Many people avoid animal products for a variety of reasons including religion, empathy towards animals, or desire to be more environmental friendly. And it is perfectly acceptable for everyone to exercise their own personal conviction in this issue. What is unacceptable using false pretenses and fake science to push a certain agenda.
As an avid reader of Popular Science, I was quite intrigued when they recently publish an article stating that plant protein is healthier than animal protein. After all, any highschool biology student should know that there are 9 essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. Amino Acids is the building blocks of protein used to build our muscles, joints and internal organ repair. All animal sourced protein contains all 9 essential amino acids while excluding soy, all plant derived protein do not have all 9 essential amino acids. Latest research indicated that children on a soy protein diet will develop abnormal secondary sexual organs. Another fact is that in comparative study between casein, soy and whey protein, soy simply came dead last in terms of efficiency in building muscle and strength. So what is the argument that plant protein is better than animal protein? Let us dwell deeper:
1. Plant Protein Has More Nutrients and Fiber
This is the first argument put forth by Popular Science. Interesting as the article writer agreed that plant based protein sources lacks Vitamin B complex, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Thiamine, and Niacin. Last time I checked, these are all considered nutrients. And if you order a grass fed rib eye meal set, it usually comes with a salad bowl appetizer and some more veggies on the side of the steak. Hence I consider this point to be invalid.
2. People Who Eat Plant Protein in Part Have Healthier Habits
No actual study was cited for this. It is simply a meta-study that does not factor in geography, demography or even smoking habits, all which are significant contributing factor. Let me explain why. In West Java, Indonesia, majority of the locals are vegans. Compared to Okinawa, Japan, majority of the locals consume seafood regularly. If we simply compare these two the meat eater will simply comes ahead. We can also compare the Dalit population in new Delhi, India, poorest of the poor, living in one of the most polluted city in the world and majority vegan with the Amish in Pennsylvania, USA, majority omnivore. Both population have no access to modern medicine. And the Amish population are far healthier. This is why controlling factors are very important. There was even a study that correlates being vegetarian with increased risk of getting colon cancer.
3. Meat Has More Saturated Fats
What kind of meat? What kind of saturated fats? And why is it necessarily bad? After all, many people believed that extra virgin coconut oil is healthy regardless the fact that its mostly made of saturated fat. I recently had a meal with a vegetarian friend that insisted we ate in a vegetarian restaurant. Most of the food were rich in refined carbohydrate or deep fried. Unlike saturated fats in which there is still ongoing debate how some of the naturally sourced saturated fat are healthy, all dietitians now agreed that refined carbohydrate and deep fried food are bad for you. What is statistically proven in USA is that animal fat consumption is not correlated with heart attack.
4. Processed Red Meat is Carcinogenic
So what about non-processed red meat, i.e. medium rare, grass fed rib eye steak? The WHO classified processed meat as being carcinogenic due to increased risk of getting cancer in their study. What is most often not mentioned is the actual percentage of risk increase of eating processed red meat and what it all meant. And the answer is 0.0072% if you belong to the high risk population bracket. The risk of getting hit by a lightning is 0.0083%, which means you have higher chance of getting hit by a lightning.
When it comes to the diet and nutrition world, always maintain a healthy skepticism. When it said “research shows”, always try to find the source research, how it was done, who done it, and how it was funded. Fact is, nutrition industry is just like the cosmetic industry, mostly using “in house research” that was never proven objectively. And if you are a meat eater, just have a balanced diet to stay healthy!