3. How Much Protein Do We Need?
No other area of nutritional needs has been surrounded by so much controversy as the daily protein requirements. Nutritionists and scientists have made protein allowance recommendations that have varied as much as 600%. To arrive at a realistic estimate of our protein needs, we first need to understand how some of the current protein standards were derived. We then need to study the actual protein intake requirements of healthy human beings following a traditional diet that has been in effect over several generations. In this manner, we can see how many of the protein allowances today have been inflated beyond normal health needs.
3.1 Background of Current Protein Recommendations
In the late nineteenth century. Baron von Liebig was the first person to separate foods into proteins (nitrogenous substances) and carbohydrates/fats (non-nitrogenous substances). Since the muscles are composed chiefly of protein. Liebig concluded (incorrectly) that proteins supply muscular energy and the amount of protein consumed must be related to bodily activity. In fact, it is actually the non-nitrogenous foods that supply the best fuel for muscular activity.
Liebig was one of the first scientists to make a recommendation for protein intake. He determined the body’s protein requirements by measuring the actual amounts of protein consumed by a group of men engaged in physical activity who ate a heavy diet. He reasoned that by measuring the protein intake of men who ate more than average and worked harder than usual, he could arrive at a safe recommended allowance of protein for all people. Such a technique for establishing a standard is somewhat akin to clocking race car drivers in order to establish a safe speed for schoolzones.
Anyway, based on this experiment Liebig determined that about 120 grams of protein daily would satisfy the needs of a moderately active adult. To obtain 120 grams of protein, a person would need to consume about 17 eggs or a pound and a half of meat or twenty ounces of almonds per day.
Following Liebig, Voit in 1881 performed a series of experiments on dogs and likewise determined that we should consume between 100 and 125 grams of protein a day. Doubtless, dogs can safely consume 125 grams of protein per day. The protein requirement for a growing puppy is five times as great as that for a growing baby. Voit, unfortunately, did not adjust his results to account for the differences between humans and dogs.
From the very beginning, we can see that protein requirements were artificially determined and excessively high. As early as 1887, experiments in Germany showed that 40 grams of protein was a sufficient daily amount about one-third of the current recommendations. The old standards of Liebig and Voit, however, were already firmly fixed in the minds of the medical establishment, and the belief persisted that a high-protein diet was conducive to health anyway, so why lower the recommendations?
After many more experiments proved that a daily protein intake of 30 to 40 grams was entirely sufficient, the establishment finally revised its recommendations down to 60 or 70 grams. Although only one-half of the early estimates, this figure is 50% too high, even by conservative nutritional standards. Today, with the support of the meat, dairy and egg industries, the protein allowances still remain around 70 grams per day. It should also be noted that a typical American meat-eater consumes about 93 grams of protein daily—more than anyone else in the world on the average.
3.2 True Protein Needs
Perhaps a more reasonable way of establishing true protein needs is to study the daily protein intake of groups of people who: 1) maintain a reasonable level of good health and 2) have followed a traditional diet over a long period of time. Even this method tells us little about what amount of protein a person must have, but it is an interesting case study that probably has more validity than laboratory experiments on dogs, etc.
For instance, in Japan there are farming districts where dietary habits have been established for hundreds of years (unlike most Western diets which have fluctuated and changed rapidly over the past eighty years or so). In these districts, a primarily vegetarian diet was followed, consisting of many greens, plums, wild fruits, roots and occasionally fish in small amounts. These farmers were in excellent health and performed heavy manual labor all through the day. They consumed an average of 37 grams of protein per day, about half the official recommendation.
On various islands in the Pacific are tribes of people who have followed the same diet for dozens of generations—fruits, roots and tubers. They enjoy excellent health and consume about 15 grams of protein a day.
Finally, a study was done by Dr. Jaffe of the University of California at Berkeley on the effects of a non-meat diet over several generations. He studied several generations of fruitarians, ranging from young children to adults whose diet consisted principally of all raw fruits, supplemented by occasional nuts and some honey. Their diets supplied them with about 24 to 33 grams of protein a day. None exhibited any signs of protein deficiency, nor of any other nutrient deficiency. In fact, he discovered all of them to be in exceptional health.
