Protein - Good & Bad
When Geoff, HETN's CEO, was training in the 1960s, the teaching was that the ideal diet was high in protein and low in carbohydrate and fat. They were also taught that animal protein was better than vegetable protein. Finally, and almost as an afterthought, they were told that adults needed about one gram of protein per day for every kilogram of body weight. Today, the US and Canadian guidelines recommend a daily protein dietary allowance of just 0.8g/kg. So, a 70 kilogram man (are there any of those left?) needs just 56 grams of protein per day.
If your healthy breakfast (protein in brackets) includes a yoghurt (8g), an egg (7g) and two pieces of wholemeal toast (5.5g), and your healthy lunch includes a baked potato (8.5g) with cottage cheese (8g) and prawns (17g), and your healthy dinner includes chicken breast (50g) and pasta (6g), and perhaps you take milk in your tea and coffee (8g) and you snacked on a few cashew nuts (9g), then your protein intake (127g) for the day is already more than double what is recommended, and most people in the UK and US eat considerably more. Of this total, seventy seven percent is animal protein, and there is now unequivocal evidence that the more animal protein you consume, the more likely you are to get colorectal, prostate or breast cancer. So, it's not just charred meat that is a problem, it's all meat, including lean chicken.
The China Study by Colin Campbell and his son, Tom, has been described as the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. It examines mortality rates from cancer and other chronic diseases in China from 1973–75, and correlates them with 1983–84 dietary surveys and blood tests from 6,500 people. The science is clear and the results are unmistakable. If you change your diet, you can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. More specifically, the book concludes that those who have a high consumption of animal-based foods are more likely to have higher death rates from Western diseases.
Most of us eat far too much animal protein. The marketing boards for meat, dairy products and eggs are powerful lobbies, and they have persuaded us that their protein is healthy. Protein is only healthy in small quantities, and vegetable protein is healthier than animal protein. The reason for this is that all animal protein is high in fat.
We are correctly advised to reduce the amount of fat in our diet, but there is a difficulty here. In the US, people get about 45 percent of their calories from fat. It is nowadays recommended that we should get no more than 20 percent. Some healthy rural people in the developing world get only 10 percent of their calories from fat.
So, I heed the advice and decide to eliminate fat from my diet. I avoid all fried and fatty foods. I read the labels and stop buying any food that contains more than 2 percent fat. I stop eating cheese, butter and cream. I buy low fat milk. I trim all the fat off my meat and I take the skin off my chicken. In short, I do all the things that millions of dieters have done from time to time, and I do not cheat. The result is that I reduce the amount of calories I am getting from fat from 45 percent to, at best, 30 percent. Why is this?
It is because I cannot reduce the fat without drastically reducing the animal protein. But I removed all the fat, didn’t I? Not so. The problem with meats, including poultry and fish, is that they are muscles, and muscles consist of protein and fat. Extra lean beef still derives over 50 percent of its calories from fat, and chicken is worse at over 65 percent. Chicken breast, without the skin, still derives 23 percent of its calories from fat. Steamed fish varies from 8 percent for haddock to 40 percent for salmon. Milk is also problematic. Whole milk derives 49 percent of its calories from fat. 2% low fat milk reduces this figure to 35 percent.
Become a Vegan?
We do not need to become vegans, but we do need to recognise the perhaps unpalatable truth that, if we wish to be healthy, we need to eat very little animal protein. The reality is that we can more effectively reduce the percentage of calories that we get from fat by cutting out animal protein than by trying to cut out fat.
In case you are wondering whether Geoff is a vegetarian or a vegan, he is not. He loves eggs, bacon, steak and cheese, but he also knows that if you want to keep slim, avoid osteoporosis and reduce your risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, you need to restrict your intake of these to no more than three small portions per week.
What about fish? Oily fish is better than other types of animal protein because it is an excellent source of omega 3. So, a wise person would include a further three small portions per week in his diet.Before leaving the subject of animal protein, I want to debunk the myth that milk and other dairy products are a good source of calcium. We have been taught that this protein-rich and calcium-rich drink is essential to good overall health - and to bone health in particular. Milk does indeed contain a lot of calcium, so what is the problem? The problem is that those countries that consume the most milk do not have the strongest bones. In fact, they have the highest fracture rates and the worst bone health, in the form of osteoporosis.
People in Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands drink the most milk and have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. This is unlikely to be a problem of Vitamin D deficiency due to limited sunshine, because milk consumption in Greece more than doubled between 1961 and 1985, and during the same period, the osteoporosis incidence almost doubled. In Hong Kong, between 1989 and 1966 the consumption of dairy products doubled, and the osteoporosis incidence tripled. Americans consume three times more milk than the Japanese, and the incidence of hip fracture in Americans is two and a half times higher. Among those in America that consume less milk, such as Mexican Americans and Black Americans, osteoporosis incidence is half that in white Americans. The Chinese consume very little milk, and their hip fracture incidence is among the lowest in the world. In other countries where very little milk is consumed, like Congo, Guinea and Togo, osteoporosis is also extremely rare.
It has been known for decades that protein, not just milk, is made up of amino acids, which increase the acid load on the body. The body cannot tolerate any acidification of the blood or body fluids, and uses calcium from bone to neutralise it. This activity is reflected in increased excretion of calcium in the urine. So, milk may be rich in calcium, but it is also rich in protein, and more calcium needs to be pulled from bone to neutralise the potential acidity caused by this protein than there is calcium in the milk. The result is a net calcium loss.
Sorry, guys, but whey is a by-product of the milk industry that used to be fed to pigs. Clever marketing has persuaded whimps that they can become champions. The promoters have made millions. The consumers are endangering their health.