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ICMR warns against protein supplements: All about the potential health risks

May 12,2024

New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has released the dietary guidelines for Indians in which it has shed light on the intake of protein supplements which is commonly in practice especially among youngsters.

In the 148 page guidelines, the ICMR has warned against the consumption of protein supplements to build body mass, a common fitness trend set by youngsters. Protein supplements have become increasingly popular among individuals looking to enhance their athletic performance, support muscle growth, or meet their daily protein needs.

ICMR guidelines on protein powder

It lays emphasis on whey protein, which is rich in branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs. These BCAAs are linked to higher risk of non-communicable diseases.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, play vital roles in protein synthesis, muscle repair, and energy production.

Supplementation with BCAAs is popular among athletes and bodybuilders to enhance muscle growth, improve exercise performance, and reduce fatigue. Research suggests BCAAs may also benefit individuals with liver disease, improve insulin sensitivity, and aid in weight loss. However, excessive intake may lead to adverse effects such as insulin resistance and disruption of neurotransmitter balance.

Though protein supplements or protein powders are obtained from plant-based sources such as soybeans, ICMR warns against the additives used in them for marketing purposes. Added sugars, artificial sweeteners and flavorings reduce the health benefits given by the protein powders.

“Appropriate combination of cereals: pulses in a ratio of 3:1 or by substituting 30g of recommended level of pulses with 80g meat per day would improve the quality of protein to fulfill the needs of a normal person,” ICMR has said.

Potential health risks to know if consuming protein supplements

Apart from this let’s understand what are the other potential health risks associated with the consumption of protein supplements:

While protein supplements can be beneficial for some people, they also carry potential health risks that should be considered before incorporating them into one’s diet. Here are some of the potential health risks associated with using protein supplements:

Consuming high amounts of protein, especially from protein supplements, can put excess strain on the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood, including the by-products of protein metabolism such as urea and ammonia. High protein intake increases the workload on the kidneys, which can lead to kidney damage or dysfunction over time, particularly in individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions.

Protein metabolism produces urea, which is excreted by the kidneys in the urine. Excreting excess urea requires additional water, leading to increased urinary output. If adequate hydration is not maintained, excessive protein intake can contribute to dehydration, which can have negative effects on overall health and athletic performance.

Some protein supplements, particularly those containing whey or casein protein, may cause digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation in some individuals. These symptoms may be due to lactose intolerance, sensitivity to certain protein sources, or the presence of added ingredients such as artificial sweeteners or thickeners.

Relying heavily on protein supplements to meet daily protein needs may lead to nutrient imbalances in the diet. Whole foods sources of protein, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds, provide not only protein but also essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for overall health. Overconsumption of protein supplements at the expense of whole foods may result in inadequate intake of other essential nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies over time.

While protein supplements are often marketed as aids for weight loss or muscle gain, consuming excessive amounts of protein can contribute to weight gain if calorie intake exceeds energy expenditure. Protein supplements, particularly those that are high in calories or contain added sugars, can contribute to an imbalance in calorie intake and expenditure, leading to unwanted weight gain if not consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Source: Healthworld

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