By – Dr. Rujuta Patil
BDS, MDS (Periodontist), PDCR
Fitness in general means to be sound physically and mentally. Fitness depends on an individual’s lifestyle like eating habits, physical exercise, sleeping habits, etc.
Greek physician Hypocrates says ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ – This quote has always fascinated me and has stood the test of time. Most asked and talked about question in today’s world is-
What should I eat to stay fit?
The answer to this question is changing day by day as the definition of fitness. Fittness these days is defined by two terms- Weight loss and muscle mass buildup. People prefer diet with high protein content to achieve this. No doubt high protein diet clearly leads to weight loss, but it comes with its own set of drawbacks.
To find out the pros and cons of high protein diet Dr Razani and his colleagues conducted an experiment on mice.
Their main aim was to find out the influence of high protein diet on cardiovascular health. They began the experiment by dividing mice into two groups- Mice belonging to group 1 were fed with high fat and low protein diet. Mice in group 2 were provided with high fat and high protein diet. Protein provided to mice in group 2 was triple the amount of protein received by mice in group 1.
The mice were observed continuously and results were Shocking!
Mice belonging to group 2 (consuming high fat and high protein) had developed atherosclerosis – A condition where arteries become thick. Along with this they also developed 30% more arterial plaque compared to mice in group 1 (consuming high fat and low protein).
The most significant outcome was the type of plaque developed in mice fed with high fat and high protein diet. It was ‘Unstable Plaque’ – Plaque that is thin, gets easily detached from the arterial wall, and starts flowing freely in bloodstream.
Such an Unstable Plaque has higher chances of dislodging itself and blocking arteries associated with the heart. This potentially increases the risk of heart attack and/or sudden cardiac arrest.
Does our body try to defend it?
It surely does! Human body is designed in such a way that it is prepared to fight off every obstacle. Our body senses the plaque deposition in arteries and sends signals to some blood cells called ‘Macrophages’. Usually, macrophages eat up the plaque and win the fight.
The ‘Unstable Plaque’ sends false signals to macrophages and instead of eating up plaque Macrophages start growing abnormally and die.
Dr Razani and colleagues did not just stop here. They went into understanding more details and found out two major culprit amino acids – ‘Leucine and Arginine’. This also helped them in understanding what food people should avoid. Eg – Red Meat, as Leucine is high in red meat compared to fish and plant sources of protein.
Such an association of high protein diet with cardiovascular risk is seen in human epidemiological studies as well.
‘You Are What You Eat’- Have balanced food and keep yourself healthy.