What About Protein? Part 2

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for.... Part 2!!

If you missed the first 5 Facts, be sure to head back over to "What About Protein?" Part 1

Fact #6 – Protein Surplus = Ill-Health

If protein is good, then more protein is better, right? Depends on who you ask. Ask those selling protein supplements or meat and dairy products then, yeah, they'd most likely say to get all you can because it's the most important nutrient...like ever... But ask someone not selling you anything, and they'll most likely say what I'm about to tell you. Too much protein-based foods is unhealthy.

Dr. Graham says it well in his book The 80/10/10 Diet:
Too much protein in our diets is associated with all manner of health impairments, including such symptoms as constipation and other digestive disorders that often lead to toxemia (toxic blood and tissues) and, eventually, cancer. Autoimmune dysfunction, arthritis, and all other autoimmune conditions, premature aging, impaired liver function, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and many other degenerative and pathogenic conditions result from eating more protein than we need.
In general, protein-based foods are highly acid forming in the human body (even the high-protein plants, such as legumes). This is because their predominant minerals are the acidic minerals – chlorine, phosphorus, and sulfur. To maintain homeostasis, the body must counterbalance the acidity caused by excess protein consumption. Unfortunately, it does so in part by taking a precious alkaline mineral – calcium – from our bloodstream. The body replaces calcium into the bloodstream, where calcium levels must remain relatively constant, by removing it from our bones and teeth, setting the stage for osteoporosis and tooth decay.1
 I had always been told by my doctors that because I had an autoimmune disease I was more susceptible to getting osteoporosis. Also, autoimmune diseases and osteoporosis supposedly run in my family. Hhmmmm.... Maybe it's the eating habits that run in my family!

The sad part of researching this is when you come across information on how too much protein has affected children. When renowned scientist Dr. T. C. Campbell was doing his research in the Philippines, he found to his surprise that "the most protein-rich children had the highest rates of liver cancer." In fact, it was so bad that the oncologists in the Philippines were operating on liver cancer paitients as young as 4 years old!2


Fact #7 – Protein Should be <10% of Total Calories 

The average American protein intake ranges from 11-21%. The World Health Organization, National Research Council, and the U.S. National Academies' Institute of Medicine say that only eating about 10% of total calories from protein is plenty.4 In Part 1 of my "What About Protein?" series, I referenced a study done by Dr. Campbell on protein percentage and tumor growth. He found that rats were developing tumors when their diet consisted of more than 10% animal protein. He also found that the same rats who were developing tumors with the high protein diet would stop developing tumors once switched to a low protein diet (5% animal protein).5

But it's not just cancer growth that protein amounts affect. Besides the ailments mentioned in Fact #6, excess protein, whether plant or animal, can damage the liver, kidneys, and bones. If you're interested in the numbers, charts, and graphs, I highly recommend checking out this article by Dr. McDougall in his January 2004 newsletter.

What about body builders? You often see bodybuilders and weight trainers advocating "high protein, low carb" diets and protein powders and supplements. "In reality, only weight bearing exercise builds muscle... Bodybuilders following the 80/10/10 program have found that if they supply sufficient calories from carbohydrate, their protein needs go down dramatically, and their energy to train and their muscular growth both increase."6 For more information regarding nutrition and athletic performance, I recommend reading the book by the same title, Nutrition and Athletic Performance by Dr. Graham. It's excellent!

Fact #8 – Animal Protein = Disease 

Wouldn't it be cool if "nutritional manipulation can turn cancer 'on' and 'off?'"Scientific research shows it can! Again, in the same study that I reference in Fact #7 and Part 1, Dr. Campbell proves that even switching the rats from a high animal protein diet (20%) to a high plant protein diet (still at 20%) will turn off the cancer.
What is it about animal proteins that make them harmful? One of the things is that they contain a lot of sulfur. And while we do need some sulfur (the small amounts found in plants are perfect), too much puts a burden on the body.

