"In spite of what millions of dollars of meat and dairy industry advertising would have you believe, it is excess, not inadequate protein, that is the threat to health," says Alan Goldhamer, D.C. (1). Most people value protein as the most important calorie source, which will efficiently build muscle, give strength, and promote weight loss. People have focused on eating enough of this necessary nutrient ever since it was discovered in 1839. Meat has been considered the best protein source and is described as high quality protein as opposed to plant protein. "Eat the ox to become strong as an ox!" people say. Therefore, it is interesting to look at how much protein the human body actually needs.
All proteins are made up of amino acids, and the body uses twenty different amino acids to synthesize its own proteins. Eight of these amino acids are essential, which means that the body cannot produce them itself (2). In addition to being able to synthesize the other twelve amino acids, the body also reuses essential amino acids, so that only about 30% of the body's protein needs must be supplied through the diet to make up for inevitable losses. Goldhamer describes this phenomena by saying, "We are in a sense all flesh eaters, a form of self-cannibalization" (3). The official recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein, as determined by the National Academy of Sciences, is therefore only 10% of total calorie intake, or 0.8 g. per kilo bodyweight. This means that if you weigh 176 lb. (80 kg.), you would need 64 g. of protein a day. To further point out how little protein is needed through the diet, it is interesting to notice how much protein there is in mother milk, as it is in the first six months of life that a human being grows the most. Surprisingly enough, mother milk contains only 2% protein! So if a growing infant's diet consists of only 2% protein, a full-grown adult would not need much more than this.*
Science now also shows that it is not necessary to eat all the essential amino acids at one meal for the body to be able to utilize them to synthesize proteins (4). As long as you get all the different amino acids throughout the day, then that is sufficient, says T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. (5). Before, it was believed that you had to eat all the essential amino acids at the same meal for the body to be able to use them, and this supposition led to the belief that meat protein was the best protein choice, since meat contains all the essential amino acids in a ratio, which is very similar to the one the body uses. This myth, however, was based on the fact that all the different amino acids must be present at the protein synthesis. Scientists did not yet realize that the body recycles amino acids, so that it can build complete proteins from an incomplete assortment of building block, so to speak. Studies have even been conducted that show that an animal can continue growing, even though slowly, on a diet totally void of one of the essential nutrients (6). This shows how wonderfully God has created the body to be able to make up for such a deficiency.
What do you think about the necessity of protein intake? Voice your opinion in the comments!
Look for The Protein Problem, Part 2: Animal Protein and the Body
in an upcoming post.
(1) Goldhamer, Alan, D.C. "Where Do You Get Your Protein?" October 15, 1997. http://nutritionstudies.org/get-protein-where/ (Accessed May 12, 2014)
(5) Campbell, T. Colin, PhD. "The Protein Puzzle: Picking up the Pieces." August 1, 1995. http://nutritionstudies.org/protein-puzzle-picking-pieces/ (Accessed May 12, 2014)
(6) Goldhamer, Alan, D.C. "Where Do You Get Your Protein?" October 15, 1997. http://nutritionstudies.org/get-protein-where/ (Accessed May 12, 2014)
* We must here consider that the milk contains a lot of water; if the water was removed, the concentration would, of course, be higher.
Labels: Health Articles