High-Versus Low-Protein Diet

The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Nutrition by Dr. Gabriel Cousens

Fact and Fear

The high – versus low-protein controversy is more an issue of fear and confusion than fact. The high-protein approach to nutrition was initially based on nineteenth-century German research that asserted people need a minimum of 120 grams of protein per day. This high-protein thinking lingers today, even though the requirement is now considered by conventional nutritionists to be 60–90 grams of protein each day. But expert research around the world suggests that the real protein requirement is closer to 25–35 grams, and less if the protein we eat comes from live foods. In separate research programs, Ragnar Berg, the well known Swedish nutritionist, and D. V. O. Siven in Finland both concluded that 30 grams of protein is sufficient for good health. Dr. Hegsted from Harvard University and Dr. Kuratsuen from Japan independently found that 25–30 grams is sufficient.2 Dr. K. Eimer found that when athletes reduced their protein intake from 100 grams of animal protein to 50 grams of vegetable protein, their performance improved. Dr. Chittenden, in extensive studies on soldiers and athletes, found that 30–50 grams per day is sufficient for maximum physical performance.

It is also interesting to note that the average protein concentration in mother’s milk is just 1.4 percent, sufficient to supply the human organism with all the essential amino acids and protein needed during the period of most rapid growth and brain development. Apes, considerably stronger than humans, live on a fruitarian diet that averages between 0.2 and 2.2 percent protein, equivalent to the protein concentration in human breast milk. These facts lead one to question: Just how much protein do we really need?

Excess Protein and Degenerative Disease

In terms of metabolic combustion, excess protein in the diet does not “burn cleanly.” It has been associated with creating an over-acid system because of the accumulation of toxic protein metabolic wastes such as uric acids and purines in the tissues. Airola points out that overeating protein “contributes to the development of many of our most common and serious diseases, such as arthritis, kidney damage, pyorrhea, schizophrenia, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer” and that a “high-protein diet causes premature aging and lowers life expectancy.” A high-protein diet increases the rate of amyloid deposit in the cells. Amyloid is a by-product of protein metabolism that is deposited in connective tissues and organs. It has definitely been linked with tissue and organ degeneration and premature aging.

The Russians have had some interesting success in treating schizophrenia with fasting and low-protein vegetarian diets. Although they have made a clear connection between a high-animal-protein diet and certain types of schizophrenia, the exact causes are not clear. One part of the brain dysfunction may be related to certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies caused by a high-animal-protein diet. The schizophrenic condition might be related to B3, B6, and magnesium deficiencies created by a high-meat-protein diet. A high-animal-protein diet includes twenty times more phosphorous than calcium, which depletes calcium in the system, resulting in osteoporosis and tooth decalcification. The cited data strongly suggest that most people eat too much protein, and that excess protein, especially if it is meat protein, is detrimental to our health.

The Wendt Doctrine

The Wendt doctrine, a result of thirty years of research by a family of physician researchers, has now received formal recognition by nutritional scientists in Germany. It explains one major factor connecting excess protein consumption to some forms of chronic degenerative disease. The Wendts were able to prove with electron microscope pictures that excess protein clogs the basement membrane, a filtering membrane located between capillaries and cells. It helps regulate the flow of nutrients and waste products between capillaries, cells, and fluid in the tissues they penetrate. The more excess protein there is in the diet, the more protein is lodged in the basement membrane, resulting in a thicker basement membrane with clogged pores. It becomes harder for proteins, other nutrients, and even oxygen to get through into the cells and for waste and breakdown products to get out of the cells. Eventually, the basement membrane becomes so clogged with excess protein that the cells on the inside of the capillary walls begin to store and secrete the excess protein in insoluble forms that accumulate on the inside of the capillaries and arteriole walls, causing atherosclerosis, hypertension, adult-onset diabetes, and what the Wendts term capillarogenic tissue degeneration, the result of clogged basement membranes all over the system. This clogged basement membrane produces cellular malnutrition and results in the anoxia of the tissues. According to Dr. Steven Levine’s hypothesis, anoxia is the cause of all degenerative diseases. The key understanding is that excess protein in the diet results in a protein storage disease that slowly chokes off the system. It is much harder to meditate when one is choking on a cellular level and the vitality of the system is slowly dying out.

The Wendts found that this whole process could be reversed by stopping the intake of all animal protein for one to three months, and by eating a low-protein diet. They point out that the basement membrane of a fetus is extremely thin and porous, so nutrients can easily pass in and out. Because there is no protein excess in the fetus, they feel that this membrane lets all nutrients into the cells easily. They hypothesize that if an adult were to eat a low-protein diet, or do extensive fasting, she or he would achieve the same basement membrane porosity, thinness, and permeability as that of a fetus. This would allow excellent assimilation of nutrients into the cells and export of waste products out of the cells. It would ensure the free flow of energy in the system and provide the metabolic energy needed to meditate and stay focused on Communion with the Divine.

