Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 Mar

Is Eating Too Much Protein Going to Harm My Kidneys?

meat 3Dear Mark,

I am studying to become a nurse and am taking my first nutrition class at a local college. As one of our assignments we had to record everything we ate for an entire week. After looking at my results my teacher was dumbfounded. To make a long story short, my teacher told me that I should only be eating 38 grams of protein each day, and that any more than that could harm my kidneys. I’ve been Primal for 2 years and am healthier than ever. I am 5′ 2″ and and a very lean 105 pounds. Should I be concerned?

Renee

Well, Renee, I’m sorry to break it to you, but all those subjective health markers – like being “healthier than ever,” a “very lean 105 pounds,” and satisfied enough to be “Primal for 2 years” – mean absolutely nothing because you are destroying your kidneys by exceeding your daily allotment of six ounces of animal protein. In fact, it’s highly likely that feeling good and maintaining a trim, lean figure are byproducts of impending kidney failure. The human body, you see, is a cruel practical joker dead set on destroying itself (hence the daily internal manufacturing of that poison known as cholesterol); it’s only trying to keep you pacified with regards to your health long enough for outright kidney failure to commence.  You should be extremely concerned. I only hope this message reaches you in time.

Seriously, though – the notion that eating more than 0.3g protein per pound of bodyweight (which appears to be how your teacher came to her conclusion) will definitively harm human kidney function leaves me dumbfounded. I’m reminded of the time I had to take Buddha in for a quick checkup at an unfamiliar vet and the woman examining him mentioned that I’d probably want to switch him to a low-protein diet or risk certain renal failure. Because, you know, the kidneys of dogs, close relative of the carnivorous wolf, are unable to process all that meat and protein. It’s ridiculous on its face, and rather than waste a lot of space debunking what Dr. Eades calls one of the “Vampire Myths” (it just won’t die; get it?), I’ll just link to a few papers that have already done so.

There’s this one from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a massive review of the evidence in favor of and in opposition to the AHA’s weasel warnings about “high protein diets,” namely, that people who engage in such risky behaviors as limiting carbs and increasing protein “are [at] risk for … potential cardiac, renal, bone, and liver abnormalities overall.” Long story short: there’s far more evidence in opposition to the claim than evidence in favor of it. The AHA recommendations are at best incorrect and at worst deliberately misleading, and the sum of the actual evidence points to protein as being protective against heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and liver problems – all things protein is supposed to initiate or worsen.

Another review, this time focusing strictly on whether or not protein intake can precipitate kidney disease in healthy people, is even better. I mean, that’s the important thing, isn’t it? If we want to exonerate or condemn protein, we must study its effects on healthy kidneys. We have to see if it creates problems rather than potentially worsens them. And, according to the exhaustive analysis of Martin et al, there exists no evidence that protein intake negatively influences renal health in otherwise healthy, active individuals. There is some evidence that already impaired renal function might worsen with increased protein, but the experts, as is their wont, can’t resist applying the same recommendations to everyone, regardless of renal health. The result is a nutrition teacher sowing misinformation across the student body in an introductory course, i.e. one that is intended to establish foundational knowledge that the students will carry on through life as a cornerstone of their thinking.

Simply put, healthy kidneys can handle plenty of protein; heck, they are meant to handle protein. One of their primary functions is to process the metabolic waste that results from protein metabolism. Yeah, protein “works” the kidneys, but that’s what they’re there for! Strength training works the muscles. You might even say it strains them. But is that a problem? Compromised kidneys in patients with renal disease (either full-blown or still in development) may not be able to handle as much protein as healthy kidneys, but even that’s up in the air – and protein is not the cause of the problem.

So what causes kidney disease, if not too many deck of cards-sized pieces of deadly animal protein in the diet?

The top two conditions responsible for chronic kidney disease (CKD) are, respectively, diabetes (45% of CKD cases) and hypertension, or high blood pressure.”Even” the Wikipedia entry on renal failure fails to mention “excess protein in the diet” as a cause (even potentially) of CKD. If you have CKD, chances are fairly high that you’re either diabetic, hypertensive, or both.

You know what’s even better? High-protein diets, when compared to the high-carb diet commonly recommended, improve glucose tolerance and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics without changing kidney function. And, since type 2 diabetes often leads to CKD and is characterized partly by poor glucose tolerance and blood sugar control, you might even say that eating more protein is actually protective against renal failure.

