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According to Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a Harvard Medical School professor and Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Heart Letter:

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“When it comes to getting protein in your diet, meat isn’t the only option. Mounting evidence shows that reducing meat and increasing plant-based protein is a healthier way to go. A diet with any type of meat raises the risk of heart disease and cancer, when compared with a vegetarian diet.” (source)

There’s a big trend happening on our planet right now, and it has to do with our diet. On a mass scale, a lot of people are starting to change the way they eat for multiple reasons. Every single year, it seems that more and more people switch from a meat-eating to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Be it for ethical reasons (animal rights), environmental reasons, or health reasons, it’s a trend that continues to grow.

As a result, more awareness has been created, especially within the past few years, regarding multiple misconceptions when it comes to the vegetarian/vegan diet, and one of them is protein. It’s not uncommon for  someone who doesn’t eat meat to be asked, “where do you get your protein?”

There are a lot of misconceptions about not eating meat, and the main one was is probably that it’s necessary to be healthy and to survive. The science actually shows otherwise, “Studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating. Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses.” – Harvard Medical School (source)

It’s not only nutrition science, but anthropology. Many of our supposed ancestors who roamed the planet before us have long been thought to be heavy meat eaters, but this isn’t true. Although analysis has shown that many were indeed heavy meat eaters, it has also shown that many weren’t meat eaters, that some were completely vegetarian, and some were predominately vegetarian. This suggests, according to some, that the human gut is not designed to digest meat, or, that it’s not necessary to do so.

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This theory has also been emphasized due to the fact that modern day meat eating has been linked to a variety of diseases. For example, a recent study published by a team of archaeologists in Europe found that Neanderthals from Spain actually ate no meat at all. So, basing our current behaviour on the notion that “things have always been this way”  could actually be completely misguided, despite the fact that this is the general accepted consensus from the masses. But things are changing. You can read more about that in the article linked below, it goes into greater depth about that conversation:

Were Those Who Roamed The Earth Before Us Nearly All Vegetarian? 

“It’s difficult to comment on ‘the best diet’ for modern humans because there have been and are so many different yet successful diets in our species. Because some hunter-gatherer society obtained most of their dietary energy from wild animal fat and protein does not imply that this is the ideal diet for modern humans, nor does it imply that modern humans have genetic adaptations to such diets.”  – Katherine Milton, anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley (source)

Below is information gathered by Sofia Pineda Ochoa, MD. She’s a practicing physician in Houston, Texas who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She was a biochemistry professor at the University of Guadalajara’s School of Medicine in Mexico, and is also the co-founder of Meat Your Future, an educational non-profit that provides fact-based information about the health, environmental, and ethical implications of consuming animal products.

You can view her article “7 Ways Animal Protein is Damaging Your Health,” here.

Animal Protein 

Animal Protein & IGF-1 (Increased Cancer Risk)

The IGF-1 levels (the hormone insulin-like growth factor) increases when animal protein intake increases. These levels drop when we are fasting, and that’s one of the reason fasting has been shown to destroy cancer cells, reverse age related diseases, re-generate the immune system and more.

When we take in proteins from animal sources, they have a much higher proportion of the essential amino aids, which in turn produces higher levels of IGF-1.

“This hormone stimulates cell division and growth in both healthy and cancer cells and, for this reason, having higher circulating levels of IGF-1 has been consistently associated with increased cancer risk, proliferation, and malignancy.” 

 Animal Protein, Heme Iron, and Free Radicals

Iron, for a human, can be consumed in two forms. One is heme iron, found in animal foods like fish, meat and poultry, and the other is non-heme iron which is found predominantly in plant-based foods.

“One of the problems with heme iron is that it can convert less reactive oxidants into highly reactive free radicals. And free radicals can damage different cell structures like proteins, membranes, and DNA….Heme iron can also catalyze the formation of N-Nitroso compounds in our bodies, which are potent carcinogens. So, not surprisingly, high intake of heme iron has been associated with many kinds of gastrointestinal cancers as well as other pathologies.”

The absorption and bioavailability of iron from a well-rounded plant-based diet is adequate for our needs, “and we can avoid the problems associated with heme iron and other negative health attributes of animal foods.”

Higher Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids and Bone Health Problems

Higher concentrations of amino acids that contain sulfur are also found within animal proteins, and this can create a state of acidosis when metabolized.

Metabolic acidosis happens when the body produces too much acid and becomes very acidic. This isn’t good, especially when you think about the fact that many experts warn against an acidic body, and believe that an alkaline diet can actually successfully treat cancer.

Metabolic acidosis forces the body to compensate by leaching calcium from the bones to help neutralize the increased acidity. Over time, all of this can have severe and detrimental effects on bone health, and studies have shown this. Science tells us that nations with high instances of hip fracture and osteoporosis also have a very high calcium intake. Given this correlation, and the fact that animal protein causes metabolic acidosis, sucking the calcium out of the bones — in direct contrast to what the dairy industry would have us believe — it’s easy to see that we have been misled.

This is thought to be one of the reasons why some studies have found that populations with higher dairy consumption, as well as higher consumption of animal protein in general, also have a higher incidence of bone fractures.

Animal Protein & Phosphorus

“Animal protein contains high levels of phosphorus. And when we consume high amounts of phosphorus, one of the ways our bodies normalize the level of phosphorus is with a hormone called fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23).

FGF23 has been found to be harmful to our blood vessels. It can also lead to hypertrophy of the cardiac ventricle (abnormal enlargement of our cardiac muscle) and is associated with heart attacks, sudden death, and heart failure. So eating animal protein with its high concentration of phosphorus can result in increased levels of this hormone in our bodies, which in turn is highly problematic for our health.”

Animal Protein & TMAO

Animal protein has higher levels of  trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO wreaks havoc on our body by creating inflammation, injuring the lining of our vessels, and facilitating “the formation of cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels. And that, of course, is highly problematic for cadiovascuar health.”

“So, consuming animal foods result in higher TMAO levels, which is damaging to our vessels. Even without all of the other problematic aspects of animal foods, this one issue involving TMAO, according to the recent president of the American College of Cardiology Dr. Kim A. Williams, sufficient by itself for people to vigorously avoid animal foods.”

One of the most comprehensive studies ever performed on this subject is “The China Study” conducted by Drs. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell. Their findings showed direct correlations between nutrition and heart-disease, diabetes, and cancer, proving that cultures that eat primarily plant-based diets have lower to no instances of these diseases and that switching to a plant-based diet can successfully reverse diseases already established in the body. The China Studyis recognized as the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted on the relationship between diet and disease. I highly recommend watching the documentary Forks Over Knives (available on Netflix), which delves into this in more detail.

More On Animal Protein Compared To Plant-Based Protein

While underconsumption of protein is harmful to the body, overconsumption comes with risks as well. In the United States, the average omnivore gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, and most of that protein is from animal sources. This is bad news, because excess protein is turned into waste or turned into fat. This stored animal protein contributes to weight gainheart diseasediabetesinflammation and cancer.

On the other hand, the protein contained in whole plant foods is connected to disease prevention. According to Michelle McMacken, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine:

“[T]he protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases. There is no need to track protein intake or use protein supplements with plant-based diets; if you are meeting your daily calorie needs, you will get plenty of protein. The longest-lived people on Earth, those living in the “Blue Zones,” get about 10% of their calories from protein, compared with the U.S. average of 15-20%.”

There are many comparisons between plant-based protein compared to protein from meat. You can read more about that in the article linked below which goes into more detail.

Plant-Based Protein VS Protein From Meat – Which One Is Better For Your Body? 

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