Healthy Lifestyle

Animal vs. Plant Protein

Some writers claim that protein is protein, be it animal or plant, except for the way that animals are treated. How do you respond to this?

We have information that the primary difference between animal and plant proteins is their amino acid profiles and it is those profiles that direct the rates at which the absorbed amino acids are put to use within the body. Animal based proteins, of course, are much more similar to our proteins, thus are used more readily and rapidly than plant proteins. That is, ‘substrate’ amino acids derived from animal based proteins are more readily available for our own protein synthesizing reactions which allows them to operate at full tilt. Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids. When we restore the relatively deficient amino acid in a plant protein, we get a response rate equivalent to animal proteins. My own lab produced experimental data to support this view–and of course, similar observations of years past in other laboratories can also be interpreted in this way.

Some of the profile differences between animal and plant proteins have been previously noted by the ratios of arginine to lysine which are predictive, in turn, of tissue responses.

Animal proteins also have a higher concentration of sulphur containing amino acids that get metabolized to acid-generating metabolites. As a result, a slightly lower physiological pH must be corrected and buffers like calcium are used to attenuate these adverse acid effects–to the disadvantage of the host.

But my main thesis, insofar as my own work is concerned, is that our observations on protein and [...]

Muscling Out the Meat Myth

It’s my guess that there’s hardly another myth in nutrition so insidious yet so intractable as that which encourages us to believe that consuming lots of high-quality protein

– basically the stuff of animal-based foods – makes for fitness, bigness, and strength of body. Rooted in antiquity, this myth began to sprout in the minds of men (especially men, it seems) long before protein was identified and named.

The myth took root in the belief that we could get our strength, our agility, and our ability to soar to unimaginable heights if only we consumed the flesh and bodies of animals. Much later, in the early nineteenth century, when scientists identified protein as being more or less equivalent to the flesh of the animals they worshipped, it was heralded as the treasured nutrient. In the words of the famous chemist Justis von Liebig, it was none other than the very “stuff of life itself.”

Quality Protein by Whose Standards?

Around the beginning of this century, scientists came to believe – erroneously – that animal proteins led to improvements in sport competitiveness. This was combined with their stand that animal flesh, milk and eggs spurred body growth more “efficiently” than plant protein. Efficiency, in this sense, meant that by eating animal protein one could gain more body weight per pound of protein consumed. High “efficiency of utilization” occurs with animal protein because the proportion of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in animal muscle most closely match the proportion of amino acids needed to synthesize protein in our own bodies. We know now that this may be a drawback, [...]

Why China Holds the Key to Your Health

I have been a researcher, lecturer, and policy advisor in the field of diet and cancer for nearly 45 years.

Since 1963, primarily from an academic position, I have seen the many faces of establishment science and have been both rewarded and distressed by what I have witnessed. I have seen a vast increase in consumer nutrition information and, regrettably, an almost equal increase in consumer confusion. One week we hear that eating meat increases our risk of colon cancer, the next week the exact opposite. One news report states that dietary fat is not related to breast cancer, another says it is. It seems to me that public confusion has grown far beyond acceptable limits.

In the 1980s, I was invited by Senator John Glenn’s U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs to offer an opinion about why there is so much confusion. My opinion then and now is that we tend to think so specifically about ideas and products that we fail to comprehend the main message. We stare fixedly at the trees and miss the forest. Specific ideas and products provide immediate money for the entrepreneur, grant money for the scientific researcher, and some degree of presumed “certainty” for the educator and publicist. They do not necessarily promote good health. Despite all our products and proclamations, more people are overweight in the U.S. than ever before. By the latest count one out of every three adults is overweight, an increase from one in four in the late 1970s.

The real aim of science is to advance knowledge about what makes you healthy, reduce [...]

What’s For Lunch?

The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was recently published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and, except for some minor adjustments in format and design, and the addition of two new guidelines to show that the panel was doing some work, little if anything was accomplished. The guidelines are supposed to bring us up to date on what we ought to be eating. The new guidelines encourage regular physical activity and practicing food safety.

Revised every five years to reflect the latest in scientific evidence, the report sounds reasonable enough. Mainly, it infers better health if we eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grain foods, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, do regular physical activity, avoid consuming excesses of sugar, sodium and alcohol while reducing our average fat intake from its present 35% of energy consumption to 30% or less.

Although this report may be increasing public awareness of the diet and health connection, these guidelines also have another very significant, but troubling, purpose. In effect, the report establishes a reference standard of implied good health for widely used government subsidized food assistance programs. One such program is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), now providing meals for about 26 million American elementary school children. That’s about one in five families who have one or more children participating in the program, in the hope in many cases that their children are getting a dose of good health not otherwise available to them.

In my view, this government food subsidy program, also run by the USDA, is a disaster and has been so for many years. [...]

Casein Consumption

Question

I have been a eating “mostly-vegan” diet for several years now. I do not consume milk, cheese, meat, or whole eggs. I am not strict vegan because occasionally I eat egg whites, fat-free yogurt, or soy based “meat products” and cheese containing casein. I recently read The China Study and was completely astounded with how detrimental casein is to the human body. Is the amount of casein in these products considered relatively “safe” for moderate consumption (a few times per week)?

The main story line of the book relates the sequence of experimental research studies with which my current ideas about nutrition emerged. I began by doing very traditional research, by focusing on a relatively specific objective, or hypothesis. Namely, does casein–when fed to rats–encourage the growth of experimental tumors and, if so, how does it work? This is traditional research strategy.

First, we confirmed that casein does have this property (thus supporting the preliminary research of others) and, second, we learned how it does it (involving multiple ‘mechanisms’). In the traditional sense, the evidence was overwhelming. Using traditional science practice, we should be concluding that casein is a chemical carcinogen, perhaps the most relevant carcinogen that we consume.

But importantly, we also had evidence that this effect was reserved for a dietary level of casein that is above a threshold required to meet the rat’s needs for protein, i.e., 10-12% of total calories. We also obtained evidence that this is true for casein but not for wheat protein or for soy protein, even when these latter proteins are fed at 20% of total calories. However, the fact that [...]

Solving Food Pyramid Mysteries

It’s been our goal since the beginning to cut through the glut of available nutrition information and to give you just the pure, unadulterated basics so you can make healthful dietary change.

With new advice hitting us from every direction, I know the sorting out process can be difficult if not impossible. Ironically, the most confusing area of all may be the new dietary guidelines.

For example, what are the U.S. Dietary Guidelines? How are they related to the new Food Guide Pyramid? And what about the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid? And now the Asian Diet Pyramid? If you don’t know the answers, don’t feel bad. You’re probably keeping company with some of the top nutrition professionals in the country.

If these dietary recommendations are confusing for the professionals, you can imagine what they’re like for regular folks who just want to know, simply and clearly, what to eat for optimum health. It’s a regrettable fact that although 58% of Americans say they’ve heard of the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, only 13% say they understand it!

A Tale of Dairy Foods and Pyramids

“Eat a variety of foods,” and “Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.” They were developed in 1980 to ensure that Americans would have the knowledge to eat nutritionally sound diets while avoiding diet-related chronic diseases. In the 1995 revision, for the first time, they mentioned the ‘V’ words – vegetarians and vegans. While vegetarians who eat milk products and eggs were said to “enjoy excellent health,” vegans, who eat only foods of plant origin, were advised to supplement their diets with B-l2 (which comes “only [...]