As for hypertension, the latest systematic review concludes that more protein in the diet seems to correlate with lower, or at least normalized, blood pressure in humans. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything definitive, but it’s certainly interesting, and it doesn’t support the standard position.

Of course! Anyway, unless it’ll compromise your grade in the class, I’d speak up about it. Engage your teacher, for without disagreement, especially when warranted, there can be no progress. At the very least, defend your stance, perhaps wielding the aforementioned papers, and by all means: don’t feel the need to limit yourself to 38 grams of protein per day! While that may be adequate – that is, you’ll live – you definitely have room for more.

You need protein for a number of reasons:

It’s required for good skeletal health; contrary to what many vegetarians will scream, animal protein doesn’t leach calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. In fact, inadequate protein intake is a huge risk for the debilitating bone disease.

It provides amino acids, which play multiple roles in the human body. They act as building blocks for most bodily structures, including hair, organs, skin, and muscles. Using amino acids, we build new tissue and repair damaged tissue. Lifting weights “damages” muscle tissue; we repair the damage with amino acids. Amino acids also act as precursors to hormones and neurotransmitters, like serotonin (the amino acid tryptophan) and dopamine (the amino acid tyrosine).

It’s good for quality of life, especially in the later years where folks are more susceptible to skeletal muscle wasting. You try keeping up with your grandkids while experiencing severe systemic muscle atrophy!

It’s good for satiety. Younger and older men eating 1g protein per kg of bodyweight had greater satiation than similarly aged men eating either 0.75g/kg or 0.5g/kg, and they reported a superior ability to stick to an eating plan.

(Animal protein is best, of course. A recent study found that due to reduced bioavailability of plant protein, vegetarians should probably increase their total protein intake to make up for the deficiency.)

Most people don’t need a ton of protein. If asked, I say I eat roughly 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, but it’s not something I’m militant about and I’m no longer hitting the weights like I used to. I just eat to satiety. Since it’s a satiating macronutrient, I find there’s a natural, relatively organic limit to how much pure protein I even want. Lean chicken breasts? I’m lucky if I can get through a whole one. A nice juicy grass-fed ribeye festooned with fat? I’m licking the plate.

Other people will need more protein. Highly active athletes, Crossfitters, powerlifters, folks trying to gain mass and strength, folks trying to lose a bunch of weight – they all can benefit from an increased protein intake, either by increasing satiety (thus improving diet adherence) or providing amino acids for muscle recovery and repair. One gram or protein per pound of lean body mass is a good average number to shoot for over a range of a few days.

Renee, if you’re feeling good with your current level (how much protein are you eating, by the way?), you’re performing well, you’re lean (and you apparently are), and you’re healthy (free of diabetes and hypertension), I don’t see any reason to curtail your protein intake. And certainly not because it’s going to destroy your kidneys. There is some contention that protein restriction (or protein cycling) can extend lifespan, but as I said in the fasting post, I’d rather have a fantastic quality of life (which for me means plenty of lean mass, plenty of physical activity, and plenty of meat on my plate) than live a few extra, protein-restricted years.

I hope this proves helpful for your situation – though I’d hesitate to even classify it as a real “situation.” I wouldn’t worry.

How about everyone else? How much protein do you typically eat in a day? What’s your activity level like? Ever had any kidney problems?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Renee,

    I am a nurse as well as a patient at the renal clinic ( I have 65-70% of normal kidney function) and my nephrologist is more than OK with this lifestyle. I had checked, double checked and then asked again a third time just to be sure. I would say ‘you realize I will be eating a load of protein’ and he would respond ‘what’s wrong with that’…your instructor sounds like she is one of the brainwashed crowd that believe in the food pyramid (or rainbow as is now being done here in Canada).

    If you are really concerned go to your family doctor for some blood work.

    RN wrote on March 1st, 2011
    • I Delimaris (2013) Adverse effects associated with protein intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults ISRN Nutrition, vol. 2013, Article ID 126929, 6 pages, 2013. doi:10.5402/2013/126929

      Ramya wrote on August 10th, 2013
  2. Perfect timing Mark! I am going back to school for my nutrition degree and in one of my three nutrition classes this semester, we have to read this ONE paper about kidney disease and protein intake, how bad animal protein basically is for your kidneys. I was thinking, Mark has got to have something on this. You did not disappoint. Thanks for all of the great help!
    Jenn

    Bionic Woman wrote on March 1st, 2011
  3. What about the relationship between protein intake and gout? Has anyone seen any discussions on possible connections between gout and the type of high protein / high fat diet typical of paleo?

