Excess Protein Arthritis, Adverse Effects on our Health and Body


Bryan L McLeod Soil, Plant & Animal Nutritionist

It is my belief that high to excess protein diets that are being promoted today are the biggest danger to our general health and well being. See my page “Low Carb Diet Danger”. Protein Arthritis, Adverse Effect on Health

clip_image002Research has confirmed that you are 30% more likely to die from anything when on a high protein diet

Excess Protein – firstly what is a high to excess protein diet? This is a diet that contains more protein that which is in excess to our daily requirements. As in all species we have a daily protein requirement and as they/we age our daily protein requirement decreases. Millward 1997 reported healthy humans appear to have a decreased protein requirement with aging and reported a 33% reduction in protein metabolic demand with no significant impairment in efficiency of protein utilisation in healthy mobile elderly persons suggesting a desired protein reduction with aging. What this says is that as we age we actually need less protein, not more as we have been told, carbs are actually good for us as is animal fat. This work matches exactly what you will find in any animal nutrition book.

Life span: Research clearly shows that if on a high protein diet you have a 30% increased chance of dying from anything

Arthritis – cancer – hardening of the arteries, heart diseases are but a few of the health issues resulting from high to excess protein to diets.

Cancer: High to excess protein diets acidify the body creating an acidotic condition which is a lowering the pH in our digestive system, cancers thrive in a body with a lower than normal PH. If we take in extra protein(nitrogen) it is processed as bi product with some going to the blood so we see an increase in blood nitrogen – for those that are interested look on the net searching “BUN” Blood urea nitrogen. See the end of this article.

Heart disease: high protein diets adversely affect body mineral levels, as your protein intake increases your body mineral levels decrease. In animals high protein results in an increase in body histamines which result in the dilation of the arteries around the heart resulting blood being forced to the legs and feet causing both short and long term damage so why not the same in humans. New research confirms that high protein diets result in increased blood pressure.

Arthritis: With our pets it has been shown that high protein diets are responsible for arthritis, look at the analysis of pet food and see what is says eg min: 30% protein, young animals only need 16 to 18%, older animals 10%, no animal ever requires 30% dietary protein, a continued intake at this level is a potential killer, if you see urine burns on your lawn from your dog you must realise that you are slowly killing your pet

How do establish a protein level? Total protein is just the Nitrogen content of a food/vegetable/fruit x by 6.25. This formula is based on the fact that protein contains 16.5% Nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for all living things both plants and animals.

Plants: eg A healthy lettuce/spinach/rocket leaf will contain 4.5 to 6% = Nitrogen 5.5% x 6.25 = 34.4%protein. This is over double our daily requirement, but then we don’t live on just leafy veges and if we are interested in our family’s health we certainly don’t. I am not saying leafy vegetables are bad for us but we must understand what is in our foods to optimise our family’s health

Amino Acids: Nitrogen is converted to protein and normally thought of as amino acids which are good protein but there are many stages to go through before N becomes an amino acid and at some of these stages the protein is toxic.

When we talk protein the common belief is we are talking meat, when I do mention the protein in vegetables I often get looks of disbelief, how can this be. Yes it is the protein in green leafy veges and processed meats that we need to be aware of. Fresh meat protein is normally good protein although meat from an animal that has been grazing fresh high protein pasture can contain higher levels of ammonium nitrogen. Processed meats are often high in Nitrate nitrogen due to sodium nitrate being used as a preservative, nitrates are toxic protein but due to the low levels present it is not normally a problem but it then it has the potential to be a problem in young children that are fed high levels of processed meats

Various forms of protein: As said earlier when the protein content of a vegetable is recorded they take the total nitrogen found and multiply it by 6.25, now this is made up of various forms of nitrogen some being good some bad, so as a result we end up with both good and bad forms of protein in our veges, fresh leafy vegetables such as lettuce, rocket, cabbage, spinach can fall into this category depending on the type of fertilisation used and time taken to maturity from planting. High use of nitrogenous fertiliser and the shorter time from planting to harvest can increase these levels of bad (toxic – junk protein) nitrogen. Home grown veges normally take longer to mature so will generally, although not all the time, contain higher levels of good protein. That bitter taste you sometimes get from leafy vegetables is nitrates – bad toxic protein

Organic vegetables being slower growing will normally contain good quality protein but not always. About 50% of organic vegetables I have tested are good quality, remember just because its organic doesn’t mean it’s automatically high quality.

