The question on many peoples mind: Are all proteins created equal?
Most people really believe that the only way you can get protein is from animals – think meat, eggs, and dairy! And the age old myth that Vegans cannot be as strong and as healthy as their meat eating counterparts is exactly that – an age old myth!
Let’s talk more about plant proteins – where are they found, and why are they better for you than animal protein. Big statement, but I am sticking to it!
In order to understand protein, you need to know some of the basics.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are said to be 9 essential amino acids, or in simple terms, amino acids that our body needs but cannot “manufacture” itself. We need to get these from the food we eat. When we consume protein, our body breaks down the protein into its components and then “manufactures” the right strands of protein for what our body requires at that particular time. This is not a difficult job for our bodies to do – it is what we are designed to do.
It is critical to note that plant proteins contain all of these 9 essential amino acids, and in levels often higher than meat. In fact, most plants have protein levels equal to that of meat. About 15% of the calorie level of plants is protein! (And I bet this is news to you!)
But here’s the catch. Animal Protein is closer in its make up to human protein, hence the preconceived idea that it is better source. However, this does not mean that it is of better quality or good for long term health.
Animal Protein has in fact been shown many times over to be detrimental to human health.
There have been many epidemiological studies and clinical research conducted, most notably, The China Study, that have proved this. For those who don’t know what an epidemiological study is: WIKI DEF: Epidemiology is the science that studies the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is the cornerstone of public health, and shapes policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare.
A collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University, Oxford University, resulted in the most comprehensive study of diet, lifestyle and disease that has ever been conducted in the history of medical research. In the study researchers surveyed a wide range of diseases, diet and lifestyle factors across rural China and Taiwan, and produced more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease – this was published as the China Study. (In my Nutrition Course, I learned that many of the studies that are used to promote certain types of diet, are studies done on a handful of people over short periods of time. They are often funded by organisations with financial interest and so results are often skewed, the methodologies are often incorrect and so the results dubious to say the least! The China Study cannot be debunked as it is purely a study. It does not show cause – effect but does show statistically significant correlations which possibly require further study to verify the results. The study was not funded by any organisation or anyone with financial interest).
Some of the findings were:
Animal Protein in the diet (all sources – incl milk/egg or meat) is linked to:
- Higher Cholesterol levels
- Increased heart disease
- Increase Type 1 Diabetes
- Increased cell division – faster growth of cancer tumours, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
- Increased osteoporosis (interesting as we have always learnt that milk contains calcium that helps build strong bones and teeth). However animal products increase that acidity levels in the body. The body then tries to create an alkaline environment. In order to do this it leaches calcium from the bones. Many other studies have also proved this.
I would like to share this graph which comes from T Colin Campbell Centre of Nutrition Studies. This graph really says it all. Animal food intake increases = breast cancer rates increase.
The same results were not prevalent with plant protein! In fact plant proteins were shown to have the opposite effect:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reversal of heart disease
- Lower rates of both types of Diabetes
- Lower cancer growth (even reversed cancer)
- Lower risk of osteoporosis
What was even more incredible is that even when people had a genetic predisposition to one or other of these diseases, a plant based diet prevented the actualisation of the disease. You genetics do not ultimately decide your fate. What you eat does!
So, no. Plant proteins and animal proteins are not equal. Plant proteins are better for your health than animal protein.