Proteins in the Diet, animal vs. plant proteins
It is not negotiable, you need protein in your diet. It is the building blocks of hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and many other essential chemical and structural elements. Without these, our bodies could not function and fatal diseases like cachexia, kwashiorkor and marasmus develop. These diseases are a problem in the undeveloped countries where good food is scarce and not in the first world countries.
The purpose of this letter is not to delve more in the detail of the above statements or address the issue of complete protein; it will look at the concept of a high protein diet as a tool for optimal health. One example of a protein diet which gained popularity was the Dukan diet. These diets promote intake of food high in protein while low in fat and carbohydrates. It was not the purpose of any of these diets to fight any of the diseases mentioned above; the primary focus was on weight loss. It also claimed other health benefits, more related to issues of the Western world, such as joint pain and muscle soreness.
Because many people claimed that they had spectacular weight loss results, one could not categorically deny the efficacy of the diet in the short term. However, over an extended period, there are many health concerns. While protein is used as energy and building blocks for essential hormones and enzymes as well as tissue; it has uric acid as a metabolic waste product.
It is the effect of this waste product on the body which is worth looking at before you start a protein diet as a way to lose weight or improve your health in general. Uric acid is eliminated through the kidneys. With a diet high in protein, uric acid levels rise above that of the ability of the kidneys to remove it, compromising the health of the organs. The excess uric acid is deposited in joints as needle-shaped crystals, resulting in inflammation with redness and swelling. The severe pain and stiffness in the joints could result in limited mobility and even deformity of the joints.
For this reason, it is not uncommon to see people suffering from gout also to have chronic kidney disease  and metabolic syndrome. Other concerns associated with the inability of the kidneys to deal with high uric acid levels, are fluid retention, leading to hypertension and cardiac disease.
It is important if you do consider following a high protein diet, that you also consume fluids and food to offset the adverse effects uric acid will have on your health.
· 3 – 4 liters of water per day will support the kidneys in eliminating uric acid. Adding apple cider vinegar or lemon to your water will make the body more alkaline, counteracting the acidity caused by the uric acid.
· Other fluids which will assist the kidneys include buttermilk, coconut water, and green tea.
· Ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
· The following foods were shown to help prevent gout by reducing insulin resistance - dairy products and fiber rich foods such as vegetables, nuts, legumes, low-glycemic fruit, and whole grains.
· Coffee and vitamin C can lower urate levels and it’s consequent ill effects on health.
Ukudla’s opinion is that high protein diets should only be considered when one is deficient in protein.
- There are better ways to deal with obesity such as the ketogenic and vegan diets with less adverse effects.
- The inflammatory effects of plant protein are less due to all the fiber and phytochemicals counteracting the effects of uric acid in the body.
- Always remember! Any diet is just a tool, and the main goal should be to eventually consume a balanced diet to maintain good health.