 3 months, I slowly increased my protein to eventually eating 600 grams daily. It was about 100 grams, 6x daily.

Was this all because of the high protein diet?

Whats In Your Protein Powder

Is protein bad for my kidneys?

When comparing and purchasing sports nutrition powders, consumers should pay close attention to the list of ingredients. Additives, such as caffeine, creatine, and sweeteners, are sometimes in these powders but are not mentioned in advertisements. When consumers are unaware of these additives, they can be especially harmful. For example, consuming several cups of coffee or tea throughout the day in addition to a protein powder that contains caffeine could have unpleasant side effects, including tremors, migraines, and insomnia. Creatine, a popular sports supplement, increases the amount of water in your muscle cells, leading to significant weight gain and putting you at a higher risk for dehydration, stomach pain, and muscle cramping. Creatine can be particularly dangerous for people with kidney or liver disease and has not been studied for safety in children or adolescents under the age of 18. In addition, the American Heart Association recommends a daily added sugar limit of 25 to 36 grams, but some protein powders have as much as 23 grams of added sugar per scoop. Others contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame, which can be harmful in large quantities. For these reasons, consumers need to know exactly what is in their daily protein shakes and how it may affect their health.

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Know The Right Amount Of Protein For You

The exact amount of protein you need depends on your body size, your nutritional status and your kidney problem. Since too little protein can lead to malnutrition at any stage of kidney disease, ask your healthcare professional about meeting with a kidney dietitian to find out the amount and type of protein that is right for you, even in the earliest stages of kidney disease. Your healthcare professional will watch your kidney function for any necessary diet or medicine changes.

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Best Protein For Kidney Disease

When one is suffering from kidney problems, it becomes more important to select the best protein for kidney disease through a proper diet. The human body with kidney disease finds it difficult to remove excessive waste products of protein from the blood. If the excessive protein remains in the body, it induces a huge burden on the kidney and can cause various problems like nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, etc.

It is worth noting here that a kidney patient undergoing dialysis needs more protein because he loses it during the dialysis process. On the other hand, an individual with kidney disease finds it difficult to remove the protein waste from the body. Hence, a kidney patient undergoing dialysis needs diets higher in protein whereas others are recommended diets low in proteins.

Keeping a low protein foods list for kidney disease handy in such cases is quite pivotal. However, one has to be careful when following a low protein diet because it may cause other health issues and nutritional deficiencies. The low protein diets are generally vegetables, grains, and fruits. And the high-protein diets are generally fish, red meat, nuts, and fat-rich dairy products.

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How Can Protein Be Dangerous

Meegan Hefford, a 25-year-old mother-of-two, was found unconscious in her Mandurah apartment south of Perth on June 19. She died in intensive care three days later. The death certificate says she died from a cerebral disorder caused by a rare genetic disorder, Urea Cycle Defect , that affects the kidneys ability to process protein.

The certificate lists intake of body-building supplements as a contributory cause.

A post shared by MEEGAN HEFFORD on Mar 27, 2017 at 2:55am PDT

Urea Cycle Defect is very rare about one in 10,000 people have it in some form, according to Dr Nicholas Shackel, a professor of medicine at University of New South Wales and a liver specialist at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney.

UCD means the kidneys cannot break down all of the ammonia byproduct released from processing protein to get amino acids, which build muscle. In a healthy kidney, the ammonia becomes urea and is passed out of the body as urine. This is important because ammonia is toxic for example, its used in rocket fuel and cleaning products and too much ammonia in the blood can trigger a coma and lead to death.

Importantly, some people have UCD without knowing. This is because female cases of UCD may only appear when a women is in her twenties, and she may only become aware of it after having a huge protein load like Christmas lunch, or protein supplements.

Michelle told Hack that Meegan reported feeling sick a week before she collapsed.


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