Low Protein Levels in the Vegan Diet Follow Up: Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Thursday Jun 16 | BY |
| Comments (67)

help yourself key west florida
Mmmm… can’t wait to get back to Key West to go here… (Charlie weighs in on the protein issue!)

Tuesday’s post created quite a bit of a stir…

Of course for good reason – it’s quite a hot topic.

Any time you show contrary evidence to an “accepted” truth like vegans don’t ever get protein deficiencies (or anyone else), you generally get quite a bit of attention.

Today, I wanted to address some discussion points quickly about this issue, since it’s still hot on my mind (and yours) as well as give you a response directly from my friend – who’s decided to write a full 4-5 paragraph response / article so you can actually put a face to the person I was talking about.

So let’s get started…

1. There’s a level of irresponsibility of vegan experts on this specific protein matter.

I don’t know how clear I was about this, but I wanted this to be at the forefront of my message the other day.

It is very, very irresponsible to tell people up on stage or at a lecture that they don’t need to worry about their protein.

Telling people this, does and can, cause them to continue to be confused about their health particularly when they start to show ill symptoms of health related to their diet.

It’s likely that a person on a vegan diet who is told they don’t have to worry about protein and who is showing symptoms of low amino acid synthesis and absorption, will not address or even explore testing their amino acid levels because they were told they would never have to worry about them.

This type of propaganda pushing is irresponsible.

The experts are not all wrong (since you can get protein from plants), but they’ve missed half the story.

My message the other day, was a strong call for these experts to please change their tune and address the issue of absorption so people who want to continue a vegan diet can do so in an informed and healthy manner.

If you’d like to help me correct this little bit of information (maybe big bit), please pass along this and Tuesday’s article to an expert you’ve heard lecture and say something like:

“Vegans don’t need to worry about protein,” or “You can never get a protein deficiency.”

Ask them nicely to just adapt their message to say, “you can get your protein from vegetables and fruits, but you do need to make sure you’re absorbing it as well.”

It’s not as sexy as the previous message, but the truth sometimes isn’t as interesting as dogmatic beliefs.

2. I’ve said these same statements before.

Before Annmarie and I traveled around the country in our RV, I used to say the exact statements as above.

I was one of these people I’m speaking out against. Basically, what I’m telling you here is that while it’s irresponsible, it’s also an honest (likely) mistake.

When we started to actually see what was happening with some of our raw vegan friends we became concerned that everything wasn’t as rosy as it all seemed.

Since then, as you can tell by my posts and writing, I’ve become a little more cautious about my recommendations. Our travels have shown me the magnitude a message can be spread, so I want to make sure what comes from us is the most responsible possible.

3. I don’t mean all vegans need to eat meat, nor do I think all vegan experts are irresponsible.

I don’t think I need to over explain this, but I want to be clear.

All vegans don’t need to eat meat.

They just need to be aware of their protein levels, make sure they’re breaking down and absorbing their amino acids and if they’re not, they need to try something new.

This does not mean they need to eat hamburgers. They can if they like, but they certainly don’t have to.

It means they have to figure out a way (vegan, if they like) to fix their absorption and get more protein. You can use plants or whatever else you like – the most important thing is that the issue gets fixed.

I also don’t mean that all vegan experts are irresponsible.

They aren’t.

Many are my friends and are knowledgeable and caring individuals.

They also have helped hundreds of thousands people get healthy. I’m not discounting this at all.

The only thing I’m saying is that on this issue, there needs to be an adjustment of shared knowledge.

4. Also, yes, meat eaters can be deficient in amino acids as well.

Of course, this is true.

I never said that it wasn’t.

For those who were so critical of this, why then do vegan “experts” suddenly assume that vegans can’t be protein deficient?

Seems to me that there’s a misunderstanding of basic biology.

I’m just asking us (and them)… everyone… to be more reasonable and responsible with their information.

5. Charlie’s response…

Instead of me talking anymore, I want to share Charlie’s (my friend from the article) response after reading my post. She was excited to have the opportunity to build on what I shared.

Here goes…

“I am the person Kevin was referring to in this post. I have a restaurant called Help Yourself in Key West FL and I met Kevin and Annmarie last year when they visited the Keys. After reading about Kevin’s blood tests I was inspired to have mine done. I was definitely feeling run down, more tired than normal and my memory was getting noticeably bad. Plus, because I am also promoting health through diet I felt the need to know exactly what was going on in my body so I could feel comfortable about what I was teaching.

“I have been mostly vegan for the past 6 years. I say mostly because there have been occasions or periods of time where I have eaten some dairy, some eggs and occasionally some fish. I do eat a high amount of raw food, drink fresh juices and am extremely conscious of what I eat. I really don’t like to put a label on my eating habits and lump myself into a category, but if I had to I would simply say I eat “Real Food”. Personally I think there is too much emphasis on the type of diet we are following. Once we turn our backs against processed, packaged and refined foods and become so-called ‘healthy eaters’ we feel we have to put ourselves into a category and follow rules. The only rules I like to follow are 1. Does it come from nature? 2. Was it grown organically? and 3. Is it a whole food?. Once I have established that I then decide if my body wants to eat it or not. This is at least the conclusion I have come to in more recent years after following the ‘rules’ of a strict vegan diet and then a strict raw food diet myself. Now I eat ‘real food’ and try to go with what my body craves without putting myself in a box.

“I am not an expert on reading the blood results but the crux of it appears to be that I am low in some of the B vitamins, low in Vitamin D, low in protein, high in cholesterol. I am wondering if the high cholesterol is the result of all the coconut I eat (I live in Key West where there is an abundance of fresh local coconuts!), maybe someone else can give me an insight on that? When it comes to the protein deficiency I believe malabsorption is my problem. I truly believe that I would be getting enough protein if I was absorbing it efficiently and some of the other results lead to this being the factor. I have intuitively felt that I wasn’t absorbing all the nutrients from my food as efficiently as I should be for a while, and perhaps that’s from eating unhealthily in my youth followed by years of yo-yoing between different diets always trying to find the ‘optimum’ diet. Perhaps its because I opened a business in the past three years and if anyone else reading this has a business they will know that it can at times be highly stressful and a restaurant especially takes a lot of energy. I ran myself down and exhausted my reserve supply of nutrients. I didn’t listen to my own message and ‘Help Myself’.

“I think the message Kevin is trying to get across is that we need to listen to our body. Sometimes we get so stuck in the box that we have chosen to put ourselves in, that we ignore what our body is saying simply because we can’t bring ourselves to break the rules of the ‘raw food’ or the ‘vegan’ diet category that we have labeled ourselves with. It does appear that quite a number of vegetarians and vegans are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and that taking supplements is advisable. Equally so many people on the SAD diet will also be deficient in nutrients, though perhaps different ones. I was not regularly taking any supplements purely because I let myself get out of the habit for too long. I should have been, especially during a time of stress for me. I do believe supplements play a part of our regime no matter what we eat, this is unfortunately so because the soil our food is coming from is most likely depleted in nutrients, its certainly not the deep nutrient rich organic soil it once was.

