Papers

Protein

Answer to a Reader’s Question:

Many people are rightfully confused about the various ways that protein recommendations are established, and fail to know the main factors that have caused the confusion. Understanding the protein recommendations requires an understanding of the history of protein research and the serious bias that crept into the science over the years. From the beginning, there was a very strong bias that has emphasized the health importance of protein and this almost always meant animal-based protein. This bias arose even though the research results clearly showed in many cases that it SHOULD NOT be emphasized. Nonetheless nutrition researchers still emphasized higher consumption of protein because it was the “sign of civilization itself” as was said in the early 1900s and, further, that those who did not consume these generous amounts of protein (i.e., meat) were “of an effeminate nature”!

Researchers continually pushed the protein idea and continually found ways to develop methodologies and algorithms to ‘show’ that higher levels of protein were advisable. The whole concept of protein “quality” was devised so that it could be said that animal protein was high quality and plant proteins were low quality when, in fact, the concept of quality only indicated a biological efficiency of utilization per unit protein consumed. Naturally, animal-based proteins more nearly mimic our needs because they are composed of the right ratio of amino acids, thus are used more efficiently. But these studies were mostly based on animal production research that served the farm community (also served for my PhD thesis!) far more than it served the interests of human health. More efficiently used “high [...]

Eating More Calories, Staying Thinner

Although the average caloric intake of the Chinese is higher than that of Americans (2640 vs. 2360 for adult males), and despite their smaller stature, the Chinese are much thinner than Americans. This may be attributed partially to the greater level of physical activity in rural China, but the evidence also suggests that it is explained partly by the composition of the diet.

The mainstay of the Chinese diet is cereal grain. Carbohydrate intake accounts for 70% of the caloric intake in rural China compared to about 40% in the U.S. More importantly, only 15% of the calories consumed by rural Chinese men comes from fat, compared to almost 40% in the U.S. Although the total amount of protein is more or less comparable in these two populations, the source of the protein is very different: in the U.S. over 70% of the protein is derived from non-fish animal foods compared to only 7% in rural China.

The Cornell-Oxford-China Nutririon project, conducted in mainland China and Taiwan, is a massive survey of over 10,000 families designed to study diet, lifestyle, and disease across the far reaches of rural China. By investigating simultaneously more diseases and more dietary characteristics than any other study to date, the project has generated the most comprehensive database in the world on the multiple causes of disease.

Grass-Fed Animal Agriculture

(In response to a reader’s question concerning Dr. Mercola’s views on The China Study)

I’ve seen the views of Dr. Mercola several times, and this is my response:

For background, it should be noted that Dr. Mercola’s views, when he says that The China Study is “seriously flawed”, parallel very closely those of the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF), a Washington-based agricultural lobbying group, who asserts, among other claims, that high cholesterol diets are healthy even beneficial and who not surprisingly support the consumption of raw un-pasteurized, un-homogenized grass-fed beef and other animal-based food products.

They also, perhaps to be politically correct, recommend the consumption of fruits and vegetables but in a way that is virtually meaningless. They rely heavily on a personal survey that a dentist, Weston Price, did during the 1920s and 1930s when he visited a total of 14 indigenous peoples in various parts of the world to examine and photograph their dental health (dental caries and dental arch formation). However, by principally relying on Price’s findings, WAPF goes far beyond what Price actually did. They would have us believe that he published extensive data to support the health value of cow’s milk and high cholesterol animal based foods and, further, that he ‘discovered’ a fat soluble factor in milk that is likely responsible for these healthy effects of cow’s milk. I read his book and there are no data that Price accumulated, tabulated and interpreted to support that view. Indeed, the so-called fat soluble factor was noted at a time during the early days of vitamin discoveries when little was known about their metabolism and biochemically functional [...]

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 [...]