The Protein Myth

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The Protein Myth

Postby HealthFreak » Thu Jun 26, 2008 6:45 pm

I’ve read Dr McDougall’s newsletter’s on protein. They are outstanding. I also own the book Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis. I’ve also read The China Study. Intellectually I believe that humans can get enough protein from plants. I’ve been eating a 95% plant based diet for one year.

I admit, however, that I’m still carrying around a psychological burden, that it is only a matter of time before I develop some hideous protein deficiency. I’m fine with the quantity of protein. I understand that a diet of whole grains, beans and vegetables gives a person plenty of protein. I’m hung up on the protein quality myth, the argument that plants contain inadequate amounts of some essential amino acids.

I’m well read on the subject so I’m not looking for the scientific data. I’m looking for real people who can tell me they’ve been healthy for years on this kind of diet. I’ve never met a real life vegan so I’d like to hear from the people who have been living this lifestyle for 5, 10, 20 years and more. It might help me to relax about it.
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Protein myth

Postby langerangersquared » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:20 pm

Do you count McDougalls? Don
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Postby AnnaS » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:49 pm

The McDougalls, the Esselstyns, Prof. Colin Campbell & family, Dr. Neil Barnard, John Robbins, etc, etc, etc--you seem pretty well-read so I'm sure you have seen these people's stories. Then go look at Dr. McDougall's website--there are a lot of testimonials, lengthy and informative, of 'Star McDougallers'.

Now think about all the people you have ever known--any of them ever hospitalized for 'protein deficiency'?? Nope. The only 'protein deficiency' you can point to is in people who are starving to death, horrifying to contemplate. Among those getting enough to eat you won't find such an illness. But if you are worried, you could research this on PubMed.
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Postby hope101 » Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:06 pm

How about Ruth Heidrich? She's amazing.
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Protein

Postby Caroveggie » Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:22 pm

I understand how it is hard to let go of old viewpoints, but I no longer worry about protein at all.

I took a free vegan health class for cancer prevention put on by The Cancer Project. The teacher mentioned that quinoa has every essential amino acid. Also, I think I remember hearing that Ezekial 4:9 live-grain tortillas have all the essential amino acids too. You could look into these two sources if you're worried about it.

Also, I remember in Dr. McDougall's books, the amount of protein required daily is only 7-15% of our daily calories, which isn't much. Human breast milk is only 5-6% protein, and that's for a critical growth stage in a person's life.

From reading Dr. McDougall's books and others like it my sense is that it's more important to watch the percent of fat calories, eat healthy whole plant foods, and not worry about the protein (so long as you're avoiding animal protein, that is) -- even in fact limit protein to about a cup a day. You want the energy good carbohydrates will give you but too much protein, especially animal protein, has a variety of negative effects on the body (kidney damage, osteoporosis, loss of minerals in urine, etc.) There is plenty of protein in regular plant foods (even those not known for being higher in protein).

Anyway, hope this helps.

Oh, yeah, one more thing I remember reading was that in order to have a protein deficiency you'd have to be not taking in enough calories.

uh, sorry, I reread your post :oops: ! I guess you could think about all the long-lived Okinowans or Asian countries where they eat a diet akin to this one (low protein, high whole plant starches) and they live longer than we do without protein deficiencies.
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Postby JeffN » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:57 am

My comments on the issue can be found in this thread...

http://drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6030

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Postby HealthFreak » Fri Jun 27, 2008 1:35 pm

From Jeff's post, "One of the leading sources for this misinformation was the book, Diet For A Small Planet, which corrected this myth in the 10th anniversary edition back in 1982."

The only problem is that no one read the 10th anniversary edition. They all remember the original in 1972. I think the reason a lot of people don't changed their diet is because they think plant protein is inferior. The only people who know that the food combining concept is not true are people like me and others on this forum who dig into nutrition literature.

I'm glad there are organizations like this one, PCRM and others who are getting this word out.
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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby MichaelBluejay » Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:23 pm

Well, as long as anecdotal info is sufficient, I'm about to celebrate 20 years as a vegan (25 as a vegetarian), and I absolutely do not take supplements or seek out "high protein" foods, and I'm completely healthy (e.g., complete blood profile), and I run marathons, expecting to finish the next one in the top 1/3 for my age/gender group. Yesterday I underwent fitness testing at the local university and they said my body's ability to use oxygen was in the 95th percentile (on the good side) for my age/gender group. :)

Back when I ate the standard diet as a kid and we did laps around the gym, I was slower than all the boys *and* all the girls, except this one girl. What a difference.

