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What Is a Low-Protein Diet?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

A low-protein diet is used primarily as a medical tool to help people with failure in the kidneys or the liver. People on this type of diet may reduce protein consumption to less than half the amount normally eaten in the average diet. Eating a low-protein diet can be advantageous because it may drastically slow the rate of damage to a person's kidneys or liver. It can also have some disadvantages because people need significant protein in their diets for the regeneration of tissue. Sometimes people with vegetarian or vegan lifestyles may accidentally start eating a low-protein diet if they don't watch their nutrients carefully enough.

Proteins often leave behind certain chemicals that require the kidneys and liver to do a bit of extra work. This is normally not a problem for a healthy person, but if people have various kidney or liver disorders, the process of digesting protein might sometimes accelerate difficulties. By eating less protein, some people are generally able to slow everything down and retain their health easier.

Woman doing yoga
Woman doing yoga

When people go on a low-protein diet, they generally don't cut protein sources out completely. They will often just reduce the quantities by about half, or maybe even a little more. People get their protein from both meat and plant sources, but meat is often the predominant source of protein in many diets, and it may often be the biggest area of reduction. If a person goes on one of these diets, he will generally compensate for the lowered protein level by raising the amount of carbohydrates consumed to maintain the same amount of daily food energy.

There are also some major downsides that people experience on low-protein diet plans. For example, they might gradually lose muscle mass, and they may start to feel weak. This means that before putting a person on this type of diet, the doctors will generally want to make sure the individual's illness is serious enough so that the benefits will outweigh any negatives.

Sometimes people who live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle will accidentally eat an insufficient amount of protein. In these cases, the person might become ill and develop some of the same major disadvantages found with an intentional low-protein diet. These people can often get an adequate level of protein by using supplements and making the right choices among plant foods so that they get plenty of calories from nuts and other plant-based protein sources.

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