    Dan wrote on March 1st, 2011
    • Hi Dan, for the last 8 months I have eaten only Fatty Meat and H20. I suffered from gout and cured myself with a baking soda + H20 mixture after the drugs the doc gave me didn’t work. I have been gout free for over 7 years. I was concerned about gout when I started Zero Carb, but so far so good. I thought I would share. Battle On!!!

      Cheers,

      Dave

      Dave wrote on March 2nd, 2011
      • Thanks for the feedback on your experience, Dave. I am quite new to paleo, but not new to paying attention to the revolution in various ways of thinking about diet. And it seems like diet / human health is an area in which the more we learn, the less we seem to know with certainty. Nice to have your anecdotal feedback on this point.

        Cheers,

        Dan

        Dan wrote on March 2nd, 2011
      • So tell me what you did with the baking soda water. I’m very interested.

        Mamie wrote on March 12th, 2012
  4. Great post! I’ve perused your site off and on, but this piece definitely makes me wanna stick around! Renal function and protein intake is something that the meat critics love to present, but here again you have more info that illustrates that this is NOT an issue. It’s nice to see someone who follows sensible advice and actually does their research! Thanks!

    Andrew wrote on March 1st, 2011
  5. Slightly off topic, but I had to have a little laugh at Marks experience with his vet recommending a lower protein diet for his dog. As a Vet Nurse myself I totally agree with Mark. Dogs need meat!
    Most of the commercial dog foods available (even the premium ones sold at vet clinics) are predominantly grain based. Along with myself, my dog now follows a predominantly primal lifestyle. In New Zealand Possums are a pest and a serious threat to our native forests. They are also a fantastic lean, high protein meat source. I trap, skin, and remove the claws before feeding the whole carcass to my dog. She couldn’t be happier with her natural diet. And her teeth are great, as she actually has to chew her food. Im sure she is much healthier than alot of the dogs on a biscuit only diet that I see at the clinic.

    Suzy wrote on March 1st, 2011
    • I have three farm cats. Their usual diet is rodents and birds in the garden and greenhouse. I supplement this with a daily portion of dry cat food. I always make certain the first ingredient listed on the cat food label is real meat. Very little cereal product. It’s more expensive but they don’t eat so much because of all of the available “livestock”. If I offer them a chiefly cereal based food, they pass on it.

      Richard wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • Do you think that it would be okay to feed my dogs rabbits? We don’t have possums around here. Also is it alright for them to chew up those bones? And, it would seem I’d have to worm them after eating that raw meat, right. Do you have any recommendations on the types of worming to do/use? thanks

      Mamie wrote on March 12th, 2012
  6. I avoid eating too much protein by focusing on eating a high fat diet! I get around 80% of my calories from fat. My one concern with a high protein diet is that excess protein is basically turned into sugar. So I eat fatty meat and high fat dairy products. No skinless chicken breasts or cottage cheese for me! Yuck! I wouldn’t want to eat that anyways!

    Robin wrote on March 1st, 2011
    • “My one concern with a high protein diet is that excess protein is basically turned into sugar.”

      A myth. People should actually read biochemistry textbooks and/or search pubmed/medline. Excess aminoacids (if gluconeogenesis is not required and hepatic glycogen stores are full) are broken down into various oxoacids which in turn can directly enter the crebs cycle and be oxidized.

      AS wrote on March 1st, 2011
    • Robin,

      I agree with AS about the excess-protein-to-sugar misinformation. However, I completely agree with your comment on emphasizing a higher level of fat intake.

      It is a little bit amusing how so many jump on the high-protein bandwagon and try to outdo each other about how much they consume. Yet, like Mark shared in the article, who doesn’t agree that a greasy fat piece of meat is more satisfying that an extra lean cut?

      I expect that there can be some negative effect on the body from eating too much lean meat or isolated protein without the inclusion of a high level of fat to go with it. I am afraid that I won’t do the research for you today (especially since many of you already know this), but the body has a high need for fats for many, many of its functions and maintenance of organs; to assimilate other nutrients; and to provide pure energy.

      From observing other meat eaters, they seem to go after the organs and fat before the muscle. I bet Grok did too.