“I also believe strongly that diet is only one aspect of our journey to health. Exercise plays a huge part, as does how we live our lives and the thoughts we think. Once we have that mind body spirit balance then our diet follows suit. For some a raw vegan diet works miracles, others prefer to follow a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet and feel great, and many people are extremely happy and healthy living on a carnivorous diet. The answer is there is no one diet for everyone we must all do what is right for us and listen to our body as there may be other factors involved that need addressing.

“The one thing that I am sure everyone reading this blog will agree on though is that processed, packaged, refined and chemically altered foods have no place in our diets. Once we eliminate those, obtain balance in our lives and get in tune with our body we can then determine which foods feel right for us. Keeping an open mind is absolute key on our journey to health.”

Charlie Wilson

(BTW: If you’re ever in Key West, please check out her place. She’s awesome and so is the restaurant!)

6. Comments were plain old fantastic. Thanks!

Finally, there are some times when I read the comments on posts and I’m so thankful of your contributions. The last week has been one of those times. For all of you who commented this week, as well in the past – thank you so much for adding to the discussion.

I want to know your thoughts: Any new revelations on the protein issue from these comments here?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. nick says:

    agree with charlie and kevin I am tired of labels and having to put myself into a category when it comes to what I eat. I eat food that is healthy which has been produced humanely and organically! excludes any meat includes krill oil.

  2. Candice says:

    So the vegan/protein issue shouldn’t be such a big deal to most people, simply because it seems like common sense that just because a diet is “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or perfect for everyone who consumes it. We can have any number of deficiencies on whatever diet we choose, no? I’m down for your idea of blood testing.

    The thing that stands out to me most in this post is the rejection of diet labels. I find myself having to qualify my raw/vegan eating-style, because I’m not always 100% raw or 100% vegan stalking me to catch me eating sweet peas cooked in butter,or whatever. Maybe Charlie’s “Real Food” label will catch on!

  3. Candice says:

    Oops! I meant to say thanks to you guys for having this discussion publicly. Thanks!

  4. uriel light says:

    I am a Naturepath and people who call themself vegetarians are in the worst health. They eat too may carbs in bread and pasta. They don’t really eat grains and worst of all eat soy which interferes with their digestion process and imbalances the flora which is required to assimilate B Vitamins. They also think beans and rice equal a protein. Beans cooked are carbs. Beans sprouted will give you protein. Vegans are really the worst deficient in amino acids. they need to supplement their diet with Spirulina, Bee Pollen and Mulburry as well as Alfalfa powder to maximize a protein intake to turn in into ATP. Organic food is great and yes it does contain protein although at the expnditure of energy required these days it is not sufficient to allow the body the energy to repair much less support the energy level required. So in turn the vegetarians use a lot of carbs to get energy because they are constantly running on low blood sugar and need quick pick ups. As you know if you crave sweets it definitely is an indication of protein deficiency. People have been informed that protein is what makes the body tick. We need the basic 8 amino acids as well as the essential fatty acid for the body to maintain and run on efficiently and effectively. Learn the TRUTH and it shall set you free for you have gained wisdom and knowledge from it.
    Love and Light, Uriel

  5. Brenda says:

    “I have been mostly vegan for the past 6 years. I say mostly because there have been occasions or periods of time where I have eaten some dairy, some eggs and occasionally some fish.

    This means you are not a vegan!!!!

  6. Thomas says:

    I believe we must each find what protein sources readily available to us we have the capacity to absorb, and then stick with them.

    Our individual needs for protein (grams/day) will vary depending on our levels of physical activity and bodily repair & growth.

    Concerning cholesterol, what it is and how it relates to vitamin D synthesis in skin, this is a good synopsis:

  7. Esther says:

    I admire the fact that you are willing to admit when you are not necessarily wrong, but mistaken. You did the best you could with the information you had at the time. There are many “gurus” out there that have totally changed their philosophy, and never mention a thing about it having ever occured. It makes one wonder if the greed factor has gotten in the way for the quest for truth. Obviously, everyone needs a way to make money, and I’m sure you get asked all the time to offer what you recommend. That is only logical. It makes it much easier to trust a person’s sincerity when they are so open as you have been. Thank you

  8. Darilyn says:

    Funny this article was posted today to me. What do you think about this?:

    Sorry, Vegetarians…
    Thursday, June 16, 2011 12:01 AM
    “Al Sears, MD”

    Al Sears, MD
    11903 Southern Blvd., Ste. 208
    Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411
    June 16, 2011

    People still mistakenly believe that eating a lot of protein from meat hurts your bones.

    You Can See Clearly Now

    Can you read this without reading glasses or bifocals?

    If so, it’s safe to say you’ve got a good pair of eyes.

    If not, you may be one of many people with a condition called presbyopia… which is just a fancy word for when your eyes don’t focus clearly up close.

    Most eye doctors will tell you it’s common with age. But the truth is there’s no scientific proof that aging is to blame – or that deteriorating vision has to be an accepted part of life.

    If fact, I know of a way that may help improve near vision without surgery or corrective lenses.

    It’s called the Read Without Glasses Method, and it was developed by respected optometrist, Dr. Ray Gottlieb, and the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision.

    This method includes quick, simple exercises that can help improve near vision and keep your eyes young and sharp… regardless of your age.

    To find out more about this amazing discovery, click here.

    The reason is that some studies found that people would lose lots of calcium through their urine after eating protein.

    Scientists have speculated for decades on the reason for all that calcium leaving people’s bodies. Way back in 1968, a piece published in The Lancet theorized that you use calcium from bones to counter the acidity produced when you break down the meat you eat when you digest it.

    And the theory stuck.

    But just speculating it was “because of meat” doesn’t make it true.

    In fact, a newer analysis by the Journal of Nutrition says plainly:

    “No convincing data have been published showing that a high protein diet, using complex proteins for prolonged periods of time under strictly controlled dietary conditions, causes calcium loss.

    “Dietary proteins other than red meat, such as milk and cheese… do not cause calcium
    loss in controlled studies in humans. The generalization that ‘protein’ causes calcium loss or may be a risk factor for osteoporosis, without specifying the type and source of protein, is therefore incorrect.”1

    And listen to this… I love this study. I read it in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    These guys gave people a pound of red meat every day for 4 months. I’d love to have been in this study. Point is, urinary calcium did not change.2

    Yet many “experts” still warn that a high-protein way of eating will cause osteoporosis. And vegetarians have grabbed on to this as a reason not to eat meat.

    But not only is the meat-calcium theory a myth, it turns out the opposite is true about bone strength and vegetarianism.

    It’s plant protein, not animal protein, that leeches calcium from your bones and causes lower bone mineral density.

    A study focused on 572 women and 388 men from 55–92 years old living in Rancho Bernardo, California. This bar chart describes the results of their bone mineral density (BMD) measurements:

    Sorry to vegetarians who think they are eating healthy but facts are facts. Note that for every 15 gram per day increase in animal protein intake, overall bone mineral density increased, especially in the hip, neck and spine.

