For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful, particularly when followed for a short time. Such diets may help with weight loss by making you feel fuller.
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 problems such as bad breath, headache and constipation.
- Some high-protein diets include 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, choose your protein wisely. Good choices include soy protein, beans, nuts, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products. Avoid processed meats.
The quality of the carbohydrates (carbs) you eat is important too. Cut processed carbs from your diet, and choose carbs that are high in fiber and nutrient-dense, such as whole grains and 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. The best eating plan is one that you can stick to long-term.
March 26, 2015
See more Expert Answers
- Johnston BC, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults — A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;312:923.
- Pesta DH, et al. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: Mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2014;11:53.
- Atallah R, et al. Long-term effects of 4 popular diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors — A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2014;7:1.
- High-protein diets. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/High-Protein-Diets_UCM_305989_Article.jsp. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Clifton PM, et al. Long term weight maintenance after advice to consume low carbohydrate, higher protein diets e A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 2014;24:224.
- Liebman M. When and why carbohydrate restriction can be a viable option. Nutrition. 2014;30:748.
- Lagiou P, et al. Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2012;344:1.