      There are cultures that thrive on diets of mostly fat consumption (Eskimos?), but are there any who live as well on lean meat? Last I measured it, my diet was, of course, low carb, but my protein percentage was less than half that of the fats. My fat:protein:carb ratio was something like 65:25:10. And despite only a medium level of exercise at forty-years-old, my weight has been a stable 155-lbs for years, my muscle tone is great, and I sleep better now and have more energy than before going Primal.

      To put it more simply, nutrient (micro- and macro-) context is important. Don’t get caught up in the details, just eat your food in the form it was created by nature.

      Cheers

      Tony wrote on March 2nd, 2011
      • Good point Tony.

        All theses studies on excessive protein consumption weakening the bones, kidneys etc. etc. could be due to the fact that our society has a fear of fat and fat is what is needed to ensure damage isn’t done.

        Natalia wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  7. This raises a question about where one gets recognized credentials in nutrition that is not all based on CW mythology assumed by the general public to be fact. There needs to be some sort of diploma or certificate that will allow you to work in the health and nutrition field without having to spout CW misconceptions.

    Leanne wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  8. about fifteen years ago, at age 50, I’d been out of commission from a serious inkury for seven years or so.. finally able to get a diagnosis and restorative surgery. Meanwhile I’d been shown Barry Sears’ book on his zone system of eating… it made perfect sense from a molecular cell buichemistry standpoint… so tried it. Six months after the surgery I was able to ride a hundred miles in a day on my road bike. Fourteen months after, a two hundred mile day. I’d lost 40 pounds, slept like a rock, had energy I’d not had for years. I wore the same size clothes I did in high school, when I was lean and fit. Basically, 40% of calories from carbs, 30 from fat, 30 from protein. That puts me at about 110-125 grammes protein per day, I was at 155-160 lbs and 6’1. I could out sprint and out distance nearly anyone, even those less than half my age. Made em mad, too…. which made it all the more fun.
    One very important aspect of diet is the quality of food taken in… and I see a number of folks here are mindful of that. These days I get almost all my carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables, two or three pounds per day. Protein is still about the same… but from high quality foods, mostly meats, fish, eggs, dairy. I suppose I get some from the plant-based part… but not much. Used to go hypoglycemic at times, not any more. Balance the three macronitrient categories with EVERY meal… it works. Recent bloodwork came back completely unremarkable.

    tionico wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  9. I’m also a college like Renee and studying in a health major. I also constantly hear this nonsense about not eating a ton of red meat to avoid chronic diseases. It just makes no sense to me at all. I’ve been living primal for about 6 months now and feel better than ever!

    P.S. Mark, I noticed your dog and my cat share the same name, Buddha. =)

    Ariana wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • I’m Head of Nursing here in Manchester Metropolitan University and a urorenal trained nurse. One of my staff is a nurse nutritionalist and won’t let me near the lecture theatre in case I say the wrong things about the evils of grains! LoL. He’s organised a national conference for nurse nutritionalists but won’t let me addreess them to challenge their beliefs! So frustrated! We have a double nutritional problem in UK – the young/middle aged who are becoming obese and the elderly who are malnourished. There are case studys of folk who go into hospital healthy and come out malnourished even! I’ve been Primal for two years by conviction and thoroughly advocate it. Renne, tell your teacher to try some research for once!

      Paul wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  10. The China Study:

    The project became an investigation…as to why so many Filipino children were being diagnosed with liver cancer, predominately an adult disease. The primary goal of the project was to ensure that the children were getting as much protein as possible.

    “In this project, however, I uncovered a dark secret. Children who ate the highest protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer…” He began to review other reports from around the world that reflected the findings of his research in the Philippines.

    Although it was “heretical to say that protein wasn’t healthy,” he started an in-depth study into the role of nutrition, especially protein, in the cause of cancer.

    Dr. Colin Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project. The study was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine…a survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan. More commonly known as the China Study, “this project eventually produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease.”

    The findings? “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored,” said Dr. Campbell.

    In The China Study, Dr. Campbell details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also its ability to reduce or reverse the risk or effects of these deadly illnesses. The China Study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and irresponsible scientists.

    http://thechinastudy.com/about.html

    Pat wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  11. Anybody catch Nightine last night? The momentum is growing:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/paleo-diet-meet-caveman-dieters/story?id=13030483

    gt wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  12. We must take care of our health not in the physical but in what you eat as we do. Findrxonline on the Web site mentions that it is necessary to follow a regime enabling us to maintain good health without excess weight or obesity.