Protein Combining Is Unnecessary

One of the most unnecessary vegetarian practices is combining protein at meals. This inaccurate concept is that our system only utilizes protein in its complete state and we must eat all the amino acids at once to supply sufficient protein for our system to use metabolically. This fearful type of thinking comes from the idea that we do not store proteins and amino acids. The Wendt doctrine clearly proves that this is not true. Research on individuals fasting from all food shows that their serum albumen (a measure of protein in the system) remained constant throughout the fasting period, yet no protein was consumed. This is because of the existence of an amino acid pool that continually sends free amino acids or protein complexes to where they are needed in the system.

In his textbook on physiology, the well-known physiologist Dr. Arthur Guyton describes how this amino acid pool works. He states that under normal circumstances all cells contain more protein than they need. When amino acids are needed somewhere else in the body, the excess protein in the cell is reconverted to the protein building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids diffuse into the bloodstream and either go directly to the cells that need them or to the liver, where they are built into new proteins and sent out into the blood to be carried to the appropriate sites. Food combining to get complete proteins at one meal is completely unnecessary for these three reasons: our amino acid/protein equilibrium system, our cellular protein storage, and the free flow of amino acids in our amino acid pool.

There Is Enough Protein in Vegan Foods

The biggest fear generated by pro-meat eaters and new vegetarians is about not getting enough protein. The real problem is just the opposite: We take in too much protein. According to the Max Planck Institute for Nutritional Research in Germany, considered by Paavo Airola to be the most respected and reliable nutritional research organization in the world, there are many vegetable sources of protein that are superior or equal to animal proteins. The Max Planck Institute found complete vegetarian proteins, those that contain all eight essential amino acids, to be available from almonds, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, soybeans, buckwheat, all leafy greens, and most fruits. Fruits supply approximately the same percentage of complete protein as mother’s milk. Airola feels “it is virtually impossible not to get enough protein, provided you have enough to eat of natural, unrefined foods.”

Twenty-five to thirty grams of protein are more than sufficient for our protein intake. If the protein is taken in its live-food form, even less is needed. In many cases, as our system changes with meditation, fasting, eating lighter, and increasing live-food intake, our basement membranes become clear, more porous, and thinner, so the protein we take in moves into the cells more readily. With reduced blockage, more of the protein we eat pushes itself through the basement membrane into the cells, so our protein needs spontaneously drop. Perhaps over time we might find that the 1.4 percent protein in mother’s milk is all we need. The lower limits are not clearly established on the materialistic plane for one who is undergoing a spiritual metamorphosis.

Protein and Spiritual Evolution

What can be said is that excess protein, whether from animal or vegetable sources, slows the flow of the subtle energy in the system and decreases our capacity as superconductors. It acts as a sludge to our body energy in general and specifically to the Kundalini energy. In fact, when the Kundalini energy becomes too intense for some individuals, the author often recommends eating lots of vegetarian protein, even meat on rare occasions, to slow it down. This mild dietary change has worked well for people, and is one way to regulate the flow of the Kundalini energy.

The author first noticed this general sludge effect after he changed his diet to vegetarian in 1972. As the author’s basement membranes began to clear, he began to sense when he was eating too many nuts and seeds to compensate for the supposedly low protein of a vegetarian diet. When overcompensating, he would feel toxic, acidic, and sluggish, and it was harder to focus during meditation. Through self-experimentation, the author found the correct amount of protein intake to feel clear and energized. Over the years, as his basement membranes have cleared, he has slowly decreased his protein intake based on this feedback system. The point is that there are no rules. Through self-observation, as our spiritual practices and bodies change, it is possible to determine what our individual protein needs are. A low-protein intake is not the goal or even an idealization. To eat what helps us maximize the flow of energy in the body, the activity of Kundalini, and the experience of our God Communion is the purpose of an appropriate, moderate, low-protein diet.

Protein Requirements Are Individual

The work in Conscious Eating makes it clear that some people are genetically fast oxidizers or parasympathetics, which means they need a higher amount of protein and fat ratio to optimize energy production in the mitochondria where the ATP, the biochemical energy molecules, are produced. Other people are genetically slow oxidizers or sympathetic metabolizers, which means they produce the most biochemical energy on a low-protein, high-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet. There is no one diet for everyone. In Conscious Eating there is a self-interview to ascertain this personal dietary information.

Interested in further readings on Ayurvedic Insights into Live Foods, The Rainbow Diet and Food for a Quiet Mind? Please read Spiritual Nutrition by Dr. Gabriel Cousens. 

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