Will Too Much Protein Kill You?

Too much protein?

source: Cell Metabolism

As you well know, there are 3 macro-nutrients our body needs on a regular basis – fats, carbohydrates, and protein. People who are trying to lose weight instinctively stay away from fats because each gram of fat has 9 calories, whereas each gram of carb or protein has only 4 grams. In recent years, carbs have been getting a bad reputation.

The last macro-nutrient standing is protein. Dieters look for protein as their savior. And to some extent, it is. A meal or snack with ample protein will keep you satiated longer than a meal with a low protein count, not to mention the importance of protein in cellular growth. New lifestyle diets such as paleo and low-carb rely heavily on protein (and fats). Apparently, this may pose a health risk to middle aged people.

In a study published this week in Cell Metabolism, researchers equate the risk of high protein intake to that of smoking! They found a 75% increase in mortality and a 4-fold increase in the chances of cancer for people aged 50 to 65 who consumed high amount of protein, especially from animal sources. It’s interesting to note that the study found that the opposite was true for people over 65 years old!

The definition of high amount of protein is getting 20% or more of your daily calories from protein. for a 2000 calorie diet, that works out to 400 calories or 100 grams of protein. In food terms – that’s a pound and a half steak.

You may be thinking “Oh no! What’s left to eat?”

We don’t want to depress you. This is just one study. But it caught our attention because of the imbalance we often see in new and fad diets. One nutrient or food group is idolized, and the other is vilified. That’s just wrong.

The point we are trying to make is that a healthy diet is a balanced diet. This means less processed food and more home cooking. This means a balance of proteins from plant and animal sources, along with complex carbs (whole grains, fruits, vegetables), and healthy fats.


  • MartinCoady

    i must respectfully disagree with a couple of points. First, you do not need to eat food from animal sources. In accordance with the recommendation of T. Colin Campbell, I target calories from protein at 10%, which I rarely manage. Most days, I get 12% to 15% of my calories from protein. I do this eating no meat, no dairy, and no eggs. The second relates to the study reported in “Cell Metabolism”, which I first read about yesterday, with the headline claim that eating high amounts of protein is somehow equivalent to smoking. High amounts of protein in the diet do indeed create a health risk, but nothing on the order of smoking. The number one change that most dramatically improves health is cessation of smoking. Hands down. If you chow down on big hunks of red meat at every meal and smoke and drink and do not exercise, the first thing you should take on is smoking cessation. When you have that under control, address the other issues.

    • Dani

      Vitamin b-12 only exists in animal meat so I’m wondering how you get vitamin b-12 without the use of supplements?

      • Amanda

        You take a supplement, simple as that. And it doesn’t have to be taken daily. We store b12 for years and out bodies only need a very small amount of it. I have no problem taking a b12 supplement for get it from foods fortified with b12.

  • The Lone Marmot

    ‘You may be thinking “Oh no! What’s left to eat?”’

    That is exactly what I was thinking! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/snyde043 snyde043

    Here’s a perspective on this study that might be worth considering: http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/03/animal-protein-as-bad-as-smoking/

    Note that the study author, Dr. Longo founded a company that makes plant-based protein meal-replacement products. Can you say conflict of interest?

  • Corey Rowland

    It is very true that way too much emphasis is put on protein in the Standard American Diet and in several weight loss and fad diets. Some people then think “well if I should eat less protein, then I should replace it with fat!” This has been proven to be the wrong answer. In the China Study and much other research, a low fat and high CARB diet has been proven to be the optimal diet for humans. And when I say carbs, I mean plant-based. Fruits, veggies, starches and grains are where it’s at!

  • http://greeneyedguide.com/ Danielle Robertson

    The last paragraph of this article sums it up nicely, as balance is the key. HOWEVER, let’s not assume a home cooked meal is automatically healthier than a product that comes in a package. I think I’m arguing semantics here but I work on a dry powder protein shake with a really long ingredients list. Since 99% of the ingredients are botanicals, protein, grains or grasses I hope the long ingredient list doesn’t scare people away. Context matters. GreenEyedGuide.com

  • rubicon bill

    Good article. It has sure worked for me to cut back on the animal protein and make sure what I do eat is as low in additives and hormones etc as I can. Balance is key.

  • Andrew

    No but alumina chemtrails will n they’re still being funded.

  • Amanda

    It’s amazing what people think of protein, I’m a vegan and I get questioned all the time about my protein and the concern about getting enough. And I tell them that I get the correct amount everyday from plant based foods and not over the protein about through animal foods. I am no where near protein deficient, I lost weight, I feel great, and the whole protein thing is an absolute myth.