How much protein do we really need?

How much protein do we really need?

Welt – an influential daily newspaper of the Axel Springer Verlag German Media Concern, which is popular among representatives of the German business elite, published an article on its website entitled “How much protein does our body really need?”. ORIENT offers its readers this material with some breviary.

A person needs protein

Currently, active research is underway to calculate the optimal dose of proteins for humans. Nutritionists have long discussed the benefits and dangers of fat and carbohydrates, and now many of them have devoted their researches to the third main nutritional element.

There is no arguing that proteins are the basis of everything: muscles, organs, enzymes, and hormones are made up of protein. Its share is constantly growing and decreasing. Cells “lay out” protein molecules into “bricks” – 20 different amino acids – and reassemble them again. Thus, the human body daily processes 300 grams. At the same time, we must subsist on, first of all, proteins to compensate for the losses that our body suffers – the loss of hair, dead skin particles, etc.

Theoretically, a normal diet is enough to build up real mountains of muscle. According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), an adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day. That is, for a man weighing 75 kg it will be enough 60 grams – and this dose can easily be obtained, even if you are a vegetarian.

If a man desires big biceps, then due to the most persistent training, he will be able to independently build up about 10 kg of muscle mass during the first year. To do this, it will be enough to increase the daily dose of protein by 6 grams, that is, one chicken egg or two tablespoons of lentils. After this, growth will slow down, and no additional proteins will be needed to maintain muscle mass.

Therefore, now DGE plays the protein “hype” against the results of research, according to which, athletes in everyday life have no physiological reasons to receive additional doses of proteins in the form of special supplements.

“People who lead an active lifestyle need more energy, and they eat more and automatically get higher doses of protein,” says dietitian Helmut Heseker from the University of Paderborn, a member of the Scientific Presidium of the DGE. According to him, only the senior citizens need an additional dose of protein to offset the loss of muscle mass due to age.

Long before, scientists have been trying to deduce some optimal recipe, and it is known that some amino acids actually contribute to muscle growth.

In many dietary concepts, proteins also play a major role. Their benefit is modest, but measurable: according to one meta-analysis, in a total of 24 check studies over 12 weeks, participants were able to lose an average of almost 800 grams more if their diet contained a significant amount of protein. This may be due to the fact that proteins contribute to a sense of satiety and produce a small amount of heat.

There is no shortage of proteins

However, Helmut Heseker is not inclined to succumb to the “protein” trend. According to him, “based on the results of research, it is impossible to make a clear conclusion that powdered protein supplements have any advantage over the usual full-fledged and balanced dairy food.”

“In developed countries, there is no shortage of proteins, and sometimes they are even turned into waste products.” For example, in the production of cheeses, whey remains, and in the extraction of oils – vegetable protein. “The agiotage around proteins gives the food industry a good opportunity to profitably sell protein powder, which otherwise would be simply fed to animals.”

However, other experts point to the general health benefits of proteins. “Increased protein consumption helps to control weight better and improves blood pressure,” says Nikolai Vorm, a Professor at the German Institute of health problems. However, he considers the generalized recommendations ambiguous, “A man who already eats a large steak and a significant amount of cheese and sausage every day, of course, should not be advised to take additional proteins.”

Food is a matter of taste

Scientists are pursuing a lot of epidemiological investigations, trying to justify the importance of protein consumption for health and mortality in the long term. “There is one big problem in dietetics: there is simply no clear evidence,” admits Nikolai Vorm. He called the discussion about the health benefits of proteins “made out thin air” because the difference in mortality between high and low protein consumption is so insignificant that it is within the statistical discrepancy.

At the same time, however, it can be stated that the mortality rate is still slightly higher among people who consume a lot of plant proteins. However, this is mostly attributed not to the proteins themselves, but to the fact that most people do not consume them separately. Plants contain a lot of ballasts and vitamins, and people who consume a lot of plant food are usually especially confident in their own health. In turn, a large consumption of meat is considered a sign of unhealthy eating behavior, and even lean meat, many people eat au gratin or with cream sauce with delight.

However, a large amount of protein doesn’t seem to do much harm – at least not to people with healthy kidneys.

However, there are also disturbing signals. For example, biologists have found out in animal experiments that proteins can influence the aging process. For example, mice and fruit flies lived longer when they received food that was not rich in carbohydrates. It was especially important the lack of certain amino acids, including those that are marketed as drugs that stimulate muscle growth.

There is an explanation for this: amino acids activate the signal system that has existed for centuries in all animals (and humans). “An abundant diet sets a signal to the growth of cells,” explained biologist Sebastian Grenke from the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, who specializes in aging problems. When a signal about a lack of proteins has been received, it is launched a “processing program”, causing a rejuvenation effect.

“When a cell is deficient, it gets rid of damaged or improperly stored proteins that can harm the body in the longer term,” explained Mr.Grenke. So it is possible that growth stimulation is associated with an accelerated aging process.

Whether experiments on fruit flies can be considered applicable to humans, of course, it’s moot point. But, as it often happens upon researches in the field of nutrition, we can state: food is a matter of taste.