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Animal Protein Causes the Most Harm

Animal protein is even more harmful than saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.
Animal protein plays a bigger role in the development of atherosclerosis than dietary cholesterol, and diets high in animal protein (20% of total calories), trigger rapid cancer growth, while pummeling human health in other ways as well. And although low fat diets decrease blood cholesterol in human studies, the decrease is minimal when compared to the tenfold greater effect of replacing animal protein with soy protein (or other plant based proteins).
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: “In 1941, soy protein was shown to decrease early atherosclerosis in experimental animals by 70 to 80 percent compared to casein, the chief protein in cow’s milk…If one mindlessly accepts animal protein diets as normal, soy protein and its effects seem like an anomaly. But what if the opposite were true? What if the “much-lower blood cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis incidence associated with soy protein (and plant food consumption generally) are Nature’s true norm? Rather than framing soy protein as unusually protective, what if we had considered animal protein as usually damaging? Instead of pursuing that line of thought, researchers did not question the normalcy of animal protein and its punishing effects on human health. Meanwhile, industry did what industry does best. Big Soy leveraged these findings on soy protein and cholesterol to gain a foothold in a market long dominated by animal foods. Between 1970 and 2000, the underdog soy and the behemoth dairy industries jockeyed for consumers’ attention, each relying on their own set of health claims and leaving the public increasingly confused. Granted, the health claims advertised by the soy industry were more scientifically valid, but the point remains that neither industry encouraged the public to think about the broader context of plant and animal foods.
It’s hardly surprising that the soy industry, as well as the other plant-based milks and other food products that have emerged to compete both alongside and against soy since the early 2000s, took this shortcut to profit. What’s more disturbing is the scientific community’s continued deference to the dietary cholesterol theory. For too long we have been willing to accept the idea that dietary cholesterol causes atherosclerosis, despite many contradictory findings. I believe this is because the alternative would require an about-face on the entire history of nutrition. As outlined in chapter five, animal protein had already been celebrated as the greatest of all nutrients for several decades by the early twentieth century, when research questioning its role in disease emerged, only to be quickly ignored…As for the public, I believe many accept the theory about dietary cholesterol not only because they don’t know any better, but also because it allows for the continued consumption of animal foods. (I’m reminded of my friend Dick Warner, who was happy to eat low-fat foods but had a more difficult time giving up meat.) Whereas cholesterol and saturated fat can easily be removed from animal foods, as in the case of skim milk and lean cuts of meat, the removal of protein would result in a far less appetizing dinner party. Once you remove the protein from cow’s milk, for example, you are left with an inedible emulsion of fat, water, and a touch of milk sugar. Imagine drinking such a smoothie!
I propose that the impressive disease association of total and saturated fat would be much better interpreted as an association of disease with animal protein, which just happens to be highly correlated with saturated fat.
More evidence from various studies: In a cohort of nearly 90,000 women studied in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, breast cancer risk did not decrease as expected when dietary fat declined from 50 to 55 percent of total calories to 20 to 25 percent. If anything, as the principal author has often pointed out, there was a slight increase in disease risk (though not statistically significant), possibly related to a higher concentration of protein in these low-fat diets…Biochemically speaking, saturated fat is relatively inert. Thus, it is an unlikely cause of disease. If anything, unsaturated fat is more likely to be the culprit in disease formation. Unsaturated fat is “more biologically active, contributes to the formation of highly reactive oxygen species that promote diseases like cancer and heart disease, and promotes cancer more than saturated fat in experimental animal studies.” For example, corn oil (rich in unsaturated fat) is considerably more cancer promoting than coconut oil, which is an unusual plant oil in that it contains higher levels of saturated fat..There is no convincing empirical evidence showing how saturated fat causes or initiates disease formation, for either cancer or heart disease.
Although it is true that saturated fat is not the villain many believe it to be, it is still associated with disease. And the reason, too often ignored, is that saturated fat is an excellent stand-in for animal protein. By blaming only the surrogate, we are completely missing the greater context: that animal-protein-containing foods, such a huge part of most Western diets, are highly determinative of cancers and heart disease.
Unlike saturated fat, there are numerous biochemical mechanisms linking animal protein consumption to disease. Unlike saturated fat, animal protein is not biologically inert; on the contrary, increased consumption of animal protein has been proven to increase free radical oxidation, growth hormone activities, and more. And critically, unlike saturated fat, animal protein cannot be removed from animal foods.”
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