Protein – a few things you may not know

Fads in clothing come and go. Women’s skirts go up and then get longer.

Men’s pants get wide and then narrower. Fads also occur in medicine. In the 1980’s it was ‘low fat’ for packaged foods and weight loss diets. Later on the buzz word was ‘low carb’.

Now, walk down the aisle in supermarkets or health food stores and it’d hard to miss the protein content in foods, or protein added to cereals, granola bars or shakes. So today ‘P’ is popping up everywhere.

But what is so special about protein?

In the past it was recommended for athletes who only wanted larger muscles. Now, it’s also for those who want to lose weight. But a report from the University of California says that protein has fallen victim to Marketing 101. In effect, protein sells because consumers believe it to be ‘healthy’.

So, are North Americans consuming too little or too much protein?

According to University of California researchers, most people are getting more than enough protein. This amounts to 47 grams for a 130 lb. person and 67 grams for someone weighing 185 lbs.

The exception is people over 65 years of age who may not be getting enough dietary protein. Some of these people have dental problems and find it difficult to chew protein such as meat.

Seniors also tend to lose muscle tissue due to age. And they have to be reminded of a basic physiological fact, that although protein is essential for healthy muscles, it’s not protein that builds strong muscles. Rather, it’s getting out of the chair and incorporating exercise into the daily routine.

Today, many seniors are in chronic care facilities because they’ve developed sarcopenia, weak muscles. The tragedy is that their leg muscles have become so weak they’re unable to get off the toilet. Or they fall, causing hip fractures which can mean ending life in a wheelchair or death.

So you’re a vegetarian?

Does this mean you may be lacking in protein? It could be, if you’re not eating a varied diet and neglecting dairy products and eggs. But veggie lovers can also get protein from nuts, grains, beans and even vegetables.

For those who want to lose weight, is protein Marketing 101 fact or fiction?

The majority of studies show that adding protein to a calorie restricted diet can promote loss of a modest amount of weight in the short term. And consuming extra protein tends to quell the hunger reflex unlike low protein diets. But high protein diets usually have the same outcome as other diets, the short term effect is positive, the long term a failure.

The failure rate would be less if more fiber was consumed along with extra protein.

Since hypertension remains one of the big cardiovascular killers, extra protein can be helpful. For instance, in 2014 The American Journal of Hypertension analyzed data from the long-standing Framingham Heart Study. It reported that people with the highest protein intake were 40% less likely to develop hypertension.

Readers often ask me if high protein diets can cause kidney disease. According to the University of California, research has shown that this is not the case if the kidneys are healthy.

But today one in nine adults have chronic kidney disease (CKD). So if you decide to go on a high protein diet be sure to check with your doctor to make certain you do not suffer from CKD. This is particularly important if you are over age 60, have diabetes, heart problems, hypertension, obese and a family history of CKD.

Most people get more protein than they think. A 4 oz. chicken breast, and the same amount of tuna, shrimp and a can of sardines all have 30 grams, yogurt 17 grams, a slice of bread three grams, an oz. of cheese seven grams and a cup of ice cream three grams.

My new book 90 + How I Got There is available by sending $19.95 to Giff Holdings, 525 Balliol Street, Unit # 6, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1E1.

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