Weight loss and the high protein diets

The newest statistics regarding obesity in this country are alarming. It’s no wonder we are so focused on anything including extreme diets that might help us trim our waistlines and win the battle against the ever-growing bulge. Every magazine, every newspaper, every television news magazines gives some credence to the high protein diet craze that millions of Americans are using with at least some success. A registered dietician recently interviewed on Dateline did not necessarily give her blessing on the use of high protein diets but felt given the dire circumstances related to obesity and poor health in this country that the use of more extreme measures was justified.

But what about the long term picture? The body will tolerate short term stints of diets that ignore carbohydrates in favor of proteins and vise versa. That balancing act will become very difficult over the long haul; here’s why.

High protein diets demand large amounts of water for metabolism. The water needed can be obtained by drinking water, not pop, coffee, or juices, but what is not obtained from drinking, will be siphoned from body tissues. As a result, these diets can cause a loss of water weight, a well-known fact that accounts for their initial success. For those individuals who metabolize animal protein well, the weight loss can continue and be quite effective, for a while. Others find they soon reach a plateau with little or no continued weight loss, followed by a loss of energy and feeling high strung and tense. Others may feel generally sleepy and lethargic or have a feeling of heaviness. Diets that are low or void of carbohydrates will sooner or later provoke a bread or sugar binge.

The sole aim of high protein diets such as the Mayo Clinic (not associated with the institution), the Stillman and the ever so popular Atkins diet is to bring about loss of weight. But weight loss at what cost?

A diet high in protein can severely tax alkaline mineral reserves in the body, namely calcium. Proteins, especially animal proteins leave behind an acid residue that will have to be balanced with alkalines. In our youth our cells contain plenty of alkaline reserve from which the body can maintain its balance. As we age and reserves are less, calcium and other minerals used for balance will be pulled from our bones and organs. Severe mineral depletion can lead to a host of chronic degenerative diseases including osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, kidney and gallstones. A high protein intake can so tax your calcium stores you are left feeling hyper, anxious and sleepless.

When my clients or friends tell me they are using a high protein low carbohydrate diet, I do as any good counselor should do; I listen and wait for the follow up report, difficult as that may be. If they ask my advice, I mean if they really want my advice, I will strongly discourage the use of this kind of diet. Indeed it may work for some and with that I won’t argue. I have as yet in my almost ten years of practice to run across the individual that has a strong enough metabolic system to tolerate the long term use of so much protein. Be that as it may, I know many of you will at one time or another utilize a high protein diet. My best advice, listen to your body and allow your diet to change as you change. Remember, every body has its limitations. Till next time, Rebecca.

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