Protein is a macronutrient found throughout our bodies; our muscles, bones, skin, and hair all rely on protein for growth, repair, and the overall maintenance of good health which makes it pretty easy to understand why high-protein diets are becoming increasingly popular. Still, whether you’re getting your protein intake from supplements, or through dietary protein and a high protein diet, the continued interest in diets high in protein poses the question; can too much protein cause more harm than good?

Well, when it comes to the relationship between your protein and your kidneys - too much of a good thing isn’t always great. To put it simply, your kidneys work pretty hard to clear the metabolites of protein from your body, so too much protein can potentially add strain to your already hard-working kidneys and can potentially lead to kidney stones [1].



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Can too much protein be harmful to your kidneys?


Increased muscle mass, strong bones, and encouraging a healthy metabolism are just some of the benefits associated with a high protein intake and are notably why protein tends to play a vital role in those who lift weights or are trying to gain muscle.

And while adding protein to our diets has important benefits for us all (including those who aren't an avid visitor to the weight rack!), too much protein can potentially be harmful to the kidneys with studies showing that a high protein diet can cause kidney stones and can worsen kidney function in those already living with kidney disease[2].


Kidney stones


Eating a lot of animal protein such as red meat, poultry, and eggs can boost the level of uric acid in the kidneys and can lead to kidney stones[3]. A high protein diet can also reduce levels of citrate - this is the chemical in your urine which can prevent stones from forming.


Kidney disease


If you have kidney disease, it’s important to keep an eye on the amount and type of protein you eat. Too much can cause waste to build up in your blood and your kidneys may not have the strength to remove the extra waste[4]. Speak with your doctor to get an idea of how much protein you should be eating.


How much protein should you be eating per day?


In recent years, many people have begun to increase their protein intake in an effort to aid weight loss and/or build muscle, but how much protein should you be eating every day? [5]

Though the ideal amount of protein you should be consuming is slightly uncertain - the most common recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weighed 60kg, you’d need about 48g per day.

Before starting a new diet plan, it’s important to seek medical advice and speak with your healthcare provider.


If you’re concerned about your kidney health, it’s important to make a trip to the doctor for a check-up.

If you want to know more about your kidney health, including your kidney function and its performance, you can take an at-home Kidney Test with LetsGetChecked. This test will indicate how your kidneys are performing by measuring levels of urea, creatinine, and eGFR. High levels of urea, creatinine and a low eGFR can indicate acute or chronic kidney disease.

You should take the test if:

  • You have a high protein diet
  • You have used or are using performance-enhancing drugs
  • You are taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • You suffer from high blood pressure
  • You suffer from diabetes
  • You have suffered an acute injury
  • You have persistent urinary tract infections
  • You have a kidney disease or a family history of one
  • You have kidney stones or a family history of them


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References


  1. Harvard Medical School. When it comes to protein, how much is too much? Online: Health.harvard.edu, 2018
  2. Harvard Medical School. When it comes to protein, how much is too much? Online: Health.harvard.edu, 2018
  3. Harvard Medical School. When it comes to protein, how much is too much? Online: Health.harvard.edu, 2018
  4. Harvard Medical School. 5 steps for preventing kidney stones. Online: Health.harvard.edu, 2013
  5. National Kidney Foundation. Nutrition and Early Kidney Disease. Online: Kidney.org