Protein forms the body’s building blocks. It helps in building muscles, bones, strong hair and nails, and maintains optimum function of all organ systems of the body. It is a general thinking among people that consuming extra protein makes you a healthier and stronger person. While the statement is partially true, but only for adults not for children.
However, the scenarios are different in different countries around the world. In America, children consume two-three times more than their protein requirement, while children in south-east Asian countries can’t even get half of the requirement. Both the situations cause adverse effects on the child’s health in the long run.
Adding protein to smoothies has become a popular trend. Giving protein supplements to growing children is unnecessary. According to RDA, a child between four to nine years requires 19 grams of protein daily. A child between nine to 13 years needs 24 grams of protein daily. This requirement can be easily met by consuming two servings of dairy such as milk, curd and one or two servings of lean meat such as chicken, turkey.
It is a myth that if a child is into active sports, he needs extra protein to fuel his performance, but that’s not true. Protein supplements should only be given to elite athletes and that also only if they are 18 years and above.
Here are five long-term health problems that can occur by adding extra protein to your child’s diet:
Unnecessary weight gain
Protein that is consumed over the requirement is converted to glucose which in turn gets converted to fat.
The organs in a child’s body are not completely developed, especially in a toddler. Consuming higher amount of protein can increase load on the kidneys and liver leading to kidney stone formation and tissue death in the liver (because of high level of nitrogen in the body). A high-protein diet can cause dehydration. Since a child cannot drink a lot of water, consuming high protein can have an effect of brain functioning as well. The brain cells will be deprived of water.
Weakens the immune system
Many protein supplements come with a label – not suitable for children. These supplements contain certain substances that can affect the child’s immune system. Also, protein increases oxidative stress in the body.
Excess protein in the body makes the blood pH acidic. When the blood is acidic, calcium from the bones is removed. This makes the bones brittle and weak.
Can cause allergic reaction
You never know but your child might be sensitive to eggs, soy, or milk protein. Consuming powder can cause an allergic reaction and since they can speak for themselves, they won’t be able to tell you what they are feeling. If your child develops hives on the skin, respiratory problems, or digestive upset, stop giving protein powder immediately.
Protein supplements should only be given if your child is underweight and your pediatrician suggests you to give it.