The different parts and systems of the human body can encounter several health issues, which can cause adverse health effects and lead to the deterioration of the overall quality of life. While conditions affecting the other parts of the body can be troublesome, one of the most bothersome health issues to afflict people are those that affect bone health. That is because our bones primarily do most of the work in terms of supporting our musculoskeletal system and is an integral part of locomotion and movement. The question then is, what are the effects of protein and amino acids on bone health? Are they detrimental to our bones? In this article, let us look at what proteins and amino acids can do for our bones.
Protein and Amino Acids Health Benefits
People debate whether or not proteins and their building blocks, amino acids, can harm our bodies. There are claims that the intake of protein in large quantities can result in calcium reduction in bones, damage the kidneys, and even lead to a bone condition known as osteoporosis. Before looking at these supposed adverse effects of proteins and amino acids, let us look at what proteins can do for the body.
Most individuals are probably aware that proteins are life’s building blocks, and the building blocks of protein are amino acids. They are both used for purposes that are functional and structural. These amino acids are linked like long chains on a string of beads and can be folded into different complex shapes. The essential amino acids are nine (9) in total, which must be obtained, through the food items we consume or take in. On the other hand, twelve (12) non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body through the synthesis of organic molecules.
The amino acid profile is dependent on the type or quality of the source of protein, and the best sources of protein from the diet are those that contain all amino acids that are essential in quantities that the human body needs or requires. Following this logic, it is then correct to point out that protein souces coming from animals are more ideal than those coming from plant-based sources. That makes sense as the muscle composition and protein profile of human beings are very similar to that of animals. Protein intake recommendations for individuals are pegged at around .36 grams daily for every pound (0.8 kilograms). That translates to protein amounting to 56 grams for individuals who weigh at around 70 kilograms or 154 pounds (lbs).
Taking in the abovementioned amounts of protein can already help the body in the prevention of protein deficiency. But, experts believe that this limited protein intake may not provide optimal health and nutrition to individuals. There is also evidence to suggest that older adults can gain health benefits from taking in higher levels of protein.
Can Protein and Amino Acid lead to Osteoporosis?
Some theories claim the increased intake of protein can lead to osteoporosis. It is based on the theory, that eating too much protein can increase the body’s acid content and suck out calcium in the bones for the acid to be neutralized. While there is data to support the fact that this process does happen, it only occurs in the short term and will usually not last for long periods. There is also strong evidence to support that this kind of condition will not occur in studies conducted long term. One study conducted within three (3) months, having replaced carbs with meat or protein did not have any adverse effect on the excretion of calcium and even helped in the enhancement of certain hormones that helped bone health such as IGF-1.
A much recent study conducted in 2017 also showed that the intake of protein in increased levels does not adversely affect bone health and has even indicated the opposite of the said assumption- that increased protein intake can help enhance and improve bone health. One such benefit to bone health of increased protein intake is that it lowered the risk of fractured bones and even improved the overall density of the bones. Protein intake has also been shown to aid in improved lean mass and IGF-1, two factors that are critical to the promotion of healthy bones.
What about the intake of protein and the possible damage to the kidneys?
The kidneys are amazing organs that are needed by the body to filter excess liquids, nutrients, and waste compounds from the blood thereby, resulting in excreted urine. Some theorists claim that increased intake of protein can lead to the kidneys working much harder to filter out the metabolites of the excess protein. While it may be true that added protein can make the kidneys work a little bit harder, this added load is nothing compared to the actual filtering that your kidney has to do. Around twenty percent (20%) of the blood pumped by the heart will go to the kidneys, and for adults, kidneys will usually have to filter around 180 liters or 48 gallons of blood daily.
People with existing kidney disease should avoid excess protein intake as it can cause adverse health effects. For people with regular functioning and normal kidneys, however, eating an extra bit of protein should be no big deal. Kidney failure is usually triggered by two medical conditions which are hypertension or high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest, though, that eating protein can help the aforementioned medical conditions.
As such, it is safe to say that increased protein intake does not harm the kidneys especially for those people whose kidneys are working fine or for those with diseases of the kidney. There is some evidence that points towards proteins’ positive effects on the overall health and wellness of individuals, on top of helping people lose the extra weight and shed some excess pounds.