Protein powders are a hype

What's behind the protein hype?

STUTTGART. There is a milk drink with extra protein on the refrigerated shelf, oat flakes with added protein in the muesli department and protein bread next to the baked goods. What was only available in the gym for a long time is now finding its way into supermarkets: protein products. But where does the trend come from? And does the extra protein even make sense?

"Everyone now wants to be fit and healthy. Protein has the good reputation that it is very filling," explains nutritionist Antje Gahl from the German Nutrition Society (DGE). "It is an important building material for cells and tissues." The development also has to do with diet trends such as low carb or paleo based on the Stone Age model. A vegetarian and vegan diet also play a role.

Satisfying function

"A higher protein intake goes hand in hand with a higher level of satiety," explains the ecotrophologist. Proteins are good for building muscle - but that plays a subordinate role for the average consumer. "For Lieschen Müller, the focus is more on: If I eat more protein, I am less hungry and lose weight."

However, a protein deficiency is less of a problem: "Protein is really contained in a great many foods," explains expert Gahl. "You don't need that much to meet this need." Three to four slices of wholemeal bread, a quarter of a liter of milk, a small cup of yogurt, a serving of potatoes and a piece of fish - that's 60 grams of protein. That is a little more than a grown man needs on average. For a 60-kilogram woman, it is only 48 grams.

Marketing tricks even harmful?

Are extra proteins then even necessary? "It's not necessary," says Gahl. "But it certainly doesn't hurt either." You suspect marketing reasons behind the products. Even for an amateur athlete who does half an hour of sport four to five times a week, the recommended average amount of protein is enough.

And in fact there can be too much of a good thing: "There are studies that a permanently increased protein intake can damage the kidneys," explains Gahl. "Protein is made up of various amino acids and the breakdown product in the body is urea." The kidneys have to cope with this plus in urea. In this respect, too much protein could permanently damage the kidneys.

Precise statements

When asked by the Ärzte Zeitung, the nutritionist Gahl specified: "A systematic review of the relationship between protein intake and the health of older people (a total of 23 studies, including intervention studies, cohort studies and case-control studies) came to the conclusion that protein intake in the Range of 1.2-1.5 g / kg body weight per day is safe, with only one of the studies examined relating to the relationship between protein intake and kidney diseases [Pedersen AN, Kondrup J, Børsheim E: Health effects of protein intake in healthy adults: a systematic literature review. Food Nutr Res 57 (2013)]. "

And further: "A harmful effect on kidney function in a diet with a protein intake of 2 g / kg body weight or more per day over a long period of time could not be ruled out."

In addition, according to Gahl, "in people with impaired kidney function, a protein intake that is significantly higher than the requirement, combined with an increased formation of urea, can trigger the progression of renal insufficiency [Knight EL, Stampfer MJ, Hankinson SE et al .: The impact of protein intake on renal function decline in women with normal renal function or mild renal insufficiency. Ann Intern Med 138 (2003) 460 - 467 and: Fouque D, Laville M: ​​Low protein diets for chronic kidney disease in non diabetic adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2009 ) CD001892]. "

A study led by the German Institute for Nutritional Research (DIfE) also showed that too much protein makes overweight people less likely to react to insulin - and thus also has an impact on the risk of diabetes.

And products that are inherently not healthy will probably not become so either with the help of protein. "It's completely absurd with chocolate bars," emphasizes Gahl. The bars are now available as a protein variant. Gahl: "You shouldn't cover your protein needs with chocolate." (dpa / ajo)