    Yet the opposite happened with vegetable proteins. The more vegetable protein, the lower the bone mineral density.3 The study also showed that high calcium intake did not seem to protect those who ate a lot of plant protein. The women who took in the most calcium lost bone mineral density.

    The simple fact is that your body can’t build bones from plants because they contain incomplete proteins.

    So if you want stronger bones, your real sources of protein are the same as they have been through the entire course of human existence: animals and animal products. That means meat, eggs and fish.

    Vegetarians will try to tell you that there’s plenty of protein from plant sources like brewer’s yeast or soy. No, there isn’t. Plus, soy is not a natural protein, and neither is gluten from wheat. You have to process soy and wheat to get these proteins out of them. You would otherwise never encounter them in a natural setting.

    Don’t get me wrong, you can get amino acids from fruits and vegetables. The avocado, for example, has a high amino acid rating of 129. A rating over 100 means the food is a fairly good source of essential amino acids in the right proportions.

    But what about some of the plants vegetarians like to tout for their protein content? Soy and flax only score a 96. Adzuki beans? Only 74. Oat bran has an amino acid rating of only 86.

    And what about those “whole grains” every dietician, nutritionist and even the USDA are telling you to eat more of? Whole grain wheat flour only has an amino acid rating of 54.

    Now check out the chart to the right – it gives you amino acid scores from various animal sources.

    Their protein quality is off the charts.

    To build stronger bones from complete proteins, I recommend you stick with with the true proteins your body evolved with: animal products.

    To Your Good Health,

    Al Sears, MD

    1 Spencer, Herta, Kramer, Lois, Osis, Dace, “Do Protein and Phosphorus Cause Calcium Loss?” J. Nutr. 1988;118: 657-660
    2 Spencer. H., Kramer L., Osis, D. & Morris C. “Effect of a high protein (meat) intake on calcium metabolism in man,” Am. J. Clin. Nut 1978;31: 2167-2180
    3 Promislow, J.H.E., Goodman-Gruen, D., Slymen, D.J., & Barrett-Connor, E. “Protein consumption and bone mineral density in the elderly.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002;155(7), 636–64

    Before you hit reply to send us a question or request, please visit here:

    Al Sears FAQs

    To learn more about Wellness Research and Consulting, call (866) 792-1035 or visit:


  9. Mark says:


    Thanks for the info, it is too bad you have to spend so much time reacting to backlash from trying to inform people. I was hoping to find out how i might boost my protein Absorption. Could not find that in the article.

    Thanks, Mark

  10. Wendi Dee says:

    We LOVE Charlie! Maybe you knew to visit her and her restaurant after we interviewed her for our site. 🙂 Charlie is beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, and very sweet. I’m so happy she shared that the issue was hers and added more thoughts and details to the discussion.

    Protein deficiency is a real thing and I know quite a few vegans and vegetarians who have done better when adding more protein into their diets (through vegetarian and vegan products), myself included.

    Absorption has, in my opinion, *everything* to do with protein issues. Kevin, the best thing you can do for everyone is to help us understand how to get our digestive systems back into optimal working order!!

    With the low energy that comes from digestive disorders, the people who need the most help are the ones who just don’t have the energy to research and figure it all out for themselves. 😉

    My advice to everyone with these issues has been to FLOOD the body with excess, so that your body can have a better chance of absorbing more. Of course, it’s important to flood the system with *real* foods/supplements, not anything synthetic or concentrated in amounts that could cause a toxic overload.

    Anyway, I’d love to hear more on this since it’s an issue, as you know, that I’ve been trying to overcome after the lyme. If I could just get my gut working well, everything else will just fall into place. Flooding my body, so far, has offered the best help. But, I’d like to get to a point where I’m no longer working around a problem, but rather where I’ve overcome it. 🙂

    Lots of love to you!


  11. Andrew Norris says:

    It’s good for people to change their mind. Great for kev to speak up. Is it very rare that vegans lack protein, or even quite common for those that don’t eat many nuts etc.

    But, yes, Kev is totally right, never take anything as totally 100%. It would be much better if the vegan experts said “the majority of vegans get enough protein”, or even give a percentages based upon a test. To say ALL get enough, and to do so with force and loudly and confidently, is totally wrong.

    A point here is : we often take it as fact when people we trust speak loudly and confidently. I’ve been making it a habit to notice whenever anyone does this, and to check, if it really is that certain, before it passed by my subconscious is registered as a truth.

    Kev – you have my support!

  12. Andrew Norris says:

    This just made Kev my fav. natural health person. He thinks for himself, and has shown it time and time again. What he finds he reports – whether it went against his previous ideas or not. All need to be like He earns respect through being honest. Top Guy!

  13. sheri says:

    Great article, Thanks! I wonder if fermented veggies with every meal or at least each day like they do in Japan would help. I have been doing this lately and feel I’m digesting my food better. Please keep this going… I’d also like to learn more.:) Thanks for all the research.

  14. Deborah says:

    There are many blanket statements I have read over the years that are not exactly true. Thanks for clarifying this. I have been told that a combination of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds daily provide all the building blocks of the amino acids that we require. Is that true?

    I am also perturbed that there are issues with eating cruciferous veggies raw and thyroid conditions. If you are hypo then you should at least quik steam these before eating. Perhaps you could do a day on this ailment and its idiosyncracies?

  15. Anthony Chester,(Tony) says:

    I love to read Kevin and Anne Marie’s articles,I don’t type very well forgive me, but it is really a good thing Kevin, that you admitted that at one time you were also missled by others, it is a sign of a good person who can publically admit thier mistakes, but better that you did it to inform all the others who are being misslead, I commend you for your honesty and your concern for others it shows the way you said for people to check thier blood and be healthy above everything, good for you I will continue to always read as much as I can of all your postings, thank you very much, a very unsure eater, out there still trying to get things right, for my body,mind, and spirit, Tony P.S. keep up the good fight Kevin and Anne Marie !

  16. PE says:

    Darilyn #7, this commercial-laden comment is interesting, but Al Sears is one (as #6 mentions) who has changed often without quite admitting it, and is as good as any at selecting studies to ‘prove’ a point.
    To label is to limit; a map isn’t a place.
    Learn to live by that.

  17. Jen says:


    It is equally irresponsible use the word “vegan” to describe someone who is not actually vegan, in a headline indicting veganism.

    It is important to find out what the real issue is with this person’s protein situation BEFORE coming out with such a headline, without doing so is just speculation. The issue with this person may or may not be related to her diet. I find it suprising that you are reporting her situation in such a slanted manner!

    Are you just using her story to draw attention to yourself and your products? It appears that way. The way that you have reported her situation can create the confusion that you claim to be dispelling! Please think about this!

    Additionally, you use the term in this article “amino acid synthesis” – FYI, we do not synthesize amino acids, we synthesize proteins from amino acids.

