Protein shakes may lead to weight gain, depression and shorter lives

Stop drinking protein shakes! Bulk-up beverages may lead to weight gain, depression and shorter life spans, study suggests

  • As many as two in five Americans say they drink protein shakes and drinks on a regular basis
  • Amino acids in the supplemented drinks are supposed to encourage muscle development 
  • New research from the University of Sydney found that the proteins are effective at this – but may be bad for overall health
  • Drinking too much of one kind of protein was linked to weight gain, mood changes and even led to shorter life spans, according to the new study  

Drinking protein shakes may do more harm than good, leading to weight gain, mood changes and even shortening life expectancy, new research suggests. 

Researchers at the University of Sydney found that the same amino acids in protein shakes that encourage muscle-bulking are bad for overall health. 

The health and wellness industry is booming in the US, but research often takes some time to catch up to – and often disprove the benefits of the latest diet and fitness fads. 

Protein is the latest to fall, as scientists discover that consuming too much of the same kind of protein contributes to poorer overall health. 

The type of protein commonly found in shakes and supplements blocks another, called tryptophan, leading to weight gain, mood changes and shorter life span, a new study found

The protein supplement industry raked in $14 billion worldwide last year, as gyms, juice bars and yoga studios cropped up on every city corner. 

Fit is in, and Americans want more muscle fast. 

Protein shakes are marketed as the magic ingredient. 

The mantra of many recent fad diets has been ‘high-protein, low-carbohydrates.’ 

Carbs are the culprits for a number of body changes we know are bad for overall health. They can contribute to the body’s storage of fat and unhealthy changes to insulin. 

Protein, on the other hand, is an important basic unit that builds bones, muscles blood and more.  

They are both macronutrients, but separating them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is an over-simplification to say the least.

And over-consumption of protein in any form is not really part of an idea diet. Over-consumption of protein powders, shakes and supplements may even be dangerous.  

The pre-mixed drinks or powders rely on proteins called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). 

BCAAs don’t just go straight to muscles. Consuming a diet high in them means they lurk around tin the blood.

 There, they compete with another type of amino acid, tryptophan. 

Both are trying to get to the brain (as well as to your ‘braun). But once they are there, they have different effects.  Namely, tryptophan is key to the production of serotonin. 

When BCAAs are high in the blood they may steal tryptophan’s place in the brain, disrupting serotonin there. That can in turn mess with your mood. 

Serotonin isn’t just a happiness serum; we need it to curb our appetites too. 

‘Tryptophan is the sole precursor for the hormone serotonin, which is often called the ‘happiness chemical’ for its mood-enhancing effects and its role in promoting sleep. But serotonin does more than this, and therein lay the problem,’ said Dr Stephen Simpson, study co-author.  

When the researchers overfed lab mice on BCAAs, the animals gorged themselves and became obese. 

Those obese mice had shorter lifespans as well, unsurprisingly. 

While BCAAS are effective at building muscle and important parts of nutrition, the scientists insist we are better off getting them – alongside other proteins, like tryptophan – through diverse diets that contain chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and soy. 

‘What this new research has shown is that amino acid balance is important – it’s best to vary sources of protein to ensure you’re getting the best amino acid balance,’ said the study’s other co-author, Dr Samantha Solon-Biet.   

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