Expert says foods with 'added protein' can lead to weight gain and heart disease

A doctor has issued a warning to Brits looking to pack more protein into their diets. Dr Xand van Tulleken emphasised the importance of good-quality protein in our diets, pointing out that unlike fats or carbs, our bodies can't store protein for long.

But Dr Xand warned that many products boasting added protein might not be as good for you as they think. In fact, they are often ultra-processed foods packaged to look like healthy snacks.

These foods are loaded with ingredients you wouldn't normally find in your kitchen, including preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. The problem with ultra-processed foods is that they are usually high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar.

When we fill up on these, we're not leaving much room for the healthier foods. More than half of the calories consumed by Brits come from ultra-processed foods.

"People talk about good-quality protein but that is a less-important question. What is more important is 'what is the food itself that is has been added to?'" Dr Xand told BBC's Morning Live.

"Very often, the foods with added protein are ultra-processed foods, so they have lots of other funny ingredients in so they are pre-pared and wrapped in plastic. Often they have these health claims or implied health claims saying 'full of protein' as if it is a good thing.

"A pattern of eating ultra-processed food is associated not only with weight gain, but all kinds of dietary ill health gut problems, heart disease, diabetes a whole range of different things. The more that has been done to it in a factory, the less healthy it probably is."

He used the example of yoghurt which, mean in its natural form, has lots of health benefits - including being a good source of protein. However, he said that many often have sweeteners, colours and thickeners added to them.

He said that, while eating one in isolation probably would not do you any harm, eating them regularly could have negative results for your health. Protein needs range between 41.2g and 53.3g depending on age and gender.

"Proteins are made of chains of amino acids and they do all kinds of different jobs in our bodies. We are about 20 per cent protein," Dr Xand continued. "Your protein is doing everything from building muscles to blood vessels to brain cells, all kinds of connective tissue, all sorts of different jobs in your body.

"You can store fat, you can store some carbohydrate but you can't store protein, you just use it for things, so you need to have a fairly consistent daily intake."

The NHS has highlighted beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat as top sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, Brits are also being advised to cut back on red and processed meats such as bacon, ham, and sausages.