When I was in India I discovered that there are entire *cities* that are vegetarian. They're holy cities, and you can't get meat in the stores or restaurants. When I'd look down the road and see a thousand people in the market, almost all of whom had likely been vegetarian since birth, I thought about the people back in the states who nearly spit all over themselves in an effort to hurriedly tell me that I can't be healthy on what I'm eating, as soon as they learn I'm a vegetarian (without bothering to first find out how *long* I've been vegetarian/vegan).
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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby lydia » Sat Dec 19, 2009 4:20 pm

It is hard not to feel a little alone when the popular culture and media is always promoting the value of protein. At my local YMCA some instructors tell us to make sure to get a protein source after class and there is a list in the locker room of protein sources. There are dairy, beef, and supplement industries that depend on us believing the protein myth.

Personally i have been vegan and mcdougalling for 3 1/2 years and never felt better in my life. I used to get pneumonia in the winter and a cold or 2 every year. Since changing my diet I have not been sick with anything. I am amazed when people describe all their
illnesses and I am finding it harder to relate. I wish saying something would help but...it doesn't.

It took me a lot of reading and gaining confidence in the diet before I lost the fear of protein deficiency. The frustrating part now for me is when people ask me about it because it is not something you can explain in 5 minutes. I find that when I tell them that protein is in my food and give a few facts, they really are not interested too much .
The other day I asked myself, would I be able to go back to liking the old foods and just fit in with the mainstream. I honestly cannot imagine doing that! One incentive for me is how good I feel and the other is how much health benefits keep costing more and more every year. Let's face it...it is not a free ride anymore even for those of us who are lucky to carry insurance. with more and more co pays and higher deductibles every year, there is reason to eat right and exercise. The latter is harder for me to do consistently.
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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby bunsofaluminum » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:19 am

I agree with the things that everyone said in their replies, but also a video comes to mind, from the Hawaiian Vegetarian site, Dr Klaper lectures on the flat fact that vegans and omnivores have similar lifespans. He talks about some deficiencies in a 100% vegan diet...not protein, though, if I remember correctly. Things like Vitamin D and calcium ???

anyway, no...protein isn't of concern but other nutrients might be, long term. that video is worth a look, btw. Very well done, balanced, and truthful.
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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby JeffN » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:29 am

bunsofaluminum wrote:I agree with the things that everyone said in their replies, but also a video comes to mind, from the Hawaiian Vegetarian site, Dr Klaper lectures on the flat fact that vegans and omnivores have similar lifespans. He talks about some deficiencies in a 100% vegan diet...not protein, though, if I remember correctly. Things like Vitamin D and calcium ???

anyway, no...protein isn't of concern but other nutrients might be, long term. that video is worth a look, btw. Very well done, balanced, and truthful.


True, but IMH(P&P)O, not relevant. :)

The reasons is, the video describes the results of a study on "self reported" vegans not McDougallers.

Veganism does not automatically equate to a healthy diet and/or lifestyle and my personal experience over 3 decades, is that most vegans I have encountered do not follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.

While many in these forums choose to be vegan, the McDougall program is about a healthy diet and lifestyle, vegan or not.

I do not see how a study on vegans, who in general are not following any specific guidelines and/or recommendations other than to avoid animal products, applies in anyway at all to followers of the McDougall program who are following specific guidelines and principles of a health supporting diet and lifestyle.

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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby bigdorkpeter » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:21 am

Personally, I've memorized the signs of Protein deficiency and check myself every day. I just hope the decreased intelligence isn't one of the first, because that would trap me in a catch-22 that would keep me from recognizing the other signs before it's too late. Oh no!

;-)
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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby AussieDavid » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:17 am

HealthFreak wrote:I’m looking for real people who can tell me they’ve been healthy for years on this kind of diet. I’ve never met a real life vegan so I’d like to hear from the people who have been living this lifestyle for 5, 10, 20 years and more. It might help me to relax about it.


Hi Health Freak,

My name is David, I am 50 years old, have been following the McDougall eating plan for close on 15 years and I have benefited from it BIG TIME.

I used to be around 85 kgs @ 165cms, not good at all. I am around 67kgs and have been for a number of years. I am a gym junkie but don't spend hours there. I follow a routine than gets me in and out fairly quickly.

My wife and our sons (19 & 16) have been McDougall followers for the same time I have, so both boys are perfectly fine, growing up eating plant based foods without any health problems whatsoever.

Following the McDougall eating plan will not have you developing any kind of protein deficiency or any other essential nutrient deficiency. Just chronic illness deficiency!!!!

