Local physician concerned about young folks pumping protein
Don Ames Reporting
Protein supplements line the shelves of grocery stores, drug stores and health food shops.
Often marketed to athletes, protein products promise to help build muscle, but they're not for everyone.
Doctors now say that young people in their 20s are increasingly becoming prone to kidney ailments due to the overuse of the supplements.
"The kidney can handle so much protein, and only so much," says Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, Head of the LSU Department of Family Medicine. "It's like any other organ...if you over-stress it., it's going to be a problem."
"So what happens...even though these young people may have healthy kidneys...if they take too much of it, it can't process it so it ends up causing kidney damage."
Dr. LeBlanc's PhD is in Exercise Physiology and his research has been in supplements, so he knows what he's talking about.
Many young men take protein supplements like protein shakes, powders and pills, as it gives them biceps and six packs in a short duration.
But, excessive use can lead to the development of kidney stones and, eventually, kidney failure.
"Can it cause kidney damage? Yes," says LeBlanc. "It's more than just a theoretical risk. It just overpowers the ability to filter."
And, he says, that's its job. The purpose of the kidneys is to filter your blood and remove waste from your system while essential nutrients are delivered to tissues and organs. Protein is filtered through the kidneys; too much of it may strain renal function.
And, kidney disease hardly shows any symptoms until it's gotten to the point that dialysis is the only option.
"Some people can go years and years with minor kidney damage that they're not even aware of. So, if they throw on this extra protein, they can actually have more rapid decline in their renal function."
"It wouldn't hurt, if you're taking protein supplements for a long time, to check with your doctor," LeBlanc says. "Let him run some tests on your kidneys to make sure there's nothing showing up."
Unhealthy diets, smoking and drinking can be contributors to kidney problems, as well.