Eat More Protein for Better Health | The Paleo Diet®
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Eat More Protein for Better Health

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
September 9, 2015
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New research affirms the hypothesis that protein is much more valuable than we may have previously thought.1 And, to many individuals' surprise, plant protein seemed to be as beneficial as animal protein. In fact, eating more protein was just as effective as curbing the top four negative health behaviors including smoking, alcohol consumption, salt intake, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.2,3 Consuming a Paleo diet – which is by nature high in protein, low sodium, and promotes leading an active lifestyle - is highly beneficial for overall health.

The Paleo diet encourages introducing alternative proteins, animal and plant proteins alike, to reap the wealth of nutrients and health benefits from each group. Two of the most important biomarkers tracked (and improved) by more protein consumption were lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness. Though researchers admit that the mechanism for lowering of these biomarkers of health are not yet clearly understood, eating a healthy diet high in real foods is beneficial to our overall health and wellness. In a world where 7 out of 10 people are overweight, and many more are on some form of medication, isn’t this what really matters?4,5

Americans protein intake is dreadfully low. This is partly why we are caught in a health crisis.6 The real key here is amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There is no such thing as essential carbohydrates, but there are essential amino acids.7 Consumption of amino acids is likely the mechanism which underlies the success seen in this particular study. Unfortunately, as mentioned, most of us in the Western world overeat carbohydrates, and skimp out on protein.8,9 However, if you’re following a real Paleo diet, protein deficiency is virtually impossible if you’re eating a diet with a steady supply of nutrient-rich vegetables and complete proteins.

Athletes on the other hand often can overdo protein. Whereas the women in this study, on average, consumed only 80 grams of protein daily, the fitness community would perceive this startlingly low. The takeaway is balance. Dr. Cordain’s The Paleo Diet for Athletes is a great primer for understanding how best to maintain glycogen stores, a healthy pH, prevent or reduce inflammation, and optimize body weight by obtaining the right amino acids and keep your carbohydrates in check. While many official guidelines still continue to recommend 60 grams of protein daily for women,10 this inaccuracy should soon be addressed and corrected. It is much easier to overconsume calories when your brain does not receive a satiety signal,11 and protein is far more satiating than carbohydrates.12

The new research drives the point home. Protein is essential to overall health and wellness, weight loss, and athletic performance. So keep on eating your salmon and grass fed beef. And don’t pay much mind to the vegans who chastise you for doing so. Instead, point them to this article, or the new study. On a near-daily basis, science is discovering new benefits of the foods we eat, and the more it discovers - the better a Paleo diet seems to fare!

References

[1] Jennings A, Macgregor A, Welch A, Chowienczyk P, Spector T, Cassidy A. Amino Acid Intakes Are Inversely Associated with Arterial Stiffness and Central Blood Pressure in Women. J Nutr. 2015;145(9):2130-8.

[2] Puddey IB, Beilin LJ. Alcohol is bad for blood pressure. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2006;33(9):847-52.

[3] Sanders PW. Vascular consequences of dietary salt intake. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2009;297(2):F237-43.

[4] Available at: //www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm. Accessed September 4, 2015.

[5] Available at: //newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/nearly-7-in-10-americans-take-prescription-drugs-mayo-clinic-olmsted-medical-center-find/. Accessed September 4, 2015.

[6] Phillips SM. A brief review of higher dietary protein diets in weight loss: a focus on athletes. Sports Med. 2014;44 Suppl 2:S149-53.

[7] Volpi E, Kobayashi H, Sheffield-moore M, Mittendorfer B, Wolfe RR. Essential amino acids are primarily responsible for the amino acid stimulation of muscle protein anabolism in healthy elderly adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(2):250-8.

[8] Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, Augustin LS. Too much sugar, too much carbohydrate, or just too much?. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(5):711-2.

[9] Spreadbury I. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:175-89.

[10] Available at: //www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods. Accessed September 4, 2015.

[11] Ahima RS, Antwi DA. Brain regulation of appetite and satiety. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2008;37(4):811-23.

[12] Abou-samra R, Keersmaekers L, Brienza D, Mukherjee R, Macé K. Effect of different protein sources on satiation and short-term satiety when consumed as a starter. Nutr J. 2011;10:139.

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