Your Pee Is a Problem for the Planet When You Eat Too Much Protein, Study Finds

"According to a recent study, balancing your protein intake may be a key to improving our country's water quality."

There are many benefits to adopting a plant-based diet: lowered risk of certain diseases, a surer step toward proper nutrition, and a significant reduction in your (and the collective’s) environmental footprint, to name a few. But the latest (and slightly unexpected) upside to balancing your protein intake? Improving the quality of our drinking water. Because, as it turns out, there’s too much protein in our pee.

According to a recent study from the University of California, Davis, if Americans leveled down protein consumption to recommended amounts (it currently ranks among the highest in the world) we could decrease nitrogen excretion by 27% by 2055—and that number accounts for population growth.

study finds excess protein in urine harms environment

Currently, our over-abundance of protein shows up as nitrogen-rich urea, which exits our systems, breaks down, and transmutes to greenhouse gases, lends to toxic algae blooms, and generally causes unnecessary ecological harm. If this isn’t enough to make you reconsider, our dependence on protein can also result in less-than-safe drinking water, as wastewater is commonly released into waterways sans any nitrogen removal.

The good news? Ditching protein entirely will never be the answer (or even a possibility) as our bodies require the essential building block for cell repair and regeneration of all kinds. The solution to our water woes is all down to ingesting only the necessary amount of protein, rather than building our entire country’s diets—and our food systems—around it.

Given that most Americans eat twice the suggested amount of protein, the shift may seem daunting. But your body, the planet, and our shared water supply will thank you for your thoughtful consumption.


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According to a recent study, balancing your protein intake may be a key to improving our country's water quality.

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