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Why do ICMR-NIN’s new dietary guidelines advise against protein supplements?

IANS May 15, 2024

Protein supplements, which come with added sugars and additives, may harm the kidneys and bones and are not required for healthy people, said experts on 14 May, even as the ICMR-NIN’s new dietary guidelines also advise against them.

The Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN), last week, released 17 dietary guidelines to prevent nutrient deficiencies, as well as address the rising risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases in India.

The new guidelines, which include evidence-based food and lifestyle-related recommendations, called out against the need for protein supplements.

It noted that a healthy and proper diet is enough to fulfil the protein requirements of all individuals.

As per the new guidelines, the recommendation for protein is 0.83g/kg/day, and the estimated average intake is 0.66 g/kg/day.

“With increased knowledge and information about micronutrients and their importance in a balanced diet, people have resorted to protein powder, protein supplements, among other artificial nutritional supplements,” Dr N Vijayshree, Head and Chief Dietician.

“These protein powders are usually made with eggs, milk, whey, or plant sources such as soy, peas, or rice, sometimes with a mix of these sources.

“These supplements, with added sugars and additives, defeat the purpose of having a balanced diet, causing severe or more damage to our kidneys and bone health,” the doctor added.

Vani Krishna, Chief Nutritionist, said that protein intake can be achieved by adding legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry, fish, etc with a balanced diet for all age groups.

“An individual's protein intake has to be assessed and checked by a qualified clinical nutritionist before administering any kind of protein powders/supplements. For obtaining good quality protein, a combination of cereals with pulses in the ratio of 3:1 will help to meet the amino acids needed in the body,” Vani said.

Dr Vijayshree also advised physical activity to use the protein consumed and avoid muscle loss, as well as an adequate amount of carbs and fats for the effective utilisation of the consumed protein.

“A balanced diet must meet the need for 20 essential amino acids required for bodily functions. To obtain some of these amino acids, which cannot be synthesised in our body, it is important to consume diverse food groups like carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

“Protein supplements are not recommended for normal, healthy people. Critically ill, hospitalised patients may require protein supplements, which should be recommended and monitored by clinical professionals,” Dr Vijayshree said.

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