    Ric Gene Watson wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  13. Fantastic! Mark, your sarcasm is a finely-tuned tool of fun-ness!

    Question for readers: I am a female, 26 years old and a size 4, 130lbs, fairly active (through Primal fitness and also my self-employed work as a housekeeper). Primal eating for about a year now. Plateaued and have a goal to lose 5-10 lbs in the next 6 weeks or so. Went back through the weight-loss chapter in the Primal Blueprint and used the tool on bmi-calculator.net to measure Body Fat. Wanted an estimate of my lean body mass to calculate an average of protein to eat per day. The Body fat calculator put me at nearly 32%! Is there any way that is possible? The calculation was based on inch measurements around waist and wrist and thigh. This is the calculator that Mark recommends using in The Primal Blueprint but the percentage seems outrageous to me.
    Thoughts?

    Abigail wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • By the way, according to the calculator a Body Fat Percentage over 30 is considered ‘obese’.

      Abigail wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • Abigail, if you punch in lots of different numbers you will find that calculator will always turn back a bf% close to 30%. For women, at least, that particular calculator is a piece of junk. :)

      If you want to know your bf%, contact the exercise science department at your local university/college. Most offer bf testing for nominal fees.

      bokbadok wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  14. Hah! For a minute there you really had me confused, Mark! I was thinking, “Wait, what site am I reading again?”

    Rachel wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  15. i’ve pretty much been on a primal diet without even knowing what that was. for years i had gut issues. by the time i was able to go to a clinic that would get to the bottom of my problem, i had leaky gut bad, candidiasis, whipworm with symptoms that convinced me i was dying of cancer. i could barely eat without pain, bloating, gas (the 9 yards). my muscles ached and burned, i woke up daily with a hangover, had dizziness, and often was unable to rise from bed even to drink water or use the toilet. along setting up a regimen of detox and nutritional supplements, the doctor had the nutritionist alter my diet. high protein (with an added yellow pea protein shake called gut enhancement) super low carbs (no fruits other than berries, no grains, no legumes, no starchy veggies), no casein & no albumin (i developed a sensitivity). in a few months, i dropped nearly 40 lbs and had so much energy, i had to take up kickboxing to burn it up. and i was 51 yrs old & hadn’t worked out in who knows when, because i had been sick for so long. that was going on 3 yrs ago. now, with some experimentation with my diet, i’ve come to realize that i cannot process grains for long before i get messed up. also, i don’t do well on too many fruits. potatoes are out. i like sweet potatoes but i can’t eat them often. it’s mostly free-range/grass fed animal meats and bone broths, greens, squashes, eggs, very occasional raw goats milk or yogurt, berries, gut enhancement, coconut water/oil/meat, and home-made kombucha. if i deviate off this type of diet for long (i.e. adding gluten-free grains &/or corn tortillas & too many sweet potatoes or any potatoes), i end up with problems again. my body’s forcing me to eat the way nature designed it. i’m wondering if grains in our diet are a hold over from the days of mass slavery from the ancient civilizations.

    rose wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • Your story is amazing to me. Could you email me some of your recipes/ideas for meals. I’d like to introduce this to my 4 sons. One of them is into weight training and nutrition. Another has become vegetarian much to my chagrin. A third one has started eating so much junk he’s edged into a size 38″ waistline pant and has high blood pressure. (He’s only 24 yrs old) And lastly the youngest one (18 yrs) has lost weight due to moving out of my house but subsists on what ever junk he and his roommates scrounge up.

      I appreciate your help. I’m ancient at 52 yrs. and feel like I’m much older. Overweight, tired and tired of being this way.

      Mamie wrote on March 12th, 2012
  16. I’m eating Primal but I’m still worried about osteoporosis. Comparing vegetarians to meat eaters suggests eating meat does weaken bones.
    http://healthrecipes.com/osteoporosis.htm

    Olivia wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  17. Where have all the primal-eating hotties come from? I live in California and all we have are Vegan PITAs (that’s “pain in the …” not the greek bread) with pasty skin and thinning hair. As a result I have to pretty much travel out of state to both get some pork sausage, and see an attractive, healthy woman. Have any of you hotties ever thought about moving to California? San Jose has great year round weather…

    Deuce wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  18. There’s two references to daily protein in take: 1g per lb and 1g per kg. Which is it?

