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#MythBuster: Is Protein Safe For the Kidney?

Everything that has been popularized in the food market has to face several allegations and questions regarding its cons more than pros and Protein, the most basic and oldest component of our diets is no different.  

While there have been several cases where risks have been associated with certain foods that proved, over the course of time, that they weren’t as safe for the body. Similarly, after the huge popularity of Atkins diet, there have been several myths surrounding protein consumption that claim that whey protein intake causes kidney stones.

This article will take you through the myth to the fact that you should believe. Let’s first understand what Whey protein is.

First off, whey protein is one of the 2 types of milk protein that is usually made available in the powdered for its use as a daily protein supplement. Whey protein contains several immune-boosting factors like lactoglobulin, alphalactalbumin, immunoglobulins.

What can whey do?

No doubt, whey is tremendously beneficial, but that stands true as far as you maintain a moderation. However, going overboard with whey can result in certain effects that may not necessarily sit well with you. These side effects are limited to:

  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramps/ pain
  • Nausea
  • Altered appetite
  • Diarrhea

 

However, none of these are serious enough to bring you any serious harm, plus, these will go away as soon as you get some control over your whey intake.

So when does protein-causing-kidney-stones phase set in? It doesn’t. That’s the whole deal about protein intake. The claim that taking protein in amounts that are higher than your regular intake will lead to development of kidney stones, is nothing but a well rounded myth. One of the main points with relation to kidney function that has been debatable is the effect of protein intake on kidney function. It is believed widely that routinely consuming high protein (more than RDA) leads to an altered kidney function. While the majority of the evidence cited by authors in this regard was generated from animal based trials and patients with existing renal conditions, the same may not be true for healthy individuals with normal renal function1. 

Following protein restricted diets have been helpful and suggested in cases of individuals with a pre-existing kidney disease due to already altered kidney functions 2.

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What actually causes kidney stone formation?

The kidneys are responsible for removal of excess fluid along with the toxins through the ultrafilteration process. The reason why kidney stones form is when minerals and acidic salts present in the urine calcify and form a mass. However, this solid mass formation would happen when the crystal-forming substances present are more than the urine can dilute.

Kidney stones that form could be a result of an underlying kidney disease or a metabolic disorder or even as an effect of certain drugs.

 

How to save your kidney in time?

Leading a highly sedentary lifestyle can also result in formation of kidney stones. Owing to its multiple health benefits, is no wonder that being active is proactively supported and suggested in all walks of life.

Keep your blood pressure under control, manage your sodium intake.

Lower your sugar intake. Since sugar interrupts the mineral uptake and concentration in the body, it can set you up for kidney stone formation. That is why kidney stone formation is quite commonly seen in individuals who drink soda or carbonated drinks too often.

Most importantly- drink plenty of fluids. While you need to avoid high sugar containing drinks, make it a point to have as much fluid- in the form of soups, smoothies, milk, water- as possible. Water is the best drink you can give your body since it not only keeps you hydrated at all times but also helps in flushing out toxins from your body easily.

Conclusion:

While whey does not lead to any side effects, if you are still skeptical about whether or not to approach with it as a protein supplement, we recommend you speak to your dietitian for any further doubts that you may have

 

Ref. 

  1. 1. Martin, W, Armstrong, L et al Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & Metabolism 2005 2:25
  2. 2. 2J. Dwyer. Amer Jnl of Pub Health, 1994, 84:(8): 1299-1303.

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