Article #2: How Much Protein? A Critique of the Complete Protein Theory by David Barouh
The natural food movement is not new, by any means, but as it happens in civilization today, individuals are exposed to it at different times in their lives, and often it is a completely new concept for them. It is strange that it should escape so many people for so long that what we eat has so much to do with our state of health. But very few ever really knew what was in all the ready-made food they bought from the stores, and that the motives of the manufacturers of these foods, which would contain such ingredients as processed sugar in large amounts, animal fats, bleached flour, and long lists of chemical compounds used as artificial flavoring, coloring, preservatives, and other purposes not even listed, were ruthless, profiteering, without any concern for the health of the people who would eat them.
For many of us, when we first learn of the concept of taking care of our diet, and avoiding the processed monstrosities of the commercial food business, its beautiful simplicity affects us like a spiritual truth, and we become very anxious to learn about this science of diet which we took for granted or ignored for most of our lives. Thus we look to the various nutritionists and the advocates of the natural food movement as our authorities on diet and health. They sometimes take on a certain saintliness in our eyes, because they are the heroes of our new cause. But we may find as we progress further in our studies that there is considerable disagreement concerning diet and health among nutritionists and diet advocates; to the point, in many cases, of diametrical opposition. And so we come to realize that we should avoid the tendency to believe and follow the first bit of instruction that comes our way. Many people become frustrated over this very point, and find that they don’t really know who or what to believe. In fact, a considerable amount of intuition proves to be indispensible, because most of the literature on diet and health is nothing more than the most dogmatic of pronouncements such as that we must have this vitamin or that mineral, which are contained in such and such foods, because they are necessary for this or that body function, and that such a deficiency will cause this or that specific set of symptoms or illness. The reader has none but the most impractical means of determining the accuracy of such statements, as well as the reasonings from which such conclusions were drawn. Most people simply accept such statements, never doubting that they are based on nothing but the most infallible scientific experimentation and deduction.
We can illustrate this point by examining one of the most important and misunderstood issues in the field of diet and nutrition; the subject of protein. It is maintained by scientists that protein is the main substance of which living organisms are composed. The protein molecule is a large molecule made up of different arrangements of what are called amino acids, of which we are told there are 22. Most nutritionists warn us to make sure we get enough of this substance in the food we eat so that we can grow and replace worn-out tissue in our bodies. Much of the hunger in the world is blamed upon a lack of protein in the diet, and anyone who is a vegetarian has most probably been asked, “But where do you get your protein?” Nutritionists say that the foods which contain the most protein, and in the most acceptable form, are animal foods, such as flesh, eggs, milk, and cheese. Vegetarians will abstain from eating these foods, and thus are said to run the, risk of serious illness because of this.
Now how should we determine how much protein we should have in our diet? Let’s answer by asking another question: Is a high-protein diet native to human physiology?
To answer this it would be good for us to discuss the position we humans occupy in the animal kingdom. Our biological position in that kingdom is as a part of the Primate order, which means that our closest animal relatives, from the point of view of our anatomy, are the anthropoid apes. The “anthropoid” means “man-like” or, “resembling man.” This group of animals, which includes the gorillas, the monkeys, the chimpanzees, the orangutans, etc., are classified as frugivores, which means fruit-eaters, as opposed to the carnivores, which means flesh-eaters, or the herbivores, which means grass and vegetation-eaters.
Oddly enough, anthropologists have classified man as an omnivore, which means everything-eater, along with the pigs and the scavengers. This is because if we observe mankind, we will notice that he truly does eat everything from fruit to vegetables, to grains, to the milk of other animals, to eggs, and flesh. But if we compare the human digestive system to the rest of the primate order, or the frugivores, we find that they are identical. The intestines are 12 times the length of the trunk; the large intestines, or colon, is convoluted, slowing down the passage of food; the teeth are the same, the saliva is alkaline; and the skin has pores to aid in the elimination of wastes. The herbivores, such as the cows, the horses, the deer, etc., are similar but not the same. The length of their intestines are 10 times the length of their trunk.
The carnivores, on the other hand, are radically different, have intestines only 3 times the length of their trunk. Their colons are smooth, allowing wastes to slide right through and be eliminated quickly (an apparently wise provision, since the end products of protein digestion, in which their diet is high, is said to be the highly toxic uric acid, and urea). Their dental structure is designed to be used as weapons in killing their prey, quite unlike those of the frugivores. Their saliva is acid, and their skin has no pores.
The carnivores eat their prey raw; blood, bones, and all—something which would repulse most humans, who cook theirs, instead, which means they are literally eating dead matter, because that is what fire does to living tissue—it destroys it. When we pick a plant, it will retain its living form for many days after. When it finally wilts, we won’t eat it. Cooked meat has little relation to the living flesh of an animal.
Now flesh is high-protein food, but fruit, which is the food of our closest animal relatives, and also, by the way, the only food that man was given to eat in the Garden of Eden story of the Bible, is a low-protein food. In fact, it is the lowest protein food.