    Snivy wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • 1g per lb. is for highly active people or atheletes that are training. 1g per kg was mentioned for the average person.

      Derrick wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  19. When trying to gain muscle mass, I always go with a little more protein than bodyweight (i.e. if I’m 200lbs I’ll eat over 200g of protein).

    Most of this protein comes in the form of animal meat. I have only been primal blueprint for a couple months now but for the last 12 years I have always had this amount of protein, and I see no problem with it.

    Derrick wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  20. Going back to the depression/Paleo discussion, I tried Paleo and was doing well off the meds, using 5-HTP suppliments.I felt better than ever! Then a major family medical crisis, and extreme stress led to panic attacks and adrenal exhaustion and a speedy return to the prozac and CW carbs to boost the natural serotonin. I am female, 53, and looking for a practitioner that will be paleo friendly and get me off the meds. I am in the LA area. Any suggestions??

    Terry wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  21. I want to follow Primal diet this time, sorry for the error..

    Terry wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  22. I started reading this website in September of 2009 when I started to go Primal. Back then, it seemed like a safe haven away from the typical internet trolling of comments. There was actually an attempt to be civil and educate rather than humiliate newcomers. However, now I’m pretty terrified to comment on anything any more. It seems like people (pro-Primal and con) have become just as nasty here as they are on other websites. I think the pro-Primal people are trying to preemptively attack the anti-Primal trolls and it makes for a very defensive, ridiculing atmosphere. Just wanted you to know, Mark, that without some type of judicious comment moderation, I will probably stop reading your site.

    Natalie wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  23. Mark, Anybody,

    I’m donating a kidney to my sister this June. Does anyone have any information on protein consumption for a person with ONE GOOD KIDNEY? I’ve been Primal since January 1st 2010. The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept!

    chris c wrote on March 2nd, 2011
    • Chris, you deserve an ovation! None of my relatives stepped up, but I was fortunate to receive a cadaveric kidney two years ago this May. I wish I knew the answer to your question.

      I went primal this January and am operating under the assumption that if doing so improves my general health, my new kidney will be in a better environment – less polluted, less stressed by excess weight, etc.

      At the same time I started reading MDA there was a discussion thread on the Yahoo IgA Nephropathy Group about a couple of recent studies that concluded a celiac diet (wheat free) could stop or slow the progression of IgAN(the disease that put me on dialysis). Combine that with MDA and I was an instant grain-free convert!

      A biopsy last May showed that the IgAN was present in the new kidney (not unexpectedly), though not active (thankfully). At that time I asked if I should restrict my protein intake and was told not to. That said, he probably didn’t mean go eat a whole cow either, and I do try to focus more on the veggies. I’ve not discussed primal eating with my doctor, figuring either I’d get a dose of CW or he’d approve it, and I was going to try it either way. I have labs drawn monthly and this last set came back with slightly better numbers for kidney function. I’ll collect a few more months’ worth of labs, draw my own conclusion, and then present it to the doctor as a fiat accompli.

      Something else of note is that some of the immunosuppressents can elevate a transplant recipient’s blood sugar, even to the extent of becoming diabetic. After one month primal my fasting glucose level dropped from a slightly high 103 to 93. Here’s hoping it goes lower next labs.

      If anyone’s interested, there are also Yahoo Groups for dialysis patients and transplant patients to get together and discuss their personal experiences, which is sometimes more helpful, or at least comforting, than what your doctor might say. Not that anybody is dispensing medical advice, more like “this is what worked for me” advice.

      One bit of advice for you and your sister – get up and start walking as soon as you possibly can post-surgery (like, the same day you wake up) because the surgeon will inflate your belly cavity with gas in order to work, resulting in vicious gas pains later.

      Best of luck to you and your sister Chris!

      Kaly wrote on March 3rd, 2011
  24. Thanks Mark,
    Just today I had a client ask me about renal failure due to too much protein. I spent the day researching and forwarded her all the info along with your article. I have a BS in Food Science and Nutrition, have been a personal trainer for 25 years, and was just accepted at Duke University’s School of Integrative Medicine. I am a 51 year old female with 4 kids and a bodyfat of 11%. It amazes me that the general public is so brainwashed that I have to spend my days researching and educating them when I just wish they could trust me and do what I tell them to do. Look at me and then look at the people who are telling them otherwise. The proof is in the primal pudding!

