top of page

"Don’t Believe the Headlines" Too much protein is hard on the kidneys and liver

LifeHakx - The Answer to " Too much protein is hard on the kidneys and liver."

By Eva Wisenbeck 15/12/2019

True or False? Too much protein is hard on the kidneys and liver.

Truth: Essential amino acids found in high-quality proteins are critical for hormone building, cells and bone health.

Solution: Add healthy proteins to your diet such as oily fish, organic meats, eggs and nuts.

The myth is that high levels of protein in the diet contribute to decreased kidney and liver function, as well as osteoporosis. These claims are simply not true.

The truth is that protein contributes to every living cell and process in our body. Essential amino acids found in high-quality protein are associated with improved bone health, and a lower risk of fracture. The protein actually helps bone metabolism and improves calcium retention, and it is potentially dangerous to consume inadequate protein.

So firstly stay away from factory raised/conventional meats, and choose organic, grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range organic chicken. Enjoy eggs, sprouted nuts, nut butters and seeds to take advantage of the fat and nutrition of these great protein sources.

Also if you look at many charts online and they are showing you "percent (%) of protein" for a food now this doesn't give you a complete picture. Some amino acids are what are called essential amino acids, of which there are 9, that is the body can't produce them and you need to get them from food so a better measure is "amino acid score" which evaluates the composition of amino acids in a food. Often you can also see the term "high-quality protein" this means it contains all the essential amino acids, also referred to as a "complete protein". There is some disagreements with regards to how bio-available different types of protein are to the body, some of which might even come down to you your particular genetics (how well you can convert nutrients) and for sure your gut health and capability to absorb nutrients.

For example, although wheat, as in white flour (bread), has an alright protein % score the amino acid score is low therefore it is not a good choice of protein. Of course there are also other issues with wheat however that's for another day ;)

I will give a quick mention to soy also as it has become such a big product and it does have a very high amino acid score. Now then, there are traditionally prepared and fermented types of soy such as natto which do have certain health benefits however once you start consuming soy milk, soy yoghurt, soy mince and burgers... it really isn't that great for the body. For more information on this in particular please look at the link I will post at the end of this blog.

Phew, so back to the main thread! Many of us may in fact not be getting enough protein in our daily diets. The RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowance, is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The catch is that the RDA is the minimum amount of protein needed to avoid getting sick, not the amount needed for optimal health (as an aside the same goes for any RDA say vitamins and minerals!). In fact there is research showing that athletes might need anywhere up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight for optimal performance.

While there is incidental evidence that individuals with kidney or liver disease may need to curb their protein intake, even researchers studying kidney disease state “The long-term effects of animal protein on normal kidney function are not known.”

The senior population that is at an increased risk for osteoporosis, falls and broken bones are particularly in need of high-quality (animal) protein. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research indicates that protein does not adversely affect the skeletal system, as some have reported. In fact, they found out that protein is essential in helping the body repair, and vital to preventing fatty build up and damage to the liver.

Adding in a healthy range of proteins into your diet is the key to longterm health!

And please be aware of so called “high protein” supermarket products like enriched cereals and many of the protein snack bars for sale! Advertising is a wonderful thing and often should be taken with a large pinch of salt. And remember that junk food is still junk food no matter what the advertising slogan.

There is also a huge market for protein powders, where do they fit in to a healthy lifestyle?

Chris Kresser says “[And] it’s not just a matter of preference. I have a lot of patients with low stomach acid, bile insufficiency, or other digestive problems that have trouble digesting large amounts of meat and fish. I also have patients that are intolerant of eggs (or other animal proteins). Ultimately, the goal is to heal their gut so they can eat as much of these foods as they’d like.

These are the situations where protein powder can be a useful addition.

You can add a protein shake in between your meals (or in place of breakfast, perhaps) to boost your overall protein intake. Depending on how you make the shake (i.e. simply mixed with water, or mixed with fruit, avocados, egg yolks, etc.), it can either be a source of additional calories if you’re trying to put on weight or aid recovery, or a means of boosting protein without adding calories if you’re trying to maximize weight loss or metabolic function.”

As you can see we are sort of back to my favorite motto, nothing is black and white, and with regards to health and diet it for sure comes down to your personal body composition including genetics, starting point and aim.

This is based on a wonderful article by the great Dr Josh Axe and his roundup of “The 11 Largest Nutrition Lies In the Media” for more details and links to the research papers and studies please look here:

If you are curious and would like more information about the whole protein debate and the latest research here are some great resources.

Mark Hyman “Protein and Your Health: What you need to know”

Chris Kresser “5 Reasons You May Need More Protein—Even on a Paleo Diet”

Robb Wolf with Diana Rodgers “How Much Protein Do We Really Need?”

Mark Hyman “Is meat needed to build muscle as we age?”

Diana Rodgers on different types of protein and their bioavailability “More Protein, Better Protein”

Chris Kresser on the difference between animal and plan protein “RHR: Why the Optimal Human Diet Includes Animal Protein”

Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom “Plant-Based Protein: What is its Role in the Paleo Diet?”

Diana Rodgers on how meat is raised matters “Meat is Magnificent: Water, Carbon, Methane & Nutrition”

Steph Gaudreau on protein powder and building muscle “How to Choose the Best Protein Powder”

Josh Axe “Is Soy Bad for You? Or Is It Full of Benefits?”

Meet The Team


Eva Wisenbeck

  • Facebook
  • Grey LinkedIn Icon

Eva Wisenbeck is a Co-Presenter of LifeHakx & a Wellness Coach

Screen Shot 2019-10-01 at 21_edited.jpg

Mary Collins

  • LifeHakxLogoBulb

Mary Collins is the Creator and Presenter of LifeHakx Media.

bottom of page