Myths of the High-Protein Diets

A recent study reported that consuming a high-protein diet reduces the weight of the participants over a 2-year period. Other studies have promoted similar results in the past years. People with diabetes are often targeted by those who sell those diets (Atkins, etc.) because of their supposedly low-carbs benefits.

The rise of those high protein diets is in direct response to the low fat diets promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture decades ago, as it was already known back then that fat consumption directly contributed to heart diseases and other medical conditions such as cancer, the leading causes of death then (and still today). The food industry responded to that by cashing in on the fact that sweetness is highly addictive: they gradually removed fats from the food it manufactures and replaced it with a product that was (and still is) even cheaper: added sugar, in particular high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Added sugar is now found in a myriad of unsuspecting products, such as ketchup, sausages, canned fruits and vegetables, etc. Sweets, along fats, are known to cause severe damage to the body, including heart and brain diseases. They are also very rich in calories and significantly contribute to weight gain.

The diet industry then decided to cash in on the health problems associated with the consumption of low quality carbs by negating all carbs as a whole, claiming that ditching them would make you lose weight and supposedly healthier. Sure enough, reducing the consumption of high-caloric sugars will make anyone lose weight. It’s not the consumption of proteins that helps losing weight, it’s reducing the over-consumption of calories from low-quality carbs.

In itself, consuming more proteins from meat makes the matter worse. Increasing meat consumption also increases fat consumption which, as mentioned above, has been known for decades to be deadly for most, so that’s clearly not a solution to the problem. Meat consumption is associated to kidney diseases, something people with diabetes certainly want to avoid as their condition can put a burden on their kidneys.

To negate those issues, the meat industry claims that consuming meat is vital due to the essential proteins they provide. The truth is otherwise. When it comes to proteins, the human body only needs about 0.8g of proteins per kg of body weight, or roughly 1g of protein per lb of body weight (so more or less 50g of proteins for a 150-lb person). Overweight people do not need more proteins than lean people, so your protein consumption must be based on your ideal weight. As a reference, a 3-oz steak contains anywhere between 25g and 50g of proteins (depending on the cut). People following healthy vegan/vegetarian diets have no problem meeting their protein needs, without any meat product at all. Plus they get much more nutrients and natural vitamins, and no sickening / deadly amount of fats. Athletic people on healthy vegan/vegetarian diets also easily meet their protein needs by consuming more food (as they need more energy) and hence, more proteins. Proteins from diverse vegetable sources easily provide all amino acids, resulting in a “complete protein” diet. Overall, reaching your protein requirements is not a matter for concerns given the abundance and variety of food available to us.

The solution is not to cut back on carbs, but instead replacing low quality carbs by high quality carbs, such as whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, etc.), beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. They fill you up to satiety and provide plenty of nutrients, vitamins, minerals (including calcium) and proteins.

Tips for a healthy diet:

  • Familiarize yourself with the ingredients. When purchasing a product, look for and avoid products containing enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugars, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, etc.
  • Reduce or better eliminate sodas from your diet. Regular sodas contain no less than 10 sugar cubes, whereas diet sodas make you crave sweets. None provides nutrients.
  • Aim for whole food, such as grains, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Not only can you eat plenty of them, they also provide the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to stay healthy, repair itself and grow, while keeping calories to a reasonable level.
  • Eliminate low quality carbs, such as soda, candies, cookies, cereals (especially those targeted to children), white bread, white pasta, white rice, white tortillas, chips, muffins, pastries, etc. They all contain high amounts of simple sugars and fats, but few nutrients, the opposite of what the body needs.
  • Avoid dairy. Fat-free and low-fat milk usually contains more lactose, milk sugar, which many people can’t properly digest. Calcium is not a concern, as it is abundant from vegetable sources and better digested than the one in milk. Since calcium from dairy milk comes from the plants the cow ate, better skip the cow and eat the plants. Dairy also contain casein, a protein that leads to plenty of diseases to humans, notably cancer.
  • Spend a little time to find healthy products (without added sugars and very low in fat) and you’ll earn a lifetime of health benefits, including reaching your ideal weight without starving yourself.


Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 45, Issue 3 , Pages 213-221, May 2013
Mayo Clinic
American Heart Association


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