Kids, teens should get protein through foods not supplements, health experts say

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When Joe Orlando was a high school sophomore, he wanted to build muscle to improve his performance on the football field.

So he stepped up his workout routine and changes his diet, taking protein supplements.

"I wanted to make sure my body was healthy and could take all the impact that was going on through the season," he said.

The results ended in some muscle mass, but now it's not just athletes adding protein supplements to their diet. Experts said they are seeing more children taking them.

But do children who are still developing need to supplement protein? Michele Chiaramonte, a registered dietician, doesn't believe that's the case.

Her first line of therapy is what she calls the good, old-fashioned way: kids get their protein through whole foods.

"For the average healthy adolescent and teenager, their protein needs can be met through the diet, supplements aren't really necessary," she said.

Doctors said protein requirements largely depend on a child's weight, age and activity level. On average, children 9 to 13 need about 34 grams of protein daily.

That jumps to 52 grams for boys 14 to 18 and to 46 grams for girls in the same age group. More athletic children should consume slighty more. But, experts agree you can easily fulfill those needs through protein-rich foods such as fish, eggs, chicken, spinach and avocado.

Experts warn that too much protein, especially in developing bodies, can create health risks.

"Too much is like eating too much steak. For example, protein is in itself harmless, however if you overdose on protein it has an effect on your kidneys," pediatrician Dr. John Mangoni said.

For any parents interested in protein supplements or have discovered their child are already taking them, experts encourage you to read the labels, watch out for products loaded with sugar or other additives, and keep track of total protein intake.
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