The Scoop on High Protein Diets

by Jeanne Rhodes

In desperation large numbers of Americans are turning to high protein diets for fast weight loss - and fast it is! But, like every other diet fad, there are many pitfalls and the lost pounds always find their way back - with interest! Of all the diet fads, high protein diets are the most objectionable to health professionals who are in almost total agreement that this is not a good route to weight loss. So, before you begin or if you already have begun, you may want to re-think your decision as you consider the risks.

First, high protein diets allow a bare minimum of carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are essential for overall health including normal thyroid function. A low carbohydrate intake decreases T3 (active form of thyroid), which, in turn, reduces your body’s ability to burn calories in turn reduces metabolism. As little as a 10% decrease in thyroid activity not only reduces calories needed by several hundred a day, but also drops metabolic rate.

Second, cardiac problems have already been noted in some people-even the very young. The diuretic effect of a high protein intake “leaches” minerals from your body. Potassium, critical for normal cardiac function, is one of several minerals that often drops dangerously low so that cardiac events are not unusual for those following a high protein, low carbohydrate intake, even in people who begin their diets with excellent cardiac health.

Third, your body becomes “carbohydrate intolerant.” After a period of time on a very low carbohydrate intake, your body “adapts” to a low carbohydrate intake. Eventually, even a modest amount of carbohydrate food results in immediate weight gain with major fluid retention. Your body has learned exactly what you’ve “trained” it to do - survive with minimal carbohydrates! As soon as one piece of bread or dinner roll passes your lips, weight comes back with a vengeance!

Fourth, fat “burning” is compromised tremendously when carbohydrate intake is low. Carbohydrates are a critical part of the fat-burning process, which occurs in the muscle cell. Carbohydrates are like the “kindling” that is necessary to ignite the fat!

Fifth, remember osteoporosis? Dangerous levels of calcium loss occur. In research studies, calcium loss from a high protein diet could not be prevented even with added high calcium supplement intake! Bone density decreases and dental diseases increase.

Sixth, improvements in cholesterol and blood fats on “lab” work are very misleading! For example, triglycerides (blood fats) may drop because they are directly related to a decrease in dietary intake of refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour products) on high protein diets. Anything that reduces refined carbohydrate intake will lower triglycerides.

Time is up - there’s no more space - but the list goes on. Quick weight loss? Most certainly! Permanent weight loss? Never! Consider this - Dr.Atkins’ high protein diet has been around for 40 years. If it worked permanently, don’t you think there would be even a small number of people who succeeded back then to keep weight off? So why is it back? Because it’s quick - but at a tremendous health price! Pass up on this one - you deserve a lot better!

Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Consultant, Author, and is Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.