Protein Is Our Most Misunderstood Food …and the truth may create a path to a robust life and healthy old age for you and your family
February 18, 2009
The information available in numerous books and articles regarding an intelligent diet for our species is mostly opinion and certainly not based on scientific investigation. Once information becomes relatively ‘written in stone,’ it can be found in the major medical texts used in medical, dental, chiropractic, and naturopathic educational institutions.
Among those books are Guyton’s Textbook of Physiology and Mark’s Basic Medical Biochemistry. I will be basing my dietary recommendations on information from those authorities and from recent scientific publications that are rarely referenced when attempting to build a healthy dietary lifestyle/philosophy.
During this discourse it will be important to remember that the Governments Food & Nutrition Board is made up of representatives of businesses and organizations that have huge vested interests in our eating habits. These representatives are from cereal companies, agribusiness co-ops, food manufacturers, etc. These same companies and organizations hire marketers to persuade us to eat in such a way as to continue to make them profitable even if their recommendations are based on opinion and often outright misinformation.
Since I was a boy I have watched the heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, statistics escalate as we have eaten ourselves into chronic ill health, guided by the businesses and organizations previously mentioned. I hope over the next year these newsletters will show you how to eat your way back to good health and then maintain that state.
I do not mean to suggest that all of our species health problems are based on poor diet, just most of them. For example, even the World Health Organization’s research tells us that no more than 15% of all cancer has a genetic link, and that the remaining 85% is a result of diet and lifestyle, both of which are modifiable. So how big a role does diet play, and where does one start.
Obviously, if the body is to be healthy it must have genuine replacement parts on an ongoing basis. Consider this; your body replaces itself completely every twenty-four months. Many tissues replace themselves much more quickly. For example, the intestinal tract replaces itself every two weeks. The brain (nervous system) is the slow poke at every two years. With that in mind we must ask, “What happens if we do not supply the genuine replacement parts for growth and/or repair?” The next question must be, “What are the most important replacement parts?” In the textbooks those replacement parts are called “essential.” Without the “essential” genuine replacement parts we become sick and eventually die.
Protein seems like the most likely place to start because you and I are mostly protein. In fact, the only organ that isn’t mostly protein is the brain, which is 60% fat by weight. The structures of our cells are made up of cell wall-like structures composed of an outer and inner layer of protein with a middle layer of fat. The enzymes that make all the chemical reactions take place are predominantly protein as are all the hormones, anti-bodies, etc., which can be found in our blood. Muscle makes up over half of our total body weight, and muscle, as we all know, is mostly protein. Protein is composed of amino acids, and eleven of them are essential. We must get them from our diet or die.
We have been told by our government authorities to eat more and more carbohydrates in the form of grains, vegetables, and fruits, in order to have better health. I certainly don’t see the better health.
When looking at the physiological facts that have been accumulated by science, not opinion, it becomes obvious that we are more like wolves than sheep. We have the teeth of a carnivore, the small stomach of a carnivore, the short intestinal tract of a carnivore, the gall bladder of a carnivore, and the digestive activity of a carnivore. Grazers, herbivores, have grinding teeth and rotary jaw movement, huge stomachs (often fifteen to twenty times the capacity of the human stomach) that never empty. They re-chew their food or cud, have enzymes to digest cellulose, and have a very long intestinal tract. Our species is designed to eat intermittently while grazers eat continuously. This is just a short list. The long list is sufficient to write a book. Therefore, as omnivores that are closer to the class, carnivore than the class herbivore, our species requires a high protein diet.
Interestingly, an incredibly large number of people who followed the advice of government authorities, paid with unhealthy weight gain, and embarked on various weight loss programs to correct that problem have found the answer. Doctor Robert Atkins came out with a high protein diet back in the 1970s which over the years has sold over fifteen million copies, more than any other book on diet and weight loss. It has been followed by many others that have borrowed his formula of high protein, high fat, moderate complex carbohydrate, and extremely limited simple carbohydrate intake. Over the next year I will cover all the working pieces of this formula, but first, protein.
Let’s first look at the results of the 2005 OMNIHEART STUDY, published in the online medical journal, “theheart.org.” It shows that substituting protein and/or unsaturated fat for carbohydrate in a healthy diet results in reduced blood pressure and lipid profiles compared to those on a supposedly healthy carbohydrate rich diet. So an Atkins type diet is superior to the high carbohydrate diet the government authorities recommend when it comes to improving blood profiles, especially those involved with cardiovascular risk. That dispels the old myth that protein is bad for the heart, in fact it’s just the opposite.
Next, let’s look at the biggest myth of all. That’s the myth that all calories are equal (I’ll deal with the nonsense of calorie counting in a later newsletter). This is right out of the medical texts: there is no mechanism for storing excess dietary protein in the body, and any amino acids that are ingested in excess of the immediate requirements are oxidized (burned for energy, not stored as fat) and the nitrogen excreted. Protein can’t be stored as fat, no matter how much you eat. That’s right, protein can’t make you fat.
