By Dr. Lochan Arora, Dietitian/Nutritionist,
There have been several contradictions and debates regarding the correlation between arthritis and high protein diets. In the past, some research studies had blamed certain protein-rich foods for arthritic pain and weaker bone density. But more recent studies state that high-protein foods do not affect arthritis.
When you increase your protein intake, your body starts absorbing more calcium from food. Calcium is the most essential element for building stronger bones. Foods that are rich in protein include-
- Fatty fishes (rich in omega-3) that help flight inflammation
- Poultry and red meat, when consumed in balanced amounts, provide essential nutrients that help reduce pain in rheumatoid arthritis
- Eggs are considered an essential source of calcium
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, pistachios and walnuts are good proteins that have many health benefits
- Flaxseeds lubricates the joints and help reduce arthritic pain and stiffness
However, eating a balanced protein diet is extremely important to maintain good health. While it is imperative to consume sufficient amount of protein on a daily basis, excess intake of the same can have negative effects on arthritis. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, men and women should respectively consume 56gm and 46gm of protein daily to maintain good health. Eating an unbalanced diet may weaken your immune system and increase your weight. Both these conditions can worsen the inflammation and pain linked with arthritis.
Side-effects of High Protein Diet-
- Excess intake of protein can lead to gout. Fishes and meat which are high in purines can lead to accumulation of uric acid in the blood. This in turn can cause gouts.
- Cuts of red meat exacerbate inflammation. These contain high levels of saturated fats that also promote obesity. Some people affected with rheumatoid arthritis have reportedly experienced improved symptoms of arthritis after reducing intake of red meat.
- High protein dairy products adversely affect arthritis. For some people these food items irritate the tissues surrounding your joints. An alternative source of protein can be fresh veggies like spinach, beans and lentils.
- Animal proteins such as eggs and meat can trigger joint inflammation. These contain excessive omega-6 fatty acids. Consuming them in excess amount can increase the activity of enzymes cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclooxygenase-1 that promote inflammation in the joints.
- Obesity and constipation are triggered by high protein diets. If you take in more protein and calories than is usually required for a healthy body, the excess protein will be stored in the form of fat. Over time as you continue to consume more of it, your body weight increases. Uncontrollable weight gain can even lead to obesity.
Since animal proteins do not contain fiber, most people take in less fiber than the amount your body requires. Deficiency of fiber can cause constipation.
Nutrition experts recommend that protein intake should be between 10-35% of your total calorie intake. These protein requirements can easily be met with limited servings of high-protein food such as 1 cup of yogurt or milk, half a cup of cooked beans, 3 ounces of lean meat. Remember, consumption of protein rich diet does not affect your health. Consuming it in excess is what takes a toll on your health.