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Does Increased Protein Intake Affect Life Expectancy?
Many people consume protein and certain amino acids to improve their muscle building during exercise. Researchers have now investigated whether and how the increased consumption of protein and BCAAs affects life expectancy. Does life expectancy decrease when people consume a lot of protein?
A recent study by the University of Sydney found that excessive consumption of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) could shorten lifespan, negatively affect mood, and lead to weight gain. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Nature Metabolism".
What are BCAAs?
Long-term high protein intake and the increased consumption of certain amino acids seem to lead to health problems. So-called BCAAs are essential amino acids that are contained in protein-containing foods. Red meat and dairy products are particularly rich in BCAAs. Chicken, fish and eggs also contain increased amounts of BCAAs. Vegetarians can get BCAAs from beans, lentils, nuts and soy, for example. BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Whey protein, the most popular form of protein in the fitness scene, is made from dairy by-products and contains a high percentage of BCAAs.
Negative effects of amino acids
Amino acids have long been valued in fitness and bodybuilding circles for their muscle building performance. From protein powders to lean mass-promoting snack bars, there are many such products. However, little attention has been paid to the side effects of the products in recent years. The results of the current study now suggest that excessive consumption of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) can shorten lifespan, negatively affect mood and lead to increased weight gain. In particular, the complex influence of diet on metabolic health, reproduction, appetite and aging was examined. While a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates has proven beneficial for reproductive function, there have been negative health effects in middle and late age and a shortened lifespan, explains study author Dr. Samantha Solon-Biet from the University of Sydney.
Amino acid balance is very important
“This new research has shown that amino acid balance is important. It's best to vary protein sources to ensure you get the best amino acid balance, ”the researchers advise in a university press release.
Rivalry between BCAAs and tryptophan?
The study examined how dietary BCAAs and other essential amino acids, such as tryptophan, affect mouse health and body composition. Supplementing the normal diet with BCAAs resulted in high levels of BCAA in the blood that vied with tryptophan for transport to the brain, said Professor Stephen Simpson of the University of Sydney.
Tryptophan is the only precursor to the hormone serotonin, which is known for its mood-enhancing effects and its role in promoting sleep. But serotonin has other effects, and that's where the problem lies, Simpson adds.
Use different sources of protein
As a result of the rivalry, serotonin levels in the brain are reduced, which in turn was a strong signal to increase appetite. The decrease in serotonin caused by excessive BCAA intake led to a massive oversupply of food in the mice. This then caused the animals to become extremely obese and reduce their life expectancy. The study mice were divided into several groups, some receiving double the normal BCAAs (200 percent), another receiving the standard (100 percent), one receiving half the normal (50 percent) and that last group got only a fifth of the normal amount (20 percent).
The animals that received double the amount of BCAAs had a significantly increased food intake, which led to obesity and a shortened lifespan. It is therefore very important to vary protein sources in order to obtain a multitude of essential amino acids through a healthy and balanced diet rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, according to the researchers.
Recommended daily amount of protein
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) has published specific recommendations for protein intake. The information is based on scientific studies. The protein intake for children aged one to four years is 1.0 g per kg body weight per day and decreases during growth depending on age and gender to 0.8 g per kg body weight per day. For adults, the reference value is derived from data from nitrogen balance studies. Accordingly, the recommended intake for 19- to 65-year-olds is 0.8 g protein per kg body weight per day. This corresponds to 57 to 67 g of protein per day. However, no specific recommendations can be made for adults over the age of 65. However, a higher intake is suspected.
Knowing the right time for proteins
Several studies looked at whether the point in time at which proteins are consumed affects their effect. In fact, it seems to make a difference when you take protein to build muscle or lose weight. For more information, see the article: Use the best time for proteins to lose weight and build muscle. (sb, as)