Food Companies Cash In on Protein Trend, But How Much Is Too Much?

Packing protein may not be positive.

ByABC News
June 30, 2014, 2:00 PM

— -- Blame it on Greek yogurt, which boasts twice the amount of protein as other yogurts. Soon after its introduction, sales of Greek yogurt went through the roof -- and food manufacturers noticed.

There’s now a slew of new products that tout more protein, like the new Cheerios with protein, protein pretzels, protein pasta and flapjack pancakes with 15 grams of it.

“The current recommendation for protein is about 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men,” nutritionist Lisa Drayer said on “Good Morning America.” “For women, that’s yogurt and fruit parfait for breakfast, a mid-morning latte, a small chicken salad or tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch, an afternoon snack of an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a four-ounce fish fillet with vegetables and rice for dinner.”

But diets like Atkins and the idea that protein is good for losing weight have given this food trend a big marketing boost.

“Protein helps to preserve and build lean muscle mass,” Drayer said. “The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn. So this has a beneficial effect on metabolism.”

But there is a downside to excessive protein intake.

“When you hear about these protein recommendations, it absolutely is not a one size fits all. Most of us get plenty. It’s based on age, gender, body weight, activity level,” Dr. Jen Ashland said on “GMA.” “If you get too much, it’s going to affect your bones and kidneys.”

The current recommendation is .36 grams per pound of body weight per day. If you’re a child, it varies by age at anywhere from 13 to 52 grams per day.