Now let us consider one more thing. The first food that nature has designed for human infants is mother’s milk. It is reasonable for us to assume that the composition of human milk can provide us with a good model for what the perfect human food should be, including its protein content, because it is on this food that the human infant must grow at a faster rate than it will ever grow again. And what do we find when we examine the chemist’s report of the chemical composition of human milk? We find that it more closely resembles fruit than it does any other food. Its protein content is approximately 1 1/2%, which is roughly the same as fruits, and the lowest of all foods.
If we compare human milk with cows milk, which, unfortunately, is what many babies are fed these days, we find that cows milk is 3 times higher in protein. (The protein content of the carnivorous cat is almost six times higher than human milk.) We also find that the casein content of cows milk is 6 to 7 times that of human milk. It is the casein of cows milk that the Borden’s company uses to make Elmer’s glue! Most other foods have a much higher percentage of protein, with flesh reaching into the 20% category, and certain nuts, seeds, beans, and dried sea vegetables as much as 30% and higher.
It would seem natural from all of this to assume that humans are also frugivores, or fruitarians, and that the usual warnings that people receive who become vegetarians; that they must now make sure they find alternative sources of protein to replace the protein they will no longer be getting from flesh foods is a fallacy, based upon the notion that humans are naturally carnivorous beings, which we see we’re not.
But, then, where does this notion come from? Why are we told by most nutritionists that almost all our sources of vegetable protein are inferior in quality to animal sources, such as flesh, eggs, milk, and cheese, and that we must eat these animal foods, or combine at one meal different sources of vegetable protein which laboratory tests tell us are complementary, so that we don’t become protein deficient?
These ideas are, for the most part, a product of what is known as The Complete Protein Theory. We mentioned that protein molecules are made up of different arrangements of the 22 known amino acids.
Now, according to this theory, if any one of 14 of these amino acids is missing from the food we eat, the body can synthesize it from other elements in the system, and can then build the protein it needs; but, if any one of the other 8 amino acids are missing, then protein synthesis cannot take place. These 8 amino acids are called the “essential amino acids,” and the only foods generally considered to contain all 8 essential amino acids in the quantities considered necessary are from animal sources—flesh, eggs, milk, and cheese. Vegetable protein is considered to be lacking in one or another of the 8 essential amino acids in the quantities necessary, and that is why we are advised to combine them according to the determination of laboratory tests.
We are told all this also in spite of the observed fact of nature that other vegetarian animals, such as gorillas, cows, elephants, hippos, rhinos, etc., grow to their enormous sizes without having to resort to a high-protein diet, but rather eat nothing but raw vegetation, and although it is true that humans aren’t gorillas, cows, elephants, hippos, or rhinos, they do have more in common with these animals than with the carnivores, in terms of their digestive systems.
What, then, is the source of this discrepancy between what simple logic would tell us to eat, and what we are told to eat by nutritionists? It would be good for us to know how this complete protein theory was arrived at, since we are told that it is so, but we are never told why. If we search through enough biochemistry textbooks, we will discover references to a group of experiments conducted in the 1930s by the biochemist William C. Rose. The purpose was to see the effects of a lack of certain amino acids in the diet. His subjects were graduate students of his university, and for the experiments he fed them a diet consisting of a mixture of pure amino acids, corn starch, sugar, butter-fat, corn oil, cod liver oil, inorganic salts, centrifuged lemon juice, flour, and vitamins. He alternately eliminated one or another of the 22 amino acids to see if their bodies would synthesize them. The way he measured whether or not this synthesis was taking place was by checking to see if the amount of the element nitrogen (the main element in protein) that was being taken in through the diet was the same as the amount being excreted. If the amounts were the same, then protein synthesis was considered to be taking place. If the amount being excreted was more than the amount being taken in, then protein synthesis was considered not to be taking place.
Now, based upon these experiments Rose concluded that 8 amino acids could not be synthesized by the
human body, which are today called the essential amino acids,” and that one must have them in the diet, and all in one meal.
There are several factors which must be considered concerning these experiments. The subjects of the experiments were 1930s college students, and it is very likely that they were in the habit of eating the average American diet of flesh, white flour products, sugar, and the like, whose dangers are becoming more apparent every day. In fact, they were probably eating worse than the average, being away from home, and eating in the college cafeterias and in fast food places. They were also likely to be in the habit of smoking and drinking, which was “in” in those days. It doesn’t seem as if their diets were controlled at all before the experiments, because the diet used for the experiments themselves, which consisted totally of processed, chemicalized, and completely artificial substances showed an incredible lack of understanding of the whole nature of diet and its effects on human health. And even if we are incorrect in assuming that the students’ diets were as we said, the diet used in these experiments was by itself enough to render these subjects as unfit on which to base any dietary standard for the entire human race.
Then there was the way Rose chose to measure if protein synthesis was taking place. He didn’t actually see protein synthesis take place; he only inferred it from the amount of nitrogen being excreted by the subjects. It would seem that what that means is a matter of interpretation. When the human body is overloaded with some element, it will usually try to eliminate it in some way, and it will often do so when the person stops taking that substance in. For instance, if you are in the habit of eating large amounts of dairy products, and you suddenly stop, you might find yourself expelling large quantities of mucus. You could say that this proves you need more dairy products in your diet, but a more correct interpretation would be that by decreasing the burden on your digestive system, your body is taking this opportunity to eliminate, in the form of mucus, the toxic wastes it has been storing all that time.
