THE GREAT ANIMAL PROTEIN MYTH – PART II
The results of the Indian Study of rats fed aflatoxins with high percentages of animal proteins all dying of liver cancer really nagged Colin. This prompted him to look at other studies which confirmed the Indian findings. The low animal protein diet routinely inhibited cancers (even when high doses of aflatoxins were present) while the high animal protein diets triggered cancers. In fact he could both simply turn on and off any pre-cancerous and cancerous growths by adding or subtracting a percentage of animal proteins from the diet. Using plant-based proteins did not have this ill effect. To Campbell the results were unbelievably earth-shacking. This motivated him to test the same concept on human subjects (which he had a golden opportunity to do via the massive China Study). The China Study confirmed what prior animal testing showed was possible for humans – a progression of degenerative disease in populations relative to the percentage presence of animal protein in the diet. This included an increase in bone fractures, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. The study results were clear cut – the higher the animal protein intake, the higher the degenerative disease incidences. Inversely, the more plant-based proteins were ingested, the lower the overall level of degenerative diseases.
DEFICIENT PLANT PROTEIN MYTH
A corollary to the Great Animal Protein Myth, or along with the presumption that eating animal proteins strengthens and heal us, is the assumption that plant proteins weaken us or are inadequate. Nutritionists used to say we eat “first class” proteins (meat, fish, eggs and milk) and “second class” proteins (plant-based). Today this is considered demeaning to vegetarians. Actually animal proteins are second class or “second-hand,” being derived from grain feed. Animal proteins also occur in higher-scale, more complex organisms that accumulate greater levels of environmental toxins. Supersize Me was a film that showed this quite dramatically, the downward spiral of health on a meat, fast-food diet which at the same time wastes and pollutes vast agricultural resources.
VEGAN DIET DEFICIENCIES
On rare occassions a limited or highly processed or devitalized vegan diet can also be harmful – even to the point of causing disability and death. French fries doused with transfats are still a “vegan dish.” It is instructional and eye-opening to read about rare cases of, for example, B-12 or DHA deficiencies among vegans. The matter of unbalanced, limited, or highly processed vegan diets – and the resulting deficiencies – is a totally separate issue from the Great Animal Protein Myth.
Thus I always recommend a diverse or “rainbow-spectrum diet” when adopting a meal plan, including for veganism. This means using the broadest spectrum of foods (often supplemented via so-called superfoods, high-mineral supplements, special powder mixes, juices, blends and sprouts). This then helps to yield optimal nutrition and/or counters digestive weaknesses (genetic, acquired, or later-onset). So just being a vegan alone is not an automatic panacea for all body ills. We still need need a very intelligent, diverse, seasonal, or rotational meal planning.
TWO PARTS TO THE DEFICIENT PLANT PROTEIN MYTH
PLANTS ARE LOW IN PROTEIN – The first states that plants are low in amino acids, thus protein. The truth is the pretty much the exact opposite. Most plants offer more than sufficient protein. One study showed that as a percentage of calories spinach had 49% protein, broccoli 45%, Cauliflower 40% and Celery 21%. Beans ranged for about 25% on up. Grains, nuts, and seeds spanned from 8% up and fruits from 5% on up. Because an ideal diet has 10% or less protein (mother’s milk is about 7%) and as a percentage of caloric intake, it is almost impossible to be vegan and protein-deficient. This is unless one is starving oneself or another. On the contrary a major health threat of our times is, as Dr. Campbell discovered, the over-consumption of animal proteins. Because of acid byproducts of protein digestion, an excess can greatly tax our detox organs such as the kidneys and liver that maintain the integrity of our body fluids. This is why concentrated protein supplements can be dangerous and why bone density goes down and cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis rates go up on the standard, high-animal-protein American diet.
PLANT PROTEINS ARE INCOMPLETE - The second part involves the belief that plant proteins are incomplete or that we need to combine several plant foods to make complete proteins at a given meal. The idea initiated in 1971 with Frances Moore Lappe’s best-selling book, Diet For A Small Planet. Amino acids are stored in the body between meals so most are not aware that this theory was proven to be totally false. Lappe herself recanted the idea.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE
You wonder why I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years now and have never had symptoms of protein deficiency. As a vegan I could win road races in my age class after a week or two or training, due to more rapid muscle gain. So I know from experience that the Great Animal Protein Myth is just a myth.
There are many sites on the Web belonging to vegan body-builders. Jack LaLane was among them. Still we don’t see a high percentage of vegan body-builders because vegans are relatively rare to begin with (1% or less of the population) and most are not interested in body-building.
VEGAN DIETS FOR CHILDREN
There have been highly publicized cases of children fed a vegan diet who have died. Given that there are probably a million or more vegans in North America, it is not surprising that a handful have died prematurely for one reason or another. I’m willing to bet that a) we know too little of the real causes are unknown, and b) the percentage of vegan children who die prematurely (compared to meat-eating children) is vastly lower. Dr. Spock, in working on the latest update to his famous book on childcare, recommended a vegan diet as the most healthy for growing children.