Chemicals: We hear so much about the dangers of chemicals in our vegetables and fruit. It is not the chemicals but more the excess bad proteins and lack of nutrients that are the issue. But let’s not overlook the dangers of chemicals

Dilution: The USA department of FDA has reported that our present vegetables contain on average 30% less nutrients than the same vegetables 30 years ago. This means that our vegetables of today do not contain all the essential nutrients we need for our bodies and good health. This the main issue for the continuing decline and overall increase in our health issues

WHY: two reasons [1] Plant breeders have bred plants to mature faster so the farmer can have a quicker turnaround time [2] Higher rates of nitrogen fertilisers are being used so plants grow faster which results in nutrient dilution

AS A RESULT WE ALL SUFFER FROM NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES as a result of nutrient dilution  in our vegetables due to increased use of nitrogenous fertilisers and faster growing plants and the crazy fad of eating immature fresh green vegetables

Farmers often get the blame as I hear so often that they are depleting their soils and they are the reason for our problems. The assumption here is that all soils were good to start with which is a fairy tale, there were very few naturally fertile soils in the world, even past native tribes needed to move to a new patch of soil every year to continue to grow their crops. Even organic farmers need to fertiliser with each new crop to maintain a good harvest and not with just compost

What are the reasons for the issues with FRESH GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES? It is the excess protein and types of proteins that are present.

Seasonal Vegetables

In past years there were considerable variations in the range of seasonal fruits and vegetables we consumed,  the reasons being that some grew better  in the winter and others in the spring and summer etc. fruits were/are mainly a summer autumn food but we learnt to preserve them for the winter. A major difference in these vegetables was that the winter ones were/are generally slower growing, lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates etc. root vegetables, swedes, cauliflowers and broad beans to name a few. Our spring vegetables are faster growing and more of the leafy types containing considerable higher levels of protein, both good and toxic proteins, eg. lettuce, cos lettuce, spinach, rocket to name a few. Now with modern storage facilities we can transport and store all and supply markets worldwide, so our change of eating habits is also to blame for the rapid deterioration in our health

Now, I’m not saying that green leafy vegetables are bad for you if eaten correctly but you need to understand their composition, what they contain and how and when to consume and with what? Just let’s not eat a high protein vegetable with red lean meat. Leafy salads and red meat are both high protein so they don’t go together, always do what the Asians do, add an energy food such as rice or noodles when consuming meat. Take a look at traditional diets and their composition, thats another full subject to write on later

The fact is now we are eating high protein immature vegetables every week, being told that carbs are bad for us, being told that immature FRESH and GREEN is the best, yes the best to fill our hospitals and help give us our many health issues and also to shorten our live span.

Weight loss: Sure if you are over weight and consume high protein you will loose weight and in the short term you will feel great but what of the long term effects of high protein consumption

The oversupply of protein to all animal species is detrimental to health so why do we think our human body is any different?

Protein requirement guide lines only

From the very young to the elderly protein requirements decrease noting that there are variations which are governed by the activities we undertake

Protein is often referred to as the GROW POWER – carbohydrates are the GO POWER and Vitamins/Minerals the GLOW POWER

We need all in right amount for optimum health. We hear of historic diets of mainly meat, but really no not really, yes they ate meat but also the fat and everything else not just the meat.

Human Daily Protein Requirements as a percentage of daily intake

Here are some thoughts based on animal protein requirements

Babies to 18months18 to 20%

2yr to 12yr 16 down to 15%

Teenagers 15 to 14%

20 to 25yrs 13 to 14%

25 to 40yrs 12 to14%

40 to 50yrs 12%

50yrs + 10%

Pregnancy 10 to 12%

Lactating 15%

What happens when we consume protein above our requirements?

[1] High protein foods are very digestible

[2] Saliva input is reduced

[3] The pH of our stomach is reduced – finally our whole digestive system suffers from low pH – normal digestive functions are impaired – a typical result is colon cancer

[4] Low pH means lower appetite so we reduce our intake but only due the resulting acidotic condition which is a disaster in livestock

[5] Ammonia is produced as a bi product which goes to our blood. Known as BUN (blood urea nitrogen) look on the net for BUN. If your BUN is high then your liver fails to deal with it all and your brain can be adversely affected resulting in instability – can be a serious problem in dairy cows when grazing fresh autumn/spring pasture, why not humans? My personal doctor told me recently that his patients on high protein had adverse behavioural problems

[6] The ammonia is a toxic substance so the body converts it to urea via the liver and dis-charged via the kidneys – to produce urea energy is required so body fat is used and you lose weight. In animals on high protein diets we see scalds on pastures from the high urea content in the urine, on lawns we see urine scalds from dogs

[7] Long term high protein stresses both our kidneys and liver. Medical research is looking at the amount of urea a liver can produce before failure. Eg. What happens if a liver produces a life time of urea in 20 years instead of 80, does this mean the liver will fail? How much urea can pass through your kidneys before they fail? all questions that require answers. I know with New Zealand pasture fed dairy cows that suffer from facial eczema (fungus found on autumn pastures that resulting in liver damage) suffer further when grazing very fresh high protein pasture. These same animals recover quicker when dietary protein is reduced

[8] Calcification in arteries are a direct result of high protein intake, bladder stones, kidney stones and gall stones in animals also result when grazing high protein pasture

Other side effects

[1] High protein increases the level of histamines in the body – histamines are an nitrogen compound that can be responsible for elegies, so high protein diets increase body histamines and maybe responsible for the significant increase in these issues.

