Why Too Much Protein Could Be Fatal For You

Remember the old saying, "too much of anything is bad"?

Cover image via WebMD

The old saying, "too much of anything is bad", it appears also holds true for protein. At least, it was for 25-year-old Meegan Hefford.

Meegan, a 25-year-old bodybuilder and a mother of two, from West Australia, died after an overconsumption of protein shakes, supplements and protein-rich foods.

Meegan was suffering from a rare genetic disorder called urea cycle disorder (UCD) that stopped her body from properly breaking down the protein," reported NY Post.

It roughly affects one in 8,000 people, however not many are aware of it. According to The Independent, the condition causes a build-up of ammonia in the blood and accumulation of fluid in the brain, which eventually leads to brain damage.

While Meegan's death certificate lists UCD as one of the causes of her death, it also adds that an "intake of bodybuilding supplements" killed her.

According to Live Science, here's how too much protein for a person suffering from urea cycle disorder (UCD) can be fatal:

"When a person eats protein, the body breaks the macro nutrient down into its building blocks, called amino acids. After using what it needs, the body converts the leftover amino acids into nitrogen, which is removed from the body, according to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. To remove the nitrogen, enzymes convert the chemical into a compound called urea, in a process called the urea cycle. This substance is then excreted from the body in a person's urine.

"But when a person has a urea cycle disorder, the body can't convert nitrogen into urea, Cincinnati Children's says. This causes nitrogen to build up in a person's blood in the form of ammonia, a highly toxic substance, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). Too much ammonia in the blood can lead to irreversible brain damage, coma or death, GARD says."

How much protein is too much protein?

The recommended protein limit for adult men is 55.5g a day and 45g for women.

In fact, according to dietary experts, protein shakes and supplements should be taken in moderation and never as meal replacements.

However, if you're thinking that a person who doesn't have UCD can safely consume more than the recommended protein limit, you would be wrong. While it may not be fatal, it is certainly dangerous.

Here's why:

According to a study, if you are a middle aged person, extra protein in your diet can up your risk of dying from cancer four times more.

On the other hand, there are serious long-term effects of maintaining a high protein diet.

The New York Times notes that "protein-rich diets do not preserve muscle mass over the long term, and... ...a high-protein diet can lead to kidney damage in those who harbour silent kidney disease by putting extra strain on the kidneys."

What can you do?

Cut back on protein, especially from meat, cheese and other dairy products. But don't go to extreme cutting, too. Just keep it under the recommended limit.

Even going from a diet with moderate levels of protein to one with low levels reduces the likelihood of early death by twenty-one percent.

Image via Danny Kim/TIME

Do you count the amount of protein you consume daily? Do comment below to let us know.

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