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A Question About Protein Toxicity

By The Paleo Diet Team
April 23, 2012
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Hi Professor Cordain!

My name is Chloe and your book has truly changed my life... All three, to be exact. I love them all! Since adopting The Paleo Diet® (and following your guidelines in particular) I have lost 30 pounds and reversed PCOS and Hypothyroidism. I am particularly grateful for the Paleo Physicians Network you set up for it lead me to a wonderful doctor who has has helped me progress every step of the way, implementing your wisdom all along.

That said, I am wondering about the protein toxicity you speak of in your book. As I understand the body can only handle 200-300 grams of protein- or 30-40% of calories. Is the 30-40% with regards to a 2,000 or higher calorie diet? I ask because I am on a medically supervised plan where I eat less than that and thus my high protein intake (which feels tremendously great) can make up as much as 50-60% of my daily calories (on a 1200-1500 calorie plan, consuming 100-150grams of protein/day)

Is this "safe" since caloric intake is lower? Foods are balanced out with ample vegetables, fruits and some healthy fats....

I thank you for work and brilliance and look forward to hearing from you!

Warmest,

Chloe

Dr. Cordain's Response:

Hi Chloe,

Thanks for your kind words about the Paleo Diet and congratulations upon your health and weight loss successes.

Protein toxicity can be calculated by using pre-determined figures for maximal urea synthesis in the liver. These values are expressed as milligrams/Nitrogen/hour/kilogram body weight ^0.75. Using another equation, it is then possible to calculate a range of values for the maximal protein ceiling in grams per day. For example from the spreadsheet I have developed to do these calculations, a 60 kg (132 lb) person would have a maximal protein ceiling ranging from 178 g to 245 g whereas a 75 kg (165 lb) person would have a range of 210 to 290 g of protein per day.

To answer your question directly, because you are consuming a hypocaloric diet (calorically restricted) of 1200 to 1500 calories per day then your protein intake could easily reach 50-60 % of your daily energy (600 to 750 kcal and 720 to 900 kcal). A gram of protein = 4 kcal, so 600 kcal of protein would be 150 grams of protein and 900 kcal of protein would be 225 grams of protein. You didnt provide me with your current weight, but you should be easily able to ingest 100 to 150 grams of protein without coming close to your protein ceiling.

Best wishes,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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