Health Consequences of Too Many Lentils

Yellow and red lentil
Close up of red and yellow lentils. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Lentils are seeds that grow in pods and are shaped like flat disks. Lentils are used as an ingredient in soups, stews, salads, casseroles and side dishes. These seeds are high in protein, fiber, carbohydrates and potassium. However, consuming too many lentils may have health consequences, such as increased flatulence, amino-acid side effects, kidney distress and potassium toxicity.

Flatulence

Lentils contain 4 grams of fiber per 100-gram serving, according to Purdue University. Multiple servings of lentils can cause flatulence, as fiber is not digested in the small intestine and must be broken down into gas by the large intestine. In addition, lentils contain antinutritional elements that the body cannot digest, such as hemagglutinins, oligosaccharides and trypsin inhibitors. When too many of these antinutritional elements are consumed, excess flatulence results. Oligosaccharides are prebiotics, or indigestible food ingredients that increase good bacteria growth. They can cause flatulence, stomach cramping and intestinal discomfort from the gas released during fermentation, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Lysine

Lentils contain lysine, an essential amino acid that aids in the maintenance of growth, the preservation of nitrogen, the absorption of calcium and the conservation of lean body mass. Lysine can also inhibit the growth of the herpes virus, and it may improve athletic performance, according to James Madison University. However, if you consume high quantities of lysine, this amino acid may cause gallstones, increase your cholesterol levels, and result in kidney impairment. In addition, notes the university, lysine taken in very high doses -- 15 to 40 grams per day -- can cause abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

Protein

One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein, according to Harvard School of Public Health. Your body needs approximately .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, too much protein consumption may increase your risk of developing kidney disease. According to the Harvard University Gazette, a high-protein diet tends to accelerate kidney dysfunction, compared to a low-protein diet. A high-protein diet places extra stress on the kidneys to process proteins and filter waste out of the body. Over time, this extra stress can damage the kidneys and impair kidney function.

Hyperkalemia

Potassium contributes to the functioning of the heart, the nerves and the muscles. However, when excess potassium enters the bloodstream, hyperkalemia can occur. Hyperkalemia may produce no symptoms, or it can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irregular heartbeat, respiratory problems, vomiting, tingling and numbness. A high-potassium or high-protein diet can cause hyperkalemia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consuming too many lentils, a rich source of protein and potassium, can contribute to the development of hyperkalemia.

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