What We Didn’t Know About Protein: We’ve all heard that protein in our diets is a good thing – especially if it is ‘good’ protein. In order to completely understand the idea of ‘good’ protein we consulted with WebMD and discovered that they recognize the following as good protein; “Fish & seafood, white-meat poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans, pork tenderloin, soy and lean beef.”
However, as affirming as that might sound, WebMD also released findings of a new study that indicates too much of a good thing is actually bad, “A high-fat diet may lead to insulin resistance, a major step on the path to type 2 diabetes. But cutting back on fat may not help those who continue to eat too much protein.”
Protein is the staple of many highly regarded diet plans including the Atkins diet. In many cases protein is strongly recommended to the exclusion of carbohydrates. Many have lost weight using this method, but this new data may have limiting implications for these plans.
Christopher Newgard, PhD, director of the Sarah Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Duke University told WebMD, “There’s not only fat in that hamburger but plenty of protein. We are overconsuming calories composed of all the different macronutrients, and together they have harmful effects.”
The original emphasis of the study was to learn how fat metabolizes in individuals who are lean as opposed to those who are obese. What researchers learned came as a surprise, “Under circumstances of overconsumption, not only does excess fat and carbohydrate have injurious effects, but also the protein component of the diet can lead to some of the co-morbidities of obesity,” said Newgard.
The WebMD report helps define the metabolic differences between the Duke University test group, “Lean people’s bodies tend to make new proteins out of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). In obese people this process gets overloaded. Instead of making new protein, the BCAAs are diverted into a deviant pathway that leads to insulin resistance.”
Part of the key to this study was the total number of BCAA proteins in food. It is estimated that there are about 20% of all protein supplies that include BCAAs. In rats that were used in this test there was an equal amount of insulin resistance with a lower fat diet that included BCAAs as there was in a high fat/high protein diet. The rats that had the low fat, but high BCAA diet ate less and still had an equal insulin resistance as their high fat rat counterparts.
Ronald B. Goldberg, MD, director of the lipid disorders clinic at the University of Miami said, “What [this] shows is that the combination of high fat and protein might be what’s important in developing insulin resistance. The truth is that in Western diets we do eat a high-protein, high-fat diet. The stress previously has not been on the high-protein component.”
These findings are logically going to be reviewed and studied from multiple angles, but it does offer some interesting ideas about the near epidemic status of diabetes. What if it’s possible the diet we have thought was beneficial to the American public is actually part of the problem associated with onset diabetes? What if the very foods we look to for good health are actually contributing to the rapid growth of Type 2 diabetes?
Yes, the ultimate results of this study may indeed provide profound ‘implications’.