You live in a country that has an abundance of food and although I do not know you, I am certain that you eat enough to stave off illness, starvation and thus protein deficiency. If you lived in a starving country, you risk protein deficiency and many other illnesses.

I can go on and on, but that's not the point. You are here on this forum for a reason. Embrace the change and provided you follow the plan forever and stay true to yourself, add a little (or a lot if you like it) exercise, you will benefit from fuelling your body with the best foods available.

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Re: The Protein Myth

Postby Symphonyofdreams » Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:03 am

AussieDavid wrote:
HealthFreak wrote:I’m looking for real people who can tell me they’ve been healthy for years on this kind of diet. I’ve never met a real life vegan so I’d like to hear from the people who have been living this lifestyle for 5, 10, 20 years and more. It might help me to relax about it.


Hi Health Freak,

My name is David, I am 50 years old, have been following the McDougall eating plan for close on 15 years and I have benefited from it BIG TIME.

I used to be around 85 kgs @ 165cms, not good at all. I am around 67kgs and have been for a number of years. I am a gym junkie but don't spend hours there. I follow a routine than gets me in and out fairly quickly.

My wife and our sons (19 & 16) have been McDougall followers for the same time I have, so both boys are perfectly fine, growing up eating plant based foods without any health problems whatsoever.

Following the McDougall eating plan will not have you developing any kind of protein deficiency or any other essential nutrient deficiency. Just chronic illness deficiency!!!!

You live in a country that has an abundance of food and although I do not know you, I am certain that you eat enough to stave off illness, starvation and thus protein deficiency. If you lived in a starving country, you risk protein deficiency and many other illnesses.

I can go on and on, but that's not the point. You are here on this forum for a reason. Embrace the change and provided you follow the plan forever and stay true to yourself, add a little (or a lot if you like it) exercise, you will benefit from fuelling your body with the best foods available.

Best wishes


Just curious how tall are your boys? I've been wondering what it would be like if kids grew up on a plant based whole food diet instead of the typical western diet
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Re:

Postby hazelrah » Tue Dec 22, 2009 11:59 am

HealthFreak wrote:From Jeff's post, "One of the leading sources for this misinformation was the book, Diet For A Small Planet, which corrected this myth in the 10th anniversary edition back in 1982."

The only problem is that no one read the 10th anniversary edition. They all remember the original in 1972. I think the reason a lot of people don't changed their diet is because they think plant protein is inferior. The only people who know that the food combining concept is not true are people like me and others on this forum who dig into nutrition literature.


Hi HealthFreak,

I think I decided on becoming vegetarian before reading Diet for a Small Planet . I never worried about protein. There had been some talk about how Americans were overconsuming protein at that time, and I figured I'd see how it came out. It always seemed to me that the whole complimentary protein stuff was just an excuse to use cheese to make the meals taste better. I never really bought the whole idea that I needed to dwell over my protein intake to get complimentary proteins for the same reasons given here; the world's largest animals are vegetarian, so the idea that humans couldn't meet their dietary needs with a plant based diet seemed disingenuous to me. But the thing I found was that it is extremely hard to make flavorful meals without any fat or oil and that is why I was lacto ovo vegetarian for many years before finding this plan, Dr. Esselstyn's work, and other sources for palatable healthy food.

I don't think that Frances Lappe can be blamed for making the entire country protein crazy, and in many ways, I think she should be lauded for her primary thesis, that the planet cannot support a omnivore/carnivore lifestyle.

If we are looking for a reason to be vegetarian or vegan, I think that thesis, combined with the inhumanity of factory farming are the strongest arguments for me. The lives of factory farmed poultry are horrific, and the fact that we are complicit in it for the sole purpose of increasing our already appreciable girth is shameful. I am not convinced that excellent health is not attainable by including some meat while following the other principles ( low fat, calorie reduction, high nutritive foods,...) stated here. It definitely seems to me that those other principles are more easily followed by excluding meat from the diet. And the idea that we must eat animal flesh to live has always seemed ludicrous to me.

But I am convinced that the argument for getting rid of meat presented in Diet for a Small Planet will be painfully proven over the next 10 or 20 years as factory farming slowly ( or, maybe not so slowly) destroys our habitat and souls.

I first read Diet for a Small Planet about 30 years ago, and I have never worried about a protein deficit.

Not trying to be argumentative, that's just my personal belief. If you are looking for examples of people that have maintained excellent health on vegan diets, you should be able to find them in this thread and elsewhere on this site. The Ruth Hedrick suggestion seems a great example to me. She is not only vegetarian, but she is a cancer survivor who runs marathons. Hard to believe that vegans who are careful about their nutrition have anything to worry about.

Mark
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