Dr. McDougall shows 6 ways too much sulfur can affect the body:

  1. Too much acid (which naturally comes from the breakdown of certain amino acids into sulfuric acid) "is the primary cause of bone loss leading to osteoporosis and kidney stone formation."
  2. More meat in the diet equals higher levels of homocysteine in the blood. "Epidemiological and clinical studies have proven homocysteine to be an independent risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, closure of the arteries to the legs (peripheral vascular disease), blood clots in the legs (venous thrombosis), thinking problems (cognitive impairment), and even worse mental troubles, like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression."
  3. "Sulfur feed cancerous tumors...  Meat and dairy products raise IGF-1 levels and promote the growth of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, and lung."
  4. The colon can be damaged by the sulfur in sulfur-containing amino acids found in animal products. The damage is seen even at low intake levels. "The consequence of a diet of high-methionine (animal) foods may be a life-threatening inflammatory bowel disease, called ulcerative colitis."
  5. "Sulfur restriction prolongs life."
  6. Have you heard the phrase, You are what you eat? Well, what about You smell like what you eat? "Possibly a stronger motivation to keep protein, and especially methionine-rich animal protein, out of your diet is foul smelling odors – halitosis, body odor, and noxious flatus – akin to the smell of rotten eggs – are direct results of the sulfur (animal protein) you eat."3

Fact #9 – Completing Your Proteins can be Stress Free

There's no need to stress over carefully combining different plants in order to get a complete protein. Just enjoy the variety of produce that's available every day throughout the year and you automatically get it! Dr. Campbell says, "We now know that through enormously complex metabolic systems, the human body can derive all the essential amino acids from the natural variety of plant proteins that we encounter every day."7  
For over 100 years, science has known that plants easily provide complete protein even if only one type of plant is eaten for a day. The charts below summarize what was found in the studies of Dr. William Rose on the nutritional requirements of protein. Click on the charts to expand them, and you will see that a sufficient quantity of common vegetables have more than enough of the daily requirement of essential amino acids.8


Furthermore, no improvement has been found from mixing plant foods or supplementing them with amino acid mixtures to make the combined amino acid pattern look more like that of flesh, milk, or eggs. In fact, supplementing a food with an amino acid in order to conform to a contrived reference standard can create amino acid imbalances. For example, young children fed diets based on wheat or corn and supplemented with the amino acids tryptophan and methionine in order to conform to the standard requirements set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) developed negative responses in terms of nitrogen balance (the body's utilization of protein).8
 Still don't believe it? Try it out for yourself. Go to Cronometer.com and type in a full day's worth of calories for a veggie or fruit (at least 2500 for women and 3500 for men). You'll find you get so much protein! Even if you don't get all your essential amino acids in one day, don't fret! As you have variety of plants over the weeks, and even the year, you'll get everything you need. That's the way God designed plants. That's the way God designed your body. Cool huh? :)

Fact #10 – Produce Protein is More Than Enough

If you couldn't already tell from Rose's charts above, the protein in produce is more than enough to reach a person's daily requirements AND recommendations. Eating only fruits and vegetables, your protein percentage will average at least 5%; add a small amount of nuts and seeds and you can easily reach 10%.9 Again, try this out at Cronometer.com. Produce protein doesn't have the baggage attached to it either, like the way animal protein does with disease and ill-health. You also don't have to worry about fat and calories the way you would if you kept trying to get enough animal protein.

If it sounds like plant protein is the whole package, it's because it is. :)

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1. Graham, D. (2006). The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time. p. 106. Decature, GAFoodnSport Press.

2. Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, We (p. 36). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. 

3. http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2004nl/040100puproteinoverload.htm

4. Graham, D. (2006). The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time. pp. 100, 104. 

5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/6/1667.full

6. Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, We (p. 62). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. 

7. Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, We (p. 31). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

8. http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/apr/protein.htm

9. Graham, D. (2006). The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time. p. 108.

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