In the two decades between 1990 and 2010, the leading causes of death and disability remained relatively constant. Heart disease remains the leading cause of loss of health and life, but among the diseases whose incidence has increased the most over the past generation is chronic kidney disease. The number of deaths has doubled.
Our “meat-sweet” diet has been implicated in this escalation. Excess table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup consumption is associated with increased blood pressure and uric acid levels, both of which can damage the kidney. The saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol found in animal products and junk food are also associated with impaired kidney function, and meat protein increases the acid load to the kidneys, boosting ammonia production and potentially damaging our sensitive kidney tissue. This is why a restriction of protein intake is often recommended to chronic kidney disease patients to help prevent further functional decline.
Is all protein created equal? No—not all protein has the same effect on your kidneys. Our kidneys appear to handle plant protein very differently from animal protein. Within hours of consuming meat, our kidneys rev up into hyperfiltration mode, dramatically increasing the kidneys’ workload. This is true of a variety of animal proteins—beef, chicken, and fish appear to have similar effects. But an equivalent amount of plant protein causes virtually no noticeable stress on the kidneys. Eat some tuna, and within three hours, your kidney filtration rate can shoot up 36 percent. But eating the same amount of protein in the form of tofu doesn’t appear to place any additional strain on the kidneys.
Why does animal protein cause the overload reaction while plant protein doesn’t? Researchers discovered that after giving subjects a powerful anti-inflammatory drug along with animal protein, the hyperfiltration response disappeared, suggesting the hyperactive response was triggered by inflammation.
Animal protein may also play a role in cancer risk. IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor 1, is a cancer-promoting growth hormone that is released in excess when we eat animal protein. This is presumably why those who eat less meat, egg white, or dairy proteins have significantly lower levels circulating within their bodies within weeks of making the dietary switch. This lowering of IGF-1 levels is thought to be why the blood of men and women eating plant-based diets suppresses prostate and breast cancer growth in vitro significantly better than those eating the Standard American Diet.
Image Credit: Edward Liu / Flickr. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Protein
All Videos for Protein
Fever Benefits for Autism in a Food
Dramatic improvements in autistic children when they get a fever suggests that the disease may be reversible if one can replicate the phenomenon in other ways.
Arsenic in Rice Milk, Rice Krispies, & Brown Rice Syrup
I recommend people switch away from using rice milk.
The Effects of Avocados & Red Wine on Meal-Induced Inflammation
Whole plant sources of sugar and fat can ameliorate some of the postprandial inflammation caused by the consumption of refined carbs and meat.
How to Prevent Blood Sugar & Triglyceride Spikes after Meals
Within hours of eating an unhealthy meal, we can get a spike in inflammation, crippling our artery function, thickening our blood, and causing a fight-or-flight nerve response. But there are foods we can eat at every meal to counter this reaction.
Which Are Better: Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds?
What effect do chia seeds have on weight loss, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation?
Which Intestines for Food and Cosmetics?
The FDA appears to have caved in to industry pressure in allowing intestines potentially infected with mad cow disease prions into food products and lipstick.
Does Paratuberculosis in Meat Trigger Type 1 Diabetes?
The majority of specialists in the field agreed that paraTB in meat and dairy likely represents a risk to human health and should be a high- or medium-priority public health issue.
Does Paratuberculosis in Milk Trigger Type 1 Diabetes?
“Fear of consumer reaction” led the U.S. dairy industry to suppress the discovery in retail milk of live paraTB bacteria, a pathogen linked to type 1 diabetes.
The Effect of Animal Protein on Stress Hormones, Testosterone, and Pregnancy
What happened to women who were randomized to eat more meat and dairy during pregnancy, and what effect does animal protein consumption have on cortisol and testosterone levels in men?
Does Bovine Insulin in Milk Trigger Type 1 Diabetes?
Is it the casein or the cow insulin that explains the link between milk consumption and the development of type I diabetes?
Does Casein in Milk Trigger Type 1 Diabetes?
Why might exposure to bovine proteins increase the risk of childhood-onset autoimmune type I diabetes?
Who Shouldn’t Eat Soy?
How can soy foods have it both ways—pro-estrogenic effects in some organs (protecting bones and reducing hot flash symptoms), but anti-estrogenic effects in others (protecting against breast and endometrial cancer)?