More than anything else, these experiments completely ignore the observed fact that people can fast for very long periods of time, and experience a profound rejuvenation by doing so. The length of time people have been known to fast would amaze most of us. Eighty days and more is not uncommon. In trying to be consistent with this protein theory, the medical profession will claim that when you fast, you feed on your own bodily waste, and that after you use up your wastes, you start feeding upon your own tissue, making fasting at this point very dangerous, an explanation which is inconsistent with simple reason as well as with the experience of people who have fasted. The human body does not feed on wastes, which are the end products of feeding. During a fast it eliminates stored up wastes.
And finally, further work in the field of biochemistry and the amino acids has not confirmed the work of Rose as one might have thought. Here are typical quotations from biochemistry textbooks:
From Biochemistry of the Amino Acids, Vol. I, by Alton Meister:
“It is evident that an amino acid may be ‘essential’ or ‘nonessential’ depending upon the criterion employed … the age of the animals, the presence in the diet of other factors (e.g., vitamins), and the existence of certain physiological and pathological conditions.”
From Certain Biochemical Findings in Man in Relation to Diet by A. R. F. Walker, from the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences:
“Absence … of relevant clinical and pathological stigmata in people accustomed to ‘deficient’ intakes cannot but point to the strong probability that the particular recommended intakes are too high… the situation regarding animal protein calls for reexamination.”
And from Chemistry of the Amino Acids, Vol. I, by Greenstein and Winitz:
“In few areas of scientific description is the inadequacy of language so revealed as in the attempt to distinguish clearly the so-called nonessential amino acids from the essential ones, and this may well be due to the fact that growth has no standard of reference. The looseness of such phrases as ‘optimal’ or ‘maximal’ growth employed in these pages is obvious.”
This last point is interesting, because we know that a high-protein diet stimulates the speed and size of growth. Now we can observe in nature that animals will live to about ten times the length of time it takes them to reach sexual maturity, but in the case of humans it is not even close to that, no doubt because of our unnatural ways. Accordingly the faster we mature, the shorter we can expect to live. Large size may be an advantage in some of our specialized sports events, but when we consider agility and endurance of body and mind, we find it is not an advantage, and, if anything, is a disadvantage.
In the face of all this, it is just not scientific to insist that human beings must eat flesh, eggs, milk, and cheese, or combine vegetable proteins according to the calculations of some laboratory. The scientific method is to account for observed facts, not to ignore them. If you encounter observed facts that contradict your theory, it is your theory which must be scrapped, or at least revised, not the fact. That is the scientific method. The physical sciences have had fantastic success in discovering the laws of the physical universe, and have demonstrated it by the technologies it has made possible, but the life sciences have not had such successes, in spite of the claims of medical science. The laws of biology have never been explained in terms of the laws of physics, and human potential remains unknown. In fact, for the most part, what are thought of as advances in the life sciences are really advances in applied physics; namely the ability to observe and experiment on cellular life. We can say that the life sciences have been failures because the conclusions drawn from these experiments and observations have led to some of the most brutal and barbaric medical practices imaginable, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer, unbearably painful diagnostic techniques (as well as those that proved to be cancer-causing, such as mammography, which is meant to detect cancer) and the mass blood poisoning known as vaccination. Although still difficult for most people to accept, the failure of these practices are growing more and more apparent.
Said the famous scientist Alexis Carrel in his book Man, the Unknown, “In fact, our ignorance is profound,” and most true scientists would still not disagree. Popular writers who convey the theories of technicians in the scientific field as certain facts cause mass misunderstanding. The public is still not well educated. It believes in the pronouncements of scientists with blind faith. The swine-flu disaster was a good example of what can happen with the public’s attitude toward the scientific profession in general, and medical science in particular.
Concerning protein, Professor Arnold Ehret, in 1922, wrote the following:
“The error of high-protein foods as a necessity of health … is in its consequences and its effect just the opposite of what it should be; it is the most tragical phenomenon of western degeneration. It produced at the same time the most dangerous, most destructive habit of gluttony; it produced the greatest madness ever imposed upon mankind, that is, to endeavor to heal a disease by eating more, and especially, eating more high-protein foods. It is beyond possibility to express in words what the error of high-protein foods means.”
What the greatest madness ever imposed upon humankind is, is a question one could kick around for a while. The madness of high-protein foods undoubtedly deserves a place among the candidates. This question aside, however, I think we can say that time has borne the ol’ professor out. The day will yet come when the complete protein theory takes its place along side the rest of the theories of modern medicine, as an example of the kind of mad pseudo-science which still deludes and exploits humanity.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. The Problems With Protein
- 3. The True Needs Of The Body
- 4. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: The Enigma Of Protein By T.C. Fry
- Article #2: How Much Protein? A Critique of the Complete Protein Theory By David Barouh
- Article #3: Proteins
- Article #4: Protein Supplements by Hannah Allen