    If you are concerned with what gurus are saying, how about talking to them personally. Perhaps they have never learned of digestion and absorption difficulties with protein, or any other nutrient for that matter. This would be a much more noble approach than publically bashing them as a group.

    BTW, I am not a vegan, I actually have been following the WAP guidelines for several years, so I am not pushing a vegan agenda. I just think that you are not giving a fair account of this person’s situation and reported her as being a vegan, when she is not vegan.

    • Kevin Gianni Kevin Gianni says:

      @Jen: Charlie has been predominantly vegan for 6 years. I see no problem mentioning that she was. Also, what makes it even more interesting is that even though at times (rare) she included animal foods her protein was still low. I mentioned this in this post. You’re clearly missing the point that I’ve very specifically tried to illustrate here. I don’t know how else to try to explain it to you.

      If people who are eating a high plant based diet, vegan diet, or even meat diet and they can be deficient in protein, then why are the VEGAN experts saying that people don’t have to worry about protein?

      Am I using her story to draw attention to my products? You really don’t know me if you believe this. I actually didn’t provide ANY solution to this issue besides to get your blood tested, which any good natural doctor can advise someone to do. We don’t sell any tests. We do sell a program that can help someone figure out what tests to do, but that is a small fee compared to what you will pay to talk to a doctor.

      Anyway, this is not a vegan / non-vegan issue like I mentioned above. It’s an issue of protein and the slant that experts are taking to deflect the difficult questions.

      As for talking to the experts, many of them read this blog. It’s much easier to address them to write directly in this manner. I don’t know about you, but have you ever tried to explain something to someone – one on one – who was so set in their dogmatic ways? Has it been effective? LOL 🙂

      Also, on amino acid synthesis, proteins and amino acids are both synthesized: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21178/

      Live Awesome! 🙂

  18. Veronica says:


    You see, there we are trying to stick with labels again. Why does it matter if Charlie calls herself mostly vegan or not?

    I say let people be!!


  19. Darilyn says:

    THANKS for your comment on this as I didn’t want to “say a word” as it seems I have read something totally contradictory from him about this in the past! Actually, this article of his displeased me. Wise comment from you!

  20. patty says:

    One theory has it that any diet that includes killing an animal creates a negative “karma” of some sort that adds to a general negative energy force that eventually manifests itself as various “disasters” around the world.

    Can’t say whether this is true, but if it is, it’s certainly a valid reason to avoid any type of killing (probably includes enslavement, too).

    Guess this might be something to include in the equation when considering a particular diet.

  21. Danica says:

    We do eat a vegan diet, our boys included. I absolutely supplement them both, especially the youngest as he would rather do anything but eat (or sleep). 😉

    I spoke to a naturopathic doctor about his diet and supplements because he was having “growing pains” and was so grumpy and quick to anger. The first thing she said was protein and efa’s. It has completely helped him. The grumpiness and temper went back to a normal level really quickly.

    There will always be people that disagree with what you say, just as there will always be people that completely agree with you. Such is life! 🙂

  22. Faye says:

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light. I agree with Wendi (#8) that we need to find out how or what to do to correct any issues with protein issues not being used correctly by the gut or body. This would be something interesting for anyone with low protein issues.
    Great job, Kevin!

  23. Andrew Chin says:

    Hello Charlie,
    I read an article by Jonathan Wright a few months ago in Well Being Journal, and he claims coconut sometimes raises your cholesterol, sometimes it stays the same, and sometimes it goes down. However, when it goes up, it goes up on the HDL side. So for those whose cholesterol went up, their risk profile went from high to low because of the increase in HDL cholesterol.

    There is no more risk of a cardiac event if you have a cholesterol level of 250 versus 150. Dr. Cousens doesn’t see a problem unless cholesterol is over 260. Dr. Mercola doesn’t see an issue unless cholesterol is 330 or more. These are doctors with decades of clinical experience, so that speaks volumes, in my mind.

    Instead of total cholesterol, HDL percentage of total cholesterol (ideal is 25% or more), and triglyceride to HDL ratio (ideal is 1.5 or less) seem to be the most important numbers.

    If you have high cholesterol, that is an indicator that you have a fair amount of inflammation in your body. This causes the liver to produce more cholesterol because the cholesterol is there to heal and repair the body. Cholesterol is not the villain, it’s just found at the scene of the crime. The ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), which measures the amount of red blood cell deposits in the period of one hour, is considered a good indicator of general inflammation.

    Too much fructose in the diet, which eventually converts to free fatty acids, triglycerides, and VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) in the body, can contribute to inflammation. This appears to be the case even with an excess of whole fruit, although whole fruit is still a couple steps up from high fructose corn syrup and agave. Fructose also produces 7 to 10 times the amount of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGES), which creates free radicals and adds to the inflammation load. It also speeds up the aging process.

    Fructose and too much sugar in general also raises your insulin levels, which is closely associated with high cholesterol. Insulin creates inflammation, it is a vasoconstrictor, and it alters your hormone expression. Lastly, insulin also turns off your anti-aging genes, aka DAF-16. This is not to mean that insulin is “bad”; I’m just trying to stress that your insulin levels need to be kept low (3.0 or less is ideal).


  24. Euneka says:

    I had a similar outcome to Chapa when reintroducing animal protein, in my case in the form of raw dairy and free-range eggs, into my diet thereby regaining a healthy weight, after a diet devoid of animal protein.

    As for the acne scars there are several natural topical remedies you could try including the application of unheated, unrefined honey…I believe Manuka honey from NZ would be the best as it has the most healing properties available. Natural Rose Hip Oil with Vit E is another application proven successful in reducing scar tissue.

  25. debby says:

    You can’t absorb what your body does not digest. Generally speaking the older we get, the less enzymes and acid we produce. This was my problem, not enough acid. After numerous tests, my doctor determined, I was not digesting what into my body. Therefore, he recommended Betaine HCL to be taken with meals. One can also use bitters and apple cider vinegar to increase acids production. I also added a good enzyme product that I take at least one meal a day.

    People who take antacids and other drugs for heartburn are doing a disservice to their bodies. Lowering stomach acid decreases the ability of your body to digest food which long term results in multiple problems.

  26. Ira Edwards says:

    Great post by Dr. Al Sears. I have bought and given away 12 copies of his heart book.
    He’s got it right.

    I am 79 and have perfect vision without correction, far and near, without any program like he offers. 20 years ago, I wore trifocals.

    Most comments these 2 days indicate people don’t know much about protein digestion. If protein is fully digested, it becomes a collection of amino acids, differing from sources only in amounts. If there is unusable excess of certain amino acids, that may cause problems. So balance is good. Incompleted digestion can result in toxic peptides or damaged proteins getting through a leaky gut. Incomplete digestion is expected in older people with low stomach acid, or if a preson takes acid neutralizing compounds or acid-squelching drugs. Older peoople should take betaine hydrochloride for better digestion.

