Your kidneys act as filters to remove wastes and extra fluid from your body. They make about two quarts of urine each day, which is how we get rid of those waste products.
As we age, it’s normal for our kidneys to experience some wear and tear. But for some people, eating too much protein makes it even harder for the kidneys to do their job.
Instead of keeping that protein in your body to build and repair tissues, produce enzymes, and more, your kidneys start to eliminate it in your urine.
Although a high protein diet can be effective for weight loss, some of us should definitely steer clear of this kind of eating plan.
High protein diets and weight loss
People looking to drop pounds often turn to a high protein diet. Eating a lot of protein makes you feel full, which often means you’ll eat fewer calories overall.
A high protein diet typically allows you to eat as much protein as you want, with some healthy fats, and very few carbs.
The Atkins diet is a well-known example of a high protein diet for weight loss. It allows you to eat lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, low-carb veggies and healthy fats like olive oil in unlimited quantities.
Why does this diet work? When you stop eating carbohydrates, you lose weight quickly because you lose water. Then, with no extra carbs, the body begins burning more fat for fuel.
But if you have kidney disease, or are at risk for it, this may not be the best way for you to lose weight, as it carries some risks.
What research says about high protein diets and the kidneys
There are research findings on both sides of the fence, but it looks like, if your kidneys are normal, you should have no worries about trying a high protein diet.
Of course, it’s always best to work with your doctor when trying any radical change to your diet.
If, however, you have kidney disease or are at risk for it, you should steer clear of high protein diets.
Dr. Juan Calle, medical director of the Kidney Stones Clinic at the Cleveland Clinic, explains it this way.
“Eating a lot of protein, especially animal protein and red meat, creates more acid and toxins in the body, and it puts more pressure on the kidneys to filter and process all of those substances.”
He also advises people with chronic kidney disease or a history of kidney stones to limit protein. Also, those with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disease that prevents the breakdown of certain amino acids, should not eat a high protein diet.
Lose weight and protect your kidneys
According to Dr. Calle, losing weight without compromising your kidneys is all about balance.
“Don’t get your calories from one source — combine protein with more fruits and vegetables,” he says. “If you don’t have any major medical conditions, the most effective diet is usually decreasing the amount of calories you consume and eating a more balanced, low-sodium diet.”
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Planning to Start a High-Protein Diet? Check With Your Kidneys First — Cleveland Clinic health essentials
The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know — Healthline