Even though the truth about protein as delineated in this article, and its role in human nutrition, have been known for nearly a century, there still rages a conflict and welter of confusion on the subject.
The misconceptions are primarily fostered by commercial businesses that are selling protein products, primarily meat and milk products. Even our American government serves these entrenched interests. The truth will not drown but ever keeps rising to fuel the fire of this controversy. At the outset I would like to dispel some of the prevalent myths about protein.
MYTH NO. 1: We must have meat for best health. The argument goes that the best source for protein is meat inasmuch as it has all the requisite amino acids in a very assimilable form. Even the eminent (in so-called health food circles) Carlton Fredericks has gone on record as stating that the more nearly the composition of the flesh is to human flesh the more wholesome it is for us. Of course there was never a better argument made for cannibalism than this!
The “we must have meat” argument is obviously good for the meat-packing industry but it is patently absurd—the argument obviously destroys itself. If this were true every species could live from other animals but best of all from its own kind! The fact that almost all animals, including humans, do not have the anatomical and physiological equipment to make good use of any kind of meat is conveniently overlooked or denied. Cattle, rabbits, elephants, horses, etc., are herbivores and are equipped only for a leaf/grass diet. There are a class of graminivores, primarily birds, that thrive on the grains of various grasses. There are other animals that thrive on fruits. And so it goes. Every animal has a class of food to which it is adapted.
Humans are anatomically and physiologically adapted to a diet of fruits, vegetables and nuts and can profitably use certain seeds and legumes under certain conditions. That this is true is denied by commercial interests and their “scientific” apologists. An educated populace would bring an end to their niche in the marketplace. Not even carnivores thrive on an all-meat diet. For humans, meat is a pathogenic and deficient food.
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MYTH NO. 2: We must have all the essential amino acids at every meal. This argument is based on two premises: (A) That the body does not store protein or amino acids and (B) that, in order to synthesize protein, no more protein can be created by the body than the amount creatable as determined by the least bountiful supply of the essential amino acids. Every protein link requires so much of such and such amino acids and if any are missing from the meal, no proteins requiring these amino acids can be synthesized. This argument, too, is absurd. It is not necessary to point out with detail that man and animals fast for lengthy periods and that, instead of suffering protein deficiency, the end of the fast finds them with restored protein balance!
MYTH NO. 3: A high-protein diet is healthful and the body requires about one gram of protein for each two pounds of body weight. Obviously the body needs only what it needs and can use no more than what it needs. This “just right” amount of protein has been determined to be about one gram for each five pounds of body weight for mature humans of normal disposition. The one gram for each two pounds of body weight is about what a baby requires for maintenance and rapid growth. Obviously adults do not require as much. The belief in a high-protein diet or that we cannot get too much of it is a source of highly pathological eating practices among Americans and other peoples of the world. It is fitting that we have this little tome to set aright the attitude of those whom it touches in this most crucial aspect of human nutrition.