Obviously, if large groups of people around the world are existing in good health on 15 to 35 grams of protein a day, and have done so over several generations and hundreds of years, then protein recommendations of 70 grams can only be deemed excessive.
During the last sixty years, several researchers (Rose, Boyd, Berg, et al) all independently proved that between 3.7% and 4.65% of the total food intake was all the protein necessary to maintain good health. These percentages are equivalent to about 24 to 30 grams of protein.
Careful investigations by Dr. Max Rubner, director of the Hygienic Institute of the University of Berlin, showed that only 4% of the entire caloric intake had to be in the form of protein. On a 2,500 calorie diet, this is about 100 calories of protein or about 28 grams.
Although Natural Hygiene and Life Science do not endorse gram-counting, calorie-counting or a preoccupation with minimal daily requirements, it seems that a reasonable estimate of the protein needs of an adult is probably in the 25 to 30 grams daily range — or about 1 gram per five pounds of body weight. If a person eats a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts, he is assured that he will meet this protein requirement, along with all the other nutrient needs.
3.3 Excessive Protein Is Harmful
It is important that we have a realistic idea of the body’s true protein needs because of the damage that may occur when we eat far beyond those needs. Almost every American consumes an excessive amount of protein, even by highly-inflated government standards. A protein-deficient diet is rare in this country, although nutrient-poor diets are the norm. Protein poisoning from an excessive amount of protein is more common than a true deficiency.
When protein is consumed in greater amounts than can be processed by the body, toxicity results from the excessive amount of nitrogen in the blood. This extra nitrogen accumulates as kinotoxin in the muscles and causes chronic fatigue.
Proteinosis, or acute protein poisoning, causes headaches and a general aching. Various symptoms of protein poisoning, such as a burning of the mouth, lips and throat, rashes, etc., are very similar to the symptoms attributed to allergies. In fact, many so-called allergies may be cases of protein poisoning instead.
A high-protein diet eventually destroys the entire glandular system. It overworks the liver and places a heavy strain on the adrenals and kidneys to eliminate the toxins it creates. In many people, symptoms of arthritis have disappeared after they adopted a low-protein diet.
3.4 Protein Supplements are Harmful
It is for these and other reasons that protein supplements should never be used. Protein supplements, by supplying the body with an excessive amount of nitrogen, throw it out of balance and can actually contribute to other nutritional deficiencies. The body must try to eliminate the protein it cannot use that is found in these supplements, and an additional burden is placed on the body.
Also, protein supplements are made from fragmented foods such as soy powder, dried egg whites, powdered milk, etc. When foods are eaten in a processed and fragmented state, they tend to oversupply the body with some nutrients while creating a deficiency of other nutrients. Consequently, protein supplements, besides supplying an excessive and harmful amount of protein, also disrupt the body’s nutritional balance.
Brewers yeast, a popular high-protein supplement, contributes to uric acid formation in the body. It is a waste product of the brewing industry, resulting when the barley is turned into malt. The industry then has no use for it. It is a “dead” food, because it’s heated before marketing to destroy the yeast organisms. Dried egg whites result in constipation; soy powders have enzymes which actually inhibit the absorption of some of the amino acids; using powdered milk results in the formation of mucus (to aid in its removal from the body), and so on. All of these commonly-used protein supplements will be discussed in later lessons. None of them is ever necessary and they should never be included in the diet.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Why We Need Protein
- 3. How Much Protein Do We Need?
- 4. What Are Proteins?
- 5. The Importance Of Amino Acids
- 6. “Complete Proteins”
- 7. Protein And The Optimum (Life Science) Diet
- 8. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: The Question Of Proteins By Arnold DeVries
- Article #2: Protein By Ralph Cinque, D.C.
- Article #3: The Superiority Of Plant Foods By Ralph Cinque, D.C.
- Article #4: The Question Of Protein By Dr. Ralph Bircher Benner