Although too little protein is not a good thing, neither is too much.
Protein supplies amino acids to build and maintain healthy body tissue. There are 20 amino acids considered essential because the body must have all of them in the right amounts to function properly.
Twelve of these essential amino acids are manufactured in the body but the other eight must be provided through diet. Foods from animal sources – such as milk or eggs – often contain all the essential amino acids while a variety of plant products must be taken together to provide all these necessary protein components.
After looking at 34 published studies in 16 countries, researchers at Yale University found that countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis including the United States, Sweden, and Finland are those in which people consume the most meat, milk, and other animal foods. They also found that African Americans, who consume on average more than 1,000mg of calcium per day, are nine times more likely to experience hip fractures than are South African blacks, whose daily calcium intake is only 196mg. On a nation-by-nation basis, people who consume the most calcium have the weakest bones and the highest rates of osteoporosis. Only in those places where calcium and protein are eaten in relatively high quantities does a deficiency of bone calcium exist, due to an excess of animal protein. The association between the intake of animal protein
and fracture rates appears to be as strong as the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
A low-protein diet is almost essential for patients who have more advanced renal failure (often referred to as pre-ESRD). However, the use of a low-protein diet in mild to moderate IgAN is controversial, as there is no solid evidence that it has any value at all and, in some cases, it can actually be harmful. A nephrologist will determine whether this is necessary.
You need instruction from a renal dietician to be on a low protein renal diet, as there is much more to it than merely cutting back on protein. Also, contrary to what many would assume, a low protein diet is not a synonym for a vegetarian diet. There is always a risk of malnutrition with low protein diets. Malnutrition may be hard to reverse in more advanced renal failure. Whatever you do, do not embark on a low protein diet, vegetarian or otherwise, without checking with your nephrologist first as this is one area where you can actually make things worse. Patients with nephrotic syndrome may actually need supplementary protein. Lowering your dietary protein does not necessarily have a significant influence on proteinuria.
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