What if you lean toward a vegan lifestyle? There are some definite challenges there, because animal protein is by far the easiest to digest and utilize. In vegetable based foods the protein is there, it gives the food its form, but is not fully digestible by our species. To get the benefits of a quality animal protein diet a vegetarian must obtain their animal based protein products from eggs, hard cheeses, and unsweetened yogurt. Vegetarianism simply does not provide sufficient available protein to produce excellent health without building a lifestyle around the diet, and who has time for that. Additionally, rice and beans contain about half the quantity of protein in a comparable quantity of eggs, but only about half that protein is available, so only about one fourth of that total protein is really available. Therefore, to get a half pound of quality protein intake on rice and beans you’d have to consume two pounds of rice and beans.
Back in the pre-1940’s diet here in America, there was almost no cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. People ate an unrefined diet, usually high in protein and fat and free from processed food. Protein got a bad rap when big agribusiness stepped in and needed to adopt unhealthy measures to fatten up the available animal protein. To offset the negative effects of un-natural conditions the animals are given antibiotics to keep them from suffering infections, and hormones to keep them fat. When eating this protein, the consumer experiences the side effects of a weakened immune system from the anti-biotic residue, and an increased risk of both heart disease and cancer from the hormone residue. On the contrary, cattle raised and finished on grass, and free of antibiotics and hormones do not produce these side effects. In fact, grass finished also cattle have a very healthy ratio of the essential fats that contribute to a reduced risk to both cancer and heart disease. I can’t think of a better reason to buy my animal protein from local farmers (think global, buy local) that sell grass fed, grass finished, antibiotic free, and artificial hormone free beef.
Does the same logic apply to pork, poultry and fish. Absolutely. I eat only pastured chicken and non-farmed fish and you should too for the health of your family. Animals allowed to live in their natural habitats, getting fresh air and sunshine with their natural diets will exhibit health, and who ever thinks that they can eat the flesh of unhealthy animals and still exhibit health themselves isn’t very smart. Our government has allowed big agribusiness to sell us a bogus bill of goods in our supermarkets and it’s time to put a stop to it by not buying foods that will ultimately make us sick. We can vote with our pocketbooks.
So, how much protein is enough? Did you know that 60% to 70% of the protein you eat is used in fueling the process of digestion? That leaves between 30% and 40% to be used as genuine replacement parts for you muscles, organs, enzymes, etc. So how much protein is necessary for optimal health? According to the medical texts a one hundred and fifty pound person requires a full pound of protein. That’s eight ounces of animal based protein a day. Of those eight ounces, the body gets only 30% to 40% or three or four ounces to use as genuine replacement parts. If this is true, and it is, then why have some experts told us that as we get older we need less protein? It’s ludicrous advice. Without adequate protein tissue repair can not take place.
Women, especially have been frightened into believing that a high protein diet leads to Osteoporosis, but what’s the truth? What’s the scientific reality, and not opinion? According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2002, the more animal based protein consumed, the less Osteoporosis, and it showed that bone loss resulted from a diet high in vegetable protein. In a 2006 study published in Osteoporosis International, it was shown that patients on an Atkins-type diet for weight loss did lose weight but the diet did not lead to bone loss. If we remember that bone matrix is made of protein rich collagen, bones need for protein comes as no surprise. Unfortunately, that’s something that many government authorities have chosen to forget as they unload their nutritional opinions on an unsuspecting public.
Research done at Massachusetts General Hospital over twenty years ago on a patient population all over retirement age found that in addition to the primary symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency, Pernicious Anemia, that there were many interesting early warning symptoms previously unrecognized and these were consistent with the symptoms of aging. As we get older it becomes more difficult to digest and utilize vitamin B12, which is essential for good health, and it must come from animal protein because it doesn’t exist in vegetables and fruits. As someone well past retirement age that certainly gets my attention, how about you?
When one of my hero’s, Linus Pauling, Ph.D. was diagnosed with kidney disease as a young man, he was told to eliminate protein from his diet. Instead he went to the library and after doing his own research he put himself on a high protein diet and avoided the dialysis that had been predicted by the medical authorities. Protein does not damage the kidneys. Protein can’t get through the kidneys unless without there being excessive sugar in the blood. That’s why diabetics have the highest rate of dialysis. Kidneys need protein to repair, it’s the carbohydrates that cause the kidney damage, and the Essentials of Biochemistry makes that very clear.
When it comes to building a food pyramid designed from hard science, protein has to be at the bottom, or the base that everything else is built upon. As previously mentioned, a one hundred and fifty pound person needs to eat a pound of animal (usable) protein a day in order to acquire three to four ounces of available genuine replacement parts, and that’s just for repair. Youthful athletes trying to build muscle will require a great deal more.
Remember, beef, poultry, fish, and pork aren’t the bad guy’s they have been made out to be. It’s the antibiotics and hormones that big agribusiness uses in the animal feed that causes the health problems we attribute to animal protein sources. I buy my grass fed and grass finished beef and my free range poultry from Skyview Farms. I have information available about Skyview Farms under the heading Referral Network.
Update: Eat Your Way Thin… Here are the four articles which are in the series.