    Many nutrients, even calcium, are less absorbed in the absence of fats. Your green smoothie can be almost wasted because of poor absorption. Better, put some healthful coconut oil in it.
    Better yet, eat what people ate before most food was processed and before so many food fads became frequent. People ate what was available and what had been tested and found good over many generations. They didn’t get diabetes or heart disease with a variety of animal and plant foods, and they didn’t worry themselve sick about nutritional questions. Scarcity was the concern, not nutritionism.
    Ira Edwards 541-779-2854 author of HONEST NUTRITION. Would love to hear from Al.

  27. I would like to share a different perspective on this that addresses both Charlie’s situation and post #7 above from Darilyn with comments from Al Sears about protein and bone strength.

    The body spends part of its time in a “catabolic” state of cleansing and part of its time in an “anabolic” state of rebuilding. Both states must be carried out successfully and regularly for a person to be healthy. When someone eats a diet that is very cleansing (or at least cleansing relative to what one used to eat previously), the body enters a more catabolic state. Once the body is cleansed and rested, the body then cycles back to an anabolic state provided that it is getting sufficient nutrition. This is a natural cycle.

    If someone is not getting enough rest or is under too much stress or is pushing themselves too hard, this cycle may get interrupted; the body may not cleanse itself sufficiently and/or may not have the energy to rebuild itself sufficiently. Vitamin D is a hormone that is important for the rebuilding phase; deficiency could be either due to lack of sunlight or because the body chooses not to make enough Vitamin D from sunlight (or absorb enough from a supplement) because it is in a catabolic state for some reason (such lack of rest, lack of nutrients, or a need to cleanse itself). Feeling run down could be because the body hasn’t cleansed properly or hasn’t been able to rebuild itself properly.

    Al Sears notes that certain studies showed that animal protein strengthened bones and vegetable protein did not, but he doesn’t explain why. The reason is that animal foods tend to be more effective at putting someone into an “anabolic” state of rebuilding. Protein itself doesn’t build bones – the body builds bones from minerals, but protein helps put the body in the anabolic state that is needed for growth to occur. One can certainly enter an anabolic state even on a vegan diet.

    Below are some suggestions to facilitate the natural cycle of cleansing and rebuilding (cycling between a catabolic and anabolic state).
    1) Get plenty of rest – not waking up to an alarm clock. If you’re not getting enough rest or you’re overly stressed out and body is in need of cleansing and resting before rebuilding, this may affect how the body perceives its own needs for different nutrients at that moment in time, reducing the absorption of certain things, and influencing your blood tests.
    2) Exercise intensely, at least for short periods of time, getting the heart rate up and putting a strain on both the cardiovascular system and the muscles. This will stimulate the body to enter a rebuilding period that will cause it to absorb nutrients, strengthen its bones, feel better and get stronger.
    3) Allow hunger to develop regularly – that is, regularly abstain from eating until you are really hungry, at least once every 2-3 days, but preferably daily. This allows the body to fully complete its catabolic (cleansing & resting) cycle so that it is ready to enter an anabolic strengthening cycle.
    4) To put yourself in a more anabolic state, eat more nutrient-dense foods than what your body has become accustomed to recently. For a raw vegan, that might just mean to have some extra brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and sesame tahini, although eating an egg yolk might also be helpful.
    5) Practice periodic fasting and colon cleansing, which cleanse the body and prepare it to strengthen itself when you start eating again. For most of human evolution, we were not able to eat all the time the way we do now. After a fast (even a very short one), practically anything you eat will put you in an anabolic state, provided that you are sufficiently well rested and not constipated.
    6) Build these cycles into your lifestyle conscientiously, recognizing that for most of human evolution, these cycles occurred naturally; we didn’t eat all the time, we got more sleep than we do nowadays, and we alternated between periods of stress and periods of relaxation.
    7) Consuming probiotics (ie acidopholous, etc) and/or fermented foods can help with nutrient absorption and facilitate a healthy anabolic-catabolic cycle. Digestive enzymes (and perhaps even Betaine HCL as suggested in post #19) may also help with digestion and absorption.

    With respect to absorption, I would also like to offer a reminder that nuts and seeds are best absorbed by the body if they have been soaked for a few hours first (in water or, ideally, in a mix of water and a little bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or even orange juice – anything slightly acidic, to break them down a bit). Alternatively, nut butters and seed butters are more absorbable than eating unsoaked nuts and seeds. Those who are not getting enough protein on a vegan diet may not be eating enough nuts and seeds.

    Keeping these things in mind, there is no reason to think that Charlie’s symptoms were caused by her nearly vegan diet at all; it may be simply that her natural cycles were not functioning optimally due to not partaking in the above suggestions. This could also be causing the low protein readings, although she may also not have been eating enough soaked nuts and seeds (for someone on a near-vegan diet, that is).

    If a particular diet isn’t working for someone, it might just be that the diet is not consistent with the person’s lifestyle. I have found that protein needs, for instance, are directly related to stress levels. If someone doesn’t exercise much and has a very low-stress lifestyle, their body may require – and absorb – less protein than the average person, and this might not be a problem at all, unless the person becomes too tired despite getting enough sleep.

    Lastly, I think the focus should be on feeling good rather than getting one’s blood test results within a certain range. Everyone’s body is slightly different and some people’s requirements for certain nutrients might actually be lower than what is considered “normal” or “average” for the population as a whole. To take an extreme example, a monk who is perfectly healthy might have lower levels of all hormones, and lower levels of protein and certain other nutrients, than other people due to the monk’s lifestyle. Someone who has a very relaxed lifestyle may not require as high levels of certain things.

  28. Ira Edwards says:

    Andrew Chis is right about cholesterol. Great post.

  29. Jota says:

    In regard to vegetarians and bone density, higher bone density has much more to do with properly “loading” the bone through weight-bearing exercise (read about Wolff’s Law) and less to do about diet than most people realize. Vitamin D and magnesium are also important, much more than calcium is.

    Great article about protein. I really enjoyed Charlie’s response.

  30. Ira Edwards says:

    My mistake. Post # 7 was not from Dr. Sears, but Darilyn’s quote. Go back and read it. It’s great.

  31. Darilyn says:

    Hi Ira, Interesting response to the “Al Sears” e-mail that I copied & pasted in post #7. We share common beliefs it seems from your post 20.

  32. Sparrow Rose Jones says:

    I’d still like to hear more about HOW we can absorb and synthesize protein better. I’m 100% sold on the idea that vegans can have protein problems. I want to know how to fix it!


  33. Jorge Medeiros says:

    There is a lot of islamist talk here. Nutrition is not a religion. You need not be a taliban defending this or that label.

    Get your info, sort it, and practice what sounds most reasonable. Avoid, obviously, high fat, industrilized “food”, red meat, and all we already are fed up to know that harms us,

    I’m 66, widower from a much younger wife, who did not deny herself anything, and who died of cancer early last year at 48. I’ve been having heathy habits for at least 30 years; I’m, with the best body in my life, dating a 48 yo “girl”, in my 3rd adolescence; I exercise a lot, ride a 1.200cc Suzuki motorcycle expertly. I eat deep sea fish every once in a while, I love duck occasionaly. I am 90% vegetarian, 65% vegan, full of energy, still commanding my fashion printing business, and kicking. I’ve read most everything, even The Great Health Debate. Please, friends, shed silly dogmas and live , healthily and sanely. Talibans live elsewhere.