    Penny McIntosh wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  25. Nice post, Mark!

    drdavidflynn wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  26. Isn’t 38 grams a day about an ounce and a half? How could that much protein per day do any damage?

    John wrote on March 3rd, 2011
  27. I don’t think so. But if that is true so that could be very scared for me. Because I have eat foods which are provide much protein.

    eyelift wrote on March 3rd, 2011
  28. Good work Mark. This is a good article.

    Nate wrote on March 4th, 2011
  29. Great article! I own a CrossFit affiliate in GA and try to get all of my clients no a Paleo/Primal diet. A friend who is not a client of mine read an article I posted on our website about fat intake and heart disease. This article solidified her adherence to the Atkins diet, which she had been losing weight on for a while. A few weeks ago, however, she had to have her gallbladder removed and her doctor told her it was her low-carb, high-protein diet that destroyed her gallbladder. Does anyone know where this came from/if it’s true? Please point me to where I can find information on this in the medical literature! Thanks.

    Keith wrote on March 4th, 2011
  30. Since there seems to be a number of health professionals who are commenting on this site, I’d be curious to know what symptoms of kidney problems might be. I seem always to be thirsty or dehydrated (even though I drink 3-6+ liters of water/day) & I do tend to consume a lot of aspirin due to ongoing headaches and muscle tension. I’m starting to worry that the two may be related. The doctor that I saw today was not very helpful. I’d appreciate any ideas or suggestions.

    Elizabeth wrote on March 4th, 2011
  31. Mark from your previous response to “”Renee — To make a long story short, my teacher told me that I should only be eating 38 grams of protein each day, and that any more than that could harm my kidneys.””, — I read you and understand/believe that meat is good for you and a limited (???) amount will probably to certainly not hurt healthy kidneys. What, if any, is the limit for one MASSIVE meal of meat? For example I have been on the Atkins diet before (20 lbs lost) and hear/read that one/dieters can eat ALL of the “no = none = zero carbohydrates” such as plain cooked beef meat one wants. Hence, after days of hard work on travel with no common home food, I did eat (not proud of this Lion behavior) 2/two HUGE/MASSIVE > 1″ OR MORE thick layers/SLABS (rare & solid – tiny fat if any) of prime rib at one meal. — Perhaps unrelatedly, 2 days after my return home and constant long hours of work at home, I (“in slow motion then suddenly/boom”)came down with a VERY near fatal bladder, urinary tract, and maybe kidney(?) infection that required emergency intubation and two weeks of hospitalization to cure. Diagnosis was complicated by emergency treatments to save my life as well as 3 powerful antibiotics and so — I was told by Drs that I probably “”developed sepsis”” — from this initial bladder>kidney>infection>heart failure, etc.. I am 74 obeise, slightly elevated
    BP, normal pulse, 274 lb active male but am somewhat sugur intolerant – but not dietetic yet = average of 120 “plasma calculation” blood sugur for years. Obviously now I am carefully reducing my weight and eating smaller portions of meat. Could there be/have-been a link to HUGE PORTION of prime rib & my bladder infection = probably by e-coli (suspected culprit)?? — And the answer for maximum limit on meat intake at one time is_______? Thanks for whatever answers or comments that you can provide. Colin

    colin sandwith wrote on March 5th, 2011
  32. I’m also very lean, about 5 ft and about 105-110lbs.

    I don’t count my protein. I just eat real food, eggs, fatty cuts of meat, green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, etc). If I need to eat more, I eat more food: meat, eggs, veggies. It’s that simple.

    If I had to estimate, it’s about 1.5 grams or ~ 150 gr protein every day. According to fit day: 2088 cals, i feel like i need to eat more though

    Chris wrote on March 6th, 2011
  33. Phenomenal article – thank you, as a national natural NPC figure competitor, I’m eating each day for my competitive goals year round & I’m as healthy as can be naturally headed to 40, yet the amount of protein my husband and I consume is significantly higher than the average person, and yet our health is significantly better than most as well from the inside to the outside. It’s upsetting to me that protein intake is so demonized and grossly misunderstand. Our coaching clients are always shocked at the protein & fat intake we give them for weight loss in meal plans. I absolutely love your work, Mark. Great stuff. Thank you. What’s misunderstood about protein is you can take in higher amounts safely, it’s what sources of it you take in and what you counterbalance that intake with nutritionally with other macros to ensure great health that is key to effectiveness.

