Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre have determined that too many protein shakes could lead to an increased risk of obesity and a reduced lifespan. The study was an investigation to ascertain the impact a disproportionate consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) has on the body.
Published in the journal Nature Metabolism, the study found that while BCAAs (frequently consumed in the form of powder, which is then added to water to create a shake) help to build muscle, they can also negatively affect a person’s temperament, trigger weight gain and lead to a shortened lifespan. Moreover, it was discovered that high levels of BCAAs in the blood could disrupt sleep by causing decreased serotonin levels.
Dr Samantha Solon-Biet, a co-author of the study, explained: “While diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates are shown to be beneficial for reproductive function, they can have a detrimental effect on health in mid-late life, and also lead to a shortened lifespan.
High levels of BCAAs in the blood can disrupt sleep
“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.”
The academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, Professor Stephen Simpson, explained how excessive intake of BCAA supplements could bear on an individual’s capacity to achieve a peaceful night’s sleep. “Supplementation of BCAAs resulted in high levels of BCAAs in the blood, which competed with tryptophan for transport into the brain. 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 lays the problem.”
They can have a detrimental effect on health in mid-late life, and also lead to a shortened lifespan
Professor Simpson added that decreased levels of serotonin lead to a “potent signal to increase appetite”.
A cluster of three crucial amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) BCAAs are most commonly found in foods such as red meat and dairy. Whey protein, one of the most prevalent types of protein in the health and fitness sector, contains high levels of BCAA.
It is essential to acquire protein from various sources, such as fish, eggs, beans, lentils and nuts. This will provide a variety of essential amino acids through a healthy and balanced diet rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.