  34. Lorien says:

    Let me say right out of the gate that I am not a vegan or a vegetarian all the time. I go through periods when I eat eggs, raw dairy and sometimes I eat meat. I’d like to respond to Patti’s karma theory about a diet that involves killing animals. Death is part of the circle of life. I’m not sure where the idea came from that animals are more sacred then plants. Life is life. I don’t care for the taste of meat which is why I don’t eat it often. There is no moral issue there for me. When my kids were growing up I raised a lot of the meat we ate. I do believe that if eating meat is a choice you are making that you should make a kill at least once. Gives you a true understanding of the price something paid for your life to go on. It was once part of every human culture, passage into adulthood required a kill. But folks were more involved in their food then. People knew that all their eating required death because they produced or gathered all their own food. And although you can eat grapes without killing the vine, you are taking the life of those grapes and ending it. Each grape holds within itself many vines. We humans tend to look at things in ways that make us comfortable. Plants don’t have voices we can hear therefore killing them causes no pain. Truth is, we don’t know that and it’s probably not true. A plant has just as much right to it’s life as me or my dog or my goat or my hen. But if I want to live, something must die so that I can eat. It’s just the way it is. For every living thing, not just humans. So in terms of Karma, if killing for food causes bad Karma then all of us are creating bad Karma every day because we all eat. For me, growing what I eat when I can so I stay connected to the process and always giving honor to the life that has ended so mine can go on be it plant or animal, keeps me in balance. You can give honor even if all your food comes from the market. Everything on your plate has had it’s lifeforce taken so you can live on. It deserves to be honored for that……

  35. Rhonda says:

    I am curious about Charlie’s high cholesterol. If she finds the culprit it would be helpful to know if too much coconut or coconut oil can raise one’s cholesterol. I have read the Coconut Oil Miracle Dr. Bruce Fife and it is a very interesting read. The book touts mega health benefits from the oil, however, you can read the exact opposite from other health care professionals that say coconut oil is a high saturated fat and that it is not good to ingest.

    So I would be curious as to Charlie’s culprit in her diagnosis of high cholesterol since she does not consume hardly any animal products.

    Kind regards,


  36. There has not been a single report by the CDC in the last hundred years of a person dying or getting sick from a protein defficiency. Excess is the problem in our society. UNLESS it involves uneducared vegans- they suffer from CALORIE DEFFICIENFY since they do not realize that less dense foods cannot be replaced just by portion size. Calories are king since the beginning of time. It is just much easire to eat less volume of food when eating animal foods and processed foods… and that is why most cultures base their diet on refined starch– it keeps them “alive” and “safe from starvation” (not an issue anymore yet people still hold on to these survival habits but with ABUNDANT amounts of these refined carbs, etc… you get the point….

  37. Bashi says:

    I suggest to people worring about protein defficiency to take stool analysis together with blood tests. You can have higher accuracy to pinpoint the ”villain” in the issue. I did comprehensive blood test that showed severe chronic protein deficiency earlier.It was helpful but still confusing since there were too many possibilities why i was low. A month ago i did stool analysis and protein mallabsorbtion due to extremely low levels of bifidobacteria came up, as long as other ”good guys ” in the gut. Putting blood tests, my family history ,my symptoms over years and finally stool analysis helps me to direct my attention not on eating more protein [which would make me worse and it did after i tried to eat more grass fed meat after blood test] but to eat only easy to digest proteins for now and recollonise the gut with cultured foods and probiotics.

  38. linda says:

    So well said Lorien – thank you for that! As a life-long gardener who grows a lot of stuff including food, I deeply respect and am grateful for the life of the plants I grow (and the lives of the insects who pollinate them.)

    Fanaticism and judgementalism are two of the biggest reasons the world is in the mess it’s in. (‘Course, greed is another biggie, but that’s another subject entirely.)

    Whatever we do in life, including eating, whatever it is we choose to eat, can, and I think, should be done mindfully and gratefully.

    I so appreciate the tone of yours, Kevin’s, and Charlie’s, words. Respect for all life includes respect for one another as human beings, even when we don’t share the same viewpoints.

  39. Ira Edwards says:

    For Rhonda, #28,
    High cholesterol in itself is not a problem. Inflammation which causes high cholesterol can be a problem. Lowering cholesterol with drugs or supplements has no value. Lowering triglycerides, which is a part of the cholesterol formula, is usually accomplished by reducing carbohydrates.
    If saturated fats were a problem, which they are not, then I would worry about coconut oil. But coconut oil is mostly medium and short chain length fats, which have special nutrient value. Saturated fats reaise HDL, the so-called “good cholesterol,” and that is a good thing. “Total cholesterol” is not a useful term, as it includes both good and bad fractions. High triglycerides are bad; HDL is good; LDL doesn’t matter much, contrary to an ocean of prattle and claims of drug companies who profit greatly from vain attempts to lower it.
    For a thorough study of these issues, one of the best is Anthony Colpo’s book THE GREAT CHOLESTEROL CON.
    Andrew, forgive me for a typo with your name.

  40. Rebecca Cody says:

    It is so timely that I just got the results of a complex of tests my doc ordered. It is called NutrEval and it is covered by Medicare, of all things! Many of you may be too young for that, but I see by today’s comments that many are old enough to be on Medicare.

    The tests include both blood and urine and I’m still taking in all the results of the 24 page report.

    This test looks to see how your body is using many of the nutrients it is receiving. There are indicators in the tests telling if you are not absorbing well, not clearing heavy metals, not methylating, whether the Krebs Cycle is working properly and, if not, which items are inhibiting it.

    There are indicators for bacterial dysbiosis, yeast and fungus dysbiosis, carb metabolism, energy metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, neurotransmitter metabolites, vitamins, some minerals, toxin and detoxification markers as well as individual amino acids, both essential and non-essential.

    There is a page analyzing the various types of fatty acids: Omega 3, 6, 9, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, Delta-6 desaturase activity, and cardiovascular risk based on the above. It pointed out that I actually NEED more animal fats! No wonder I sometimes crave butter!

    It covers oxidative stress markers, elemental markers (red blood cells), toxic elements, and more.

    This has given me tons of information and my doctor has given me some good direction as to how to correct imbalances. I would encourage any of you who want a good picture of what is going on with your nutrition to try and have this test complex done. It is by Genova Diagnostics in Asheville, NC. I’m not selling it, folks, but it seems like a good thing. I hadn’t heard of it until my doc (wonderful alternative MD that he is)suggested it.

