Meegan Hefford’s, a 25 year old mother of two in Australia, death certificate states “intake of bodybuilding supplements” as a reason why she passed away. Meegan was a build builder that that consumed protein supplements, but her death highlighted the danger of taking too much protein in your diet.
Days before she passed away, Meegan complained to her mother about a strange feeling and being fatigued. She was found unconscious in her flat and taken to hospital. It took the physicians two days to diagnose her with a urea cycle disorder.
As our bodies metabolizes the protein we consume, byproducts are formed. These are toxic, such as ammonia.
In a healthy body, your urea cycle the extra ammonia that is in the body will be taken to the urea and then you will excreted it from the body by urine. However, around 1 in 8000 people will suffer from a urea cycle disorder. This is a condition of their body that struggle to remove the ammonia from the blood stream. Instead, the ammonia builds up and causes a condition called hyperammonemia which then reaches the brain and that can lead to dizziness, confusion, and slurred speech. If it is not controlled this condition can lead to coma and even death.
It was this relationship between a urea cycle disorder and protein that led to Meegan’s death.
There are other conditions of too much protein and disorders that can lead to death, such as too much protein is eaten and you have a rare condition of Hefford.
However, the question now is – do we really need as much protein that we think we should eat daily? Not really. People that have chronic kidney disease, phenylketonuria and even some liver condition should be very careful how much protein they add to their diet. Then again, if you are exercising a lot, such as athletes then you can add more than the average amount of protein to your diet. Other people that can benefit of more than the average amount of protein to their diets would be such as females that are breast feeding or pregnant, but also people that are recovering from surgery and older people.
One thing that should be added here is that when one speaks of average amounts of protein, then there can be some confusion as protein does not have an upper limit for how much a person should eat daily. However, there is a formula to help you work out how much protein you might need. This formula states that you can take your weight in kilograms multiplied by 0.8 (1 kilogram is equal to about 2.2 pounds). Therefore, a 200-pound man should eat at least 75 grams of protein per day.
However, if you are healthy then you do not need to change the amount of protein you are eating.
You can take in more protein if you are on a diet. That is, protein can lead to weight loss. Examples of protein high content would be the Padeo diet and the Atkins diet. But even these diets, similar with too much gym protein shakes, where there is too much protein in the diet can lead to extra pressure on your kidneys and even put you in danger to different types of cancers.
The problem is that protein is not associated with these sort of illnesses, but rather muscle gain. Nevertheless, there are better ways to get your protein in, rather than taking gym protein shakes or eating chicken fillets. For you can eat fish and some plants to get your protein. More so, plant based protein, although not the best to grow muscles but better for weight loss could prevent type 2 diabetes and red meat could increase your risk.
Good plant-based protein sources would be quinoa, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts. All the same, ideally go for unprocessed protein sources. This means go for the ingredients, protein in their natural form, than protein shakes as they might contain added sugar and preservatives.
In the end, more is not always better. Protein if eaten too much can hurt your body. Know your body, and if you increase your activity levels then you might want to add more protein otherwise there will no added benefit for you to eat above average amounts of protein.