High-protein diets: Are they safe?

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High-protein diets: Are they safe?

Question

Are high-protein diets safe for weight loss?

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Answer

For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful if followed for a short time, such as six months or less, and may help with weight loss.

However, the risks of using a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for the long term are still being studied. Several health problems may result if a high-protein diet is followed for an extended time:

  • Some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that they can result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fiber, which can cause health problems such as constipation and diverticulitis.
  • Some high-protein diets promote foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • A high-protein diet may worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease because your body may have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism.

If you want to follow a high-protein diet, do so only as a short-term weight-loss aid. Also, choose your protein wisely. Good choices include fish, skinless chicken, lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products. Choose carbs that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruit.

It's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting a weight-loss diet. And that's especially important in this case if you have kidney disease, diabetes or other chronic health condition.

Finally, keep in mind that weight loss may be temporary, especially if you return to your previous way of eating.

Last Updated: 2012-06-19
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