    It turned out that I have both candida overgrowth and poor absorption, so I’ve upped my intake of hydrochloric acid and enzymes. I don’t eat sugar, but I had begun to eat a few too many starches lately, which I’ve now stopped. I’m also short of B vites, and, since I have a genetic defect called MTHFR, I don’t methylate, so I need much more of methylated forms of B12 and folate, and will begin B12 shots tomorrow (giving them to myself).

    Without this test, and especially had I not been tested for MTHFR, I would be traveling down the road to pernicious anemia – NOT something any of us want.

    So, check it out if you’re interested. I don’t know the web address, but you can probably find it easily enough. And bless Medicare for covering this! Perhaps with what I’ve learned and the new things I’m doing I can keep the cancer from returning!

  41. HopandSkip says:

    I just wanted to add a comment about a gal on whom I did a body scan recently. She ate 75% raw vegan diet and took a widely know Juice supplement in pill form which was said to have tons of “live” enzymes. But her scan came up with a need for enzymes. Specifically enzymes that help with plant based food digestion.

    So to the question what to do about malabsorption summarized… and lot of the answers are in the posts above…probitotics, fermented foods, enzyme supplements, HCL supplements (which many enzymes complexes have in them) are just some of them. Raw apple cider vinegar in water either before meals or sipped with meals…all can be part of the solution. Every person must find what works for them.

    Finding foods that have a more complete amino acid (building blocks of protein) profile like Quinoa can be helpful.

    I know one Asian doctor who things all foods should be cooked because it is too difficult to digest them raw. I am not saying this is right for everyone, but adding in some cooked foods might be appropriate for some.

    If one eats a lot of spinich, putting lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar on the spinich (or in the smoothie) will help the body absorb the calcium.

    Water. Dehydration can be a component of not absorbing or properly digesting food. The digestive tract needs water. Read “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water.” Although one would think drinking water would dilute stomach acid, if one drinks it 1/2 before meals, it helps the digestive tract and does not inhibit stomach acid production. If not enough water is present, the digestive system will try to “steal” water from other bodily functions to get it’s job done which creates problems in other body systems.

    For myself, I do not have all perfect health habits, but I do eat as close to nature as possible. My body does require red meat, though I have gone long periods without any meat for cleansing purposes. As a lifestyle however, I get tired and my digestion changes when I do not not occasionally include red meat (grass-fed, well treated, organic, of course). There may be others however who do not find this beneficial or desirable.

    Seems like everyone on here is doing the right thing…listening to their body, researching, paying attention to their own needs.

  42. Selina says:

    Now, her mail cleared up A LOT of things! Thank you Kevin! I find this article very useful and insightful.
    I do wonder though if her LDL cholesterol was high or if it was the HDL?

    Lorien – hey hey… no one is saying that plants are less sacred than animals.
    The whole point of being vegan is to not cause UNNECESSARY suffering. (Animals eat a lot of plants, we eat the animals – thus all in all more plants die to produce meat)
    Why eat animals if you don’t have too? If you ask me, eating a living being for selfish reasons would cause nothing but bad karma. (though I’m not a huge believer in karma)

    But I see were you are going with this, of course it is important to understand that death is a part of life. And everyone will have to die some day so that others might live. But taking intentionally someone’s life to eat it, doesn’t really sound like the best way to teach this lesson.

    Btw, plants and animals are not the same thing. You can’t compare the feelings of a plant to an animal, if you have actually talked to a plant, you would understand 😀

  43. Treeplanter says:

    Great topic, Kevin. I agree with you, that vegans have a greater risk of protein deficiency. However, in fairness, omnivores can also develop protein deficiency, especially as we grow older. I think everyone over 40 should take digestive enzymes with every complex meal, that is, anything more than fruit.

    Here is another suggestion, instead of paying a lot of money for amino acid blood testing, just give yourself a simple self-test. Do an intense workout, such as push-ups, sit-ups, and run until exhaustion. The next day, your body will be sore, which is natural. But the soreness should go away in a day or two, provided that your body has sufficient protein to heal the muscle tissue. If you are still sore 3 and 4 days later, that is an indicator that you need to eat more protein, and/or take digestive enzymes and HCl to boost your digestion.

    Another tip, if you want to get the potential protein out of foods such as kale or other greens, you need to blend them up. Chewing just does not do much in the way of breaking down cell walls, which is needed to release the protein inside. Run your greens through a high speed blender and you will get much more protein from them. You know this is true by the taste. Compare the taste of a kale leaf you chew, to the taste of a kale leaf blended up with a little water. The blended kale tastes much stronger, because the cell walls are broken down and the interior, which contains the protein, is now available.

    Be careful, though, because raw kale and other cruciferous veggies can have an adverse effect on thyroid function. It’s hard to eat a lot of greens without throwing your body out of balance in some way.

    I think grass-fed raw goat milk, yogurt and cheeses are excellent foods. The animals feed on grass, which we can’t digest, and turn that grass into very nutritious products that we can digest easily. This is a very good way to boost protein intake without killing any animals. And yes, of course I know that the animals end up getting killed eventually, especially the boys that don’t produce milk.

    Anywhere there are rocky hillsides full of grass, areas that are not suited to other forms of agriculture, we can benefit from goats grazing on those hillsides. And the goats benefit, too. They get a much more secure food supply and more protection from predators than they would in the wild.

    I am blessed to live in Hawaii, in an area where some people keep a few goats on their land, and raw milk is available.

    And yes, when I drink the milk, I give thanks to the animal that chewed up all that grass for me.

    Michael T.

  44. annie onny says:

    I think the problem Kev, and what I’m still confused about, is why you said *Vegans* may not get enough protein. If it’s just about absorption, then this would apply to everybody, right? And how would eating meat or dairy help with absorbing the amino acids? This was and still is unclear to me. Why frame it in such a sensationalist/divisive context? Maybe because it makes a better headline? Not sure, but it left me confused! Is this strictly a vegan thing, or is it an absorption thing? Is absorption related to veganism?

  45. MM says:

    Hi Rebecca #33. That’s an excellent test in assessing deficiencies, pathogens and genetic markers. How fortunate that it is covered by Medicare in your country. It is not covered in mine, so expensive for many. I think well worth the money though because of the comprehensive information. I use it on my clients, and the results quickly dispels any beliefs on what sort of diet they should be on. We are extremely fortunate to have such a level of sophistication in assessing our health status, which is why, I find it difficult to understand why people should be debating which diet is the right one. We should be advocating that these tests become common practice and cheaply available to all.

    Glad to hear that you found the right practitioner in reclaiming your health.

  46. Gerry says:

    Geez, all the vegans are leaving the party. Kev, and now David Wolfe is promoting dairy and more. What happened to all the advice you guys gave on vegan diet and raw vegan diet, and made a ton of (our) money on? Do we get a refund?