    Heather Dube wrote on March 6th, 2011
  34. Thanks for the informative article.Few studies have claimed that too much pressure pressurizes the kidney too much and in long run, may damage it. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that too much of protein does not harm women with normal kidney function, though it may have a negative impact on women suffering from reduced kidney function.

    Albert wrote on March 7th, 2011
  35. Along with the study Albert points to in the above comment, Renee may be interested in this one from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Dietary Protein: An Essential Nutrient for Bone Health (http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/24/suppl_6/526S.)

    I’ve been researching the topic for my own blog… a higher protein diet has been found to increase bone mineral content in animals, and to increase IGF-1 growth factor (which promotes bone growth) in men and women.

    Interstingly, in men, a hormone released from bone cells promotes testosterone production and is associated with testosterone levels, sperm count and reproductive success.
    (http://aminogenblog.typepad.com/aminogen/2011/03/effect-of-dietary-protein-supplements-on-calcium-excretion-in-healthy-older-men-and-women-httpjcemendojournalsorgcgir.html.)

    The same effect of osteocalcin on women’s estrogen/fertility levels has not been found yet, but interesting stuff!

    Mark Anderson wrote on March 8th, 2011
  36. Appreciate the high quality article you have out here. Really helped me out!! keep it up.

    Sheldon wrote on March 11th, 2011
  37. Kidney failure is a frequent effect of taking medical drugs. They euphemistically call it “side effect”, while in fact it is the basic effects, related to what drugs are. These are synthetic chemicals that kidneys have to remove from the blood, and in fact a percent of them gets into urine, polluting rivers.

    Tomasz R. wrote on March 17th, 2011
  38. I started drink protien shacks about a month ago everyday, and beefed up my 5k run to 5 times a week, I had developed shin splints and had to get new shoes and stop running for 3 days I woke up the 2nd day and It was like a bomb when off in my stomach, i started loosing weight like crazy, I thought I had food poison or tape worm. I got a feavor and starting to gorge food 4 one day. I laid down and slept 4 awhile, while googling everything, i came up with 2 much protien burning fat so fast, I would eat and fell real hungry and my stomach would hurt burning my food instantly. I feel back 2 normal now and going 2 do it again.

    John hudson wrote on October 3rd, 2011
  39. I just wanted to thank Mark for the post. I have been primal for about 100 days and like Renee feel better than ever! More important MDA has provided for such great content and answered almost everything I have a question about, like this one about too much protein being hard on kidneys, there is an answer for it right here. My wife is 7 weeks pregnant and she asked the mid wife today about our primal lifestyle. She’s pretty well stuck with it since I’m not leaving my homeostatic, high energy lovin,, no mood swinging and cross country traveling without eating any crap in the airport from one coast to the next while I fast and feel fine, since I am the cook in the kitchen. Any how, I digress, the point is that the mid wife said that the high protein, low carb diet could be hard on the kidneys in general not necessarily on the baby, but I had to check MDA before I allowed my wife to convince me that I needed to start using bulgur wheat or some other form of “better for you” gimmicks.

    Since finding my inner grok I’d like to add that I am no longer allergic to avacados – which historically I loved, but hated the itching in the back of my throat after eating & my wifes Asthma and use of an inhaler from 3-5 times a day has been reduced to once every other day if that.

    I don’t want to leave out the daily deuce, which having since starting the diet I no longer hate to have. I know the MDA crowd can handle this so I’m dropping the deuce so to speak!

    Seriously, it’s perfect almost every time. I would solely suggest based on my experience that any IBS could easy be traced back to gluten/wheat intake. Perhaps there’s more posts more appropriate to drop this, I just haven’t looked for it.

    I also find myself so impassioned to talk more about the overall MDA subject once I get started. So much that it’s probably annoying – oh well!

    Grok on!

    Michael wrote on October 24th, 2011
  40. I had severe kidney reflux as a kid, and chronic kidney infections, I know what pain in the kidney feels like. I have been eating paleo for a few months (not perfectly, I have to admit) and since yesterday I’ve been experiencing pain in one kidney. I have zero symptoms of an infection, though I will be seeing the doctor to make sure. In the past few days I have been eating even more protein than I had been previously. Is there ever a point where a person would consume too much protein? Or could I take in a million grams a day (I know, I know) and experience no ill effect?

    Shannyn wrote on March 30th, 2012

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