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Proteins in Nutrition Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Proteins are very large molecules made of amino acids, of which there are twenty. Eight of these amino acids are "essential," meaning that they cannot be synthesized in the body even though they are necessary for life. Essential amino acids must be consumed from sources outside the body.

Early in the twentieth century, studies of rats revealed that this rodent grows better using animal sources of protein. Knowing nothing of humans, which are harder to study because they live so much longer, grow to adulthood so much slower, and metabolize food so much slower, nutritional scientists applied what they had learned about rats to humans. The conclusion was that animal sources of protein were superior to plant sources for human nutrition because of the higher concentration of protein.

In the early 1950s, definitive studies were conducted on human beings, and the eight essential amino acids were identified. Both animal and plant sources of amino acids provide an abundance of the essential amino acids. As it turns out, the amino acid needs of human beings can be met better by some plant sources, such as soy, because plant protein comes without the heavy load of fat present in meat, milk and eggs. Milk is said to be a good source of protein. Perhaps so, but the problems associated with pasteurized milk and milk products make it a less than desirable source.

At first glance, it may seem that animal sources of protein would be superior because of the higher concentration of protein. However, as it turns out, the body cannot distinguish the source of protein, or the concentration, only the total amount. The problem with meat is what has been added to the meat in production such as antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and herbicides found in cattle and pig feed. Soy is a perfectly acceptable source of protein and contains substances which are anticarcinogenic (the isoflavones).

An ideal intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Excess protein is defined as more than 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight. For an average-size, seventy- kilogram man, this amounts to 70 x 1.6 = 112 grams. I understand that this is more than the officially recommended amount, however I believe the official recommendation to be low.

Exceptions

People who are highly active in sports are breaking down muscle through exercise and should eat more protein than the average person. If you are not highly active, and you think you simply feel better on a very high protein diet, you may have an enzymatic condition in which protein and fat is metabolized especially well in your body. I suggest that you consult your nutritional medicine doctor to determine the perfect type of diet for you.

The liver breaks excess protein down into urea which is excreted through the kidneys. In circumstances of excessive protein intake, excessive quantities of urea pass through the kidneys. Urea is a diuretic, which means that water is made to exit along with urea, and this water loss means the simultaneous loss of minerals. The most important mineral lost is calcium.

A typical western diet of excessive meat, eggs, milk, fish and poultry throws the body into a negative calcium balance with more calcium lost each day than is gained. This lost calcium must come from somewhere in the body, and the largest store of calcium is in the bones. The bones are slowly decalcified, and the result is osteoporosis, one of the most serious health problems of elderly people in developed countries.

If you are wondering if you have osteoporosis, an accurate and economical osteoporosis test is the measurement of bone specific collagen. It is a urine assay test. Consult a doctor who pracices nutritional medicine for details.

The high purine content of a high-protein diet leads to gout and kidney stones in some people, as purine breaks down to uric acid, which crystallizes in the kidneys and joints. A diet with a sensible amount of protein is highly beneficial for these conditions. This sensible diet is achieved through vegetables high in fiber (nondigestible forms of complex carbs) with a sensible amount of protein and whatever fat comes with that protein.

To make this simple, all you need to remember is to consume, three times each day, about the amount of protein source which could be held in the palm of your hand — about the size of a chicken breast — constituting about thirty percent of your calories. With that, have whatever fat comes associated with that protein. Add high-fiber vegetables, the equivalent of three handfuls.

Sources

  • Burkitt D Some diseases characteristic of modern western civilization Br Med J;1973:274
  • Commoner B Formation of mutagens in beef and beef extract during cooking Science;1978:201
  • Harty S Hucksters in the Classroom - A review of industry propaganda in schools, Washington DC Center for the Study of Responsive Law;1979:25
  • Hill D The spectrum of cow's milk allergy in childhood Acta Paediatr Scand 68;1979:847
  • Parish W Hypersensitivity to milk and sudden death in infancy Lancet 2;1960:1106
  • Truelove S Ulcerative colitis provoked by milk Br Med J;1961:154
  • Bayless J Lactose and milk intolerance N Engl J Med 292;1975:1156
  • Donham K Epidemiologic relationships of the bovine population and human leukemia in Iowa Am J Epidemiol 112;1980:80

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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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