  47. Michael says:


    I want again ask you Keving if you could interview Jack Norris? He is the president of vegan outreach and has this wonderful website veganhealth.org. He talks a lot about protein, b 12, Vit. D, cholesterol and he has a blog. He is not fanatical and very down to earth and just want people to succeed with a vegan diet to end animal cruelty. Kevin maybe you can invite him for an interview?
    I know a lot of vegan experts but he seems to be the most honest.

    best wishes

  48. Hilde says:


    I am confused. This article is not saying anything that I can use. What would the solution be? What is this woman doing now to correct her problem?
    Also, it seems that maybe she is not absorbing amino acids because of stress, and not because of her diet. We are all different. It is nice to read about other peoples stories, but I do not see the news value in this, as it offers no solution?

    So, would she not be able to absorb protein from plants but from meat? That does not make sense at all.

    This just shows me that there is more to health than diet. The person needs to be balanced in other ways as well to be healthy. I see no relation to her problem and her veganism?

    Did I miss something here?

    Love Hilde

  49. hyesun says:

    this was an awesome post, kevin! i really enjoyed and agreed with charlie’s response. about the cholesterol – i know that cholesterol, in my case, is protective, and mine is high because i have so many health issues, including hypothyroid. high cholesterol is very common in hypothyroidism. it can be high because of other health issues too, because it is an indication/symptom of things that are not right in the body (that’s what i understand from everything i’ve read).

    also, #33 (rebecca) and #38 (MM) – it just so happens that i got my nutreval kit in the mail yesterday!! and from Dr. Al Sears’ office! i went down to florida to see him in december and had a follow up with his nurse practitioner a couple weeks ago – she is excellent (they both are) and she suggested that i do the nutreval test. fortunately it’s covered by my insurance, and i’ve read great things about it. thanks for posting about it, rebecca.

    keep up the good work kevin!!! 🙂

  50. Jackie says:

    Gosh, great posts, everyone! I definitely think fermented proteins, veggies and drinks (kefirs) could really be an answer for Charlie and others who are experiencing low absorption of proteins. Donna Gates has some good ones, although I’m not trying to promote any certain product. They’re also easy to make, of course. Thanks for all the good thoughts, everyone!


  51. Jane says:

    Very interesting comments, but what’s all the fuss? I changed to a vegan diet 9 years ago and my health changed dramatically for the better. My arthritis disappeared, I have tons of energy, sleep well and generally feel great, very rarely getting sick. I eat quite a lot of nuts and seeds, tofu, wheat protein etc along with fresh fruit and vegetables.
    I’m a very happy vegan and I’m sticking with it, whatever the latest research dictates!

  52. rachel says:

    Vegans consume grains, beans and soy (plus nuts and seeds) for protien. There are PHYTATES in grains, beans, nuts and seeds that can be eliminated if they are soaked in advance (and the water thrown away). The phytates will otherwise cause mineral loss in the body through malabsorbtion (calcium, magnesium, etcetera). Too much SOY depresses the thyroid and raises estrogen levels.
    Funny how meat eating women (and others) can be low in iron (even though meat eating women consuming red meat and other animal protiens). Again, I do not consume the Weston A Price diet but I truly believe if dozens of their followers were tested they would have ‘problem’ blood test results.
    The bottom line is, consume a balanced healthy diet for your body) and understand that EVERYONE regardless of what “diet” we consume can become deficient in something.
    namaste’, rachel

  53. Andrew Chin says:

    Hello All,
    Thanks for all the posts and the kind words. This has been really educational.

    Thanks for your post on Pt. 1, #110. So when you consume incomplete plant protein, it requires enzymes and minerals to turn the protein into a form usable by the human body. This makes me think of amino acids pools, which store amino acids for periods of 48 to 72 hours, which has supposedly disproven the need to consume complete protein at every meal. I wonder if some people actually do better having complete protein at every meal because their amino acid pools are not as active. I’d love to see some research on this in the future.

    There was a post in part 1 that protein is broken down into enzymes in the body. I believed this when I read it, since anatomy is an area I’m just starting to get acquainted with, but then I looked into it a little more, and here’s what I found, in a nutshell:

    When protein hits the stomach, the stomach secretes a substance called pepsinogen, which then combines with HCl to form pepsin. The pepsin breaks the protein into intermediate by products called peptone and proteose.

    These intermediate by products then enter the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum, and an enzyme called trypsin (one of the master enzymes, along with chymotrypsin) breaks the peptone and proteose into individual amino acids.

    Then the small intestine absorbs the amino acids, allowing them to enter the bloodstream.


  54. Dianne says:

    Everyone needs to make sure that they eat right. I do not think that animal products need to be consumed in order to be healthy ( and I am type 0 and have post polio). I was vegetarian for 28 years and now vegan for 2, and have never been healthier.
    I do agree that plants should be respected as well. A good point has been made that it takes a tremendous amount of plant agriculture to raise meat, and a lot less if one is vegetarian/vegan. I have seen The Dalai Lama in person and he described a sentient being as one that can move from one point to another on its own.
    Also, please refer to “The World Peace Diet” by Dr. Will Tuttle,in order to understand the effect of consuming flesh on the health of the world-animals, people and the environment. He also has a website.
    Has Wolfe every really been vegan? He has used deer antlers as a supplement. He says that the deer is not hurt, but there is a lot of controversy about this. Plus, it is not vegan. The meat and diary industry still rule our world and reports that you have to eat meat or diary is one way they do this.

  55. lynsi says:

    i read a book many many years ago called ‘The Secret Life of Plants’. i do not recall the author but it was a pretty popular book at the time. it describes an extensive series of scientific studies done on plants. it was an extroardinarily interesting study in which a wide variety of plants were hooked up to a variety of machines, such as electroencephalograms (‘eeg”s which are used to test electrical movements of the brain) in an attempt to discern any responses in plants to various stimuli. boy, did they ever get results! plants had definite reactions to a multitude of situations, such as: various emotions the plant’s caretaker was experiencing, both while near the plant & very far away; the plant itself being injured, such as leaves being removed; neighboring plants being injured; approaching danger, such as someone coming toward a plant/plants with scissors and the intent to cut; and a multitude of other situations. the book referred to the plants as having a variety of different reactions somewhat equitable to human emotions, including an ‘electrical’ type of ‘screaming’ when in fear or while being injured.
    truely fascinating!
    don’t know if the book is still available, but it is an exceptional read if it is.
    these studies could be a step toward some kind of ‘proof’ that EVERYTHING has some living consciousness in it, even if we are unaware of it.

  56. Carrie says:

    Okay, one thing that annoys me: Can we avoid the sloppy standards here? Please don’t claim someone is vegan in one article and then say that they are not vegan in the other. Sorry, mostly vegan is not the same as vegan.

    Also, as a science writer, I found the first article in this series to be inflammatory and extremely sloppy, lacking a lot of context and content, but the second article to be more fair and balanced and containing a good, valuable message. The two articles were like yin and yang: one was great, balanced, and providing important information; while the other was short on context, sloppy, and delivered in a purposefully inflammatory way (perhaps it was written in the heat of emotion, Kevin being upset at gurus?). I would like to see more consistent standards here. I hope my constructive criticism is passed on.

  57. Lucy says:

    Thanks for the info,this is really useful info

  58. Thank