[2] Higher levels of histamines dilate the arteries around the heart forcing blood to the outer extremities of the body eg arms, hands, legs, feet. And maybe reduced artery size increases the incidence of heart attacks?

[3] Blood pools in the these otter extremities of the body

[4] Resulting in inflammation and finally long term damage eg arthritis

Dehydration is another serious issue when the intestinal pH is lower than body pH so via the process of osmotic pressure fluid is drawn from the blood and body to the intestines so we see body dehydration – all as a result of diet


[1] High blood nitrogen inhibits the release of oxygen from the blood to the body so we see a build up of C02 in the muscles

[2] Inflammation of the cotyledons (buttons that connect the placenta to the uterus wall), this inflammation reduces and can inhibit oxygen flow to the foetus  resulting in the death of the foetus either during pregnancy or just prior to birth resulting a still birth, very common in cattle and sheep when they are grazing very fresh high protein pasture.

[3] Mismothering in stock post natal depression in humans. Very common in sheep on Kangaroo Island when lambing on very fresh high protein autumn spring pasture

In livestock the following problems arise when grazing high protein pastures as well as being fed high protein supplements on feed lots.

· Low stomach/intestine pH

· Low body pH

· Metabolic issues in stock – Milk fever (hypocalcaemia) – Grass Tetany (Hypomagnesaemia) – Acidosis (Acidotic condition)

· Increased blood nitrogen

· Reduced immunity

· infertility

· Full time calves/lambs being still born)

· Weak calves/lambs after birth continuing to have respiratory issues

· Weight loss

· Lower quality milk especially colostrum the first milk

· Increases mastitis

· Increased mismothering (Post natal depression?)

· Lameness basically from foot abscess – related to arthritis

· Scouring – diarrhea

· Kidney and liver failure

· Impaired thyroid

· Impaired vitamin A conversion from pasture carotene

· And many more

Naturally the degree of the above is directly related to the level of dietary abuse.

Where is the high protein coming from?

Normally we wrongly associate high protein only with meat, very few realise that all living things contain protein at various levels eg. all plants contain nitrogen so therefore they contain protein – remember the 6.25 factor.

Here are some guide lines

Red meat  30% Protein- fatty meat lower protein

Pork   lean       40% eat the fat lower protein

Lamb       25% – higher fat content

Chicken   16%

Fish          16%


Rocket      30 to 40% Protein

Lettuce Common variety 30 to 35% protein

Lettuce – Cos/ice berg 35 to 40%  protein

Potato        9%

Pumpkin    8%

Tomato      7%

Peas Young 25%

Peas Mature 18%

Apples        3%

Avocados   3%

Broccoli    25 to 30%

Carrots      15 to 20%

Spinach     30% +

Pasta          9%

Rice           9%

Oats           9%

Now I’m not saying any of the above are bad for us but we need to know how to mix and match to better our health and help to prevent issues such as arthritis and heart disease and many more

eg you should not eat red meat and leafy vegetables together as they are both high protein

however red meat and a pasta or rice make a good combination.

Cattle health issues related: Now it is important to understand that many health issues are seasonal relating to times of good fresh pasture production, but in some areas where there is irrigated pasture, these problems can occur more regularly in that they occur more frequently than in a seasonal pasture growth situation.

Why all this back ground? because we can relate many of our present human nutritional problems to what we have seen and continuously see in our livestock. And the majority of these issues have been recognised are being dealt with in a livestock situation so why but not in humans.

In 1980 I met a Dr Bob Scott from the USA he was a problem solver in all types of animal farming operations. He lectured on the dangers of high pasture/dietary protein on stock health – It was at this point I made the connection between feeding fresh green pasture and the many health issues we see on our farms.

We must remember that the majority of these issues only occurred and occur when are stock are eating FRESH GREEN PASTURE.

Protein: Crude protein is nitrogen x 6.25. Nitrogen is the source of life all living things contain nitrogen (protein). Fresh green pasture can contain up to 6% nitrogen or 37.5% protein, lucerne can be as high as 45% protein. The level of nitrogen in a plant is directly related to its stage of growth, eg

· young and immature (high N)

· mature (lower N)

· the amount of nitrogen fertiliser applied

· commercially grown in the winter months high protein

· the species being grown

· winter species are generally lower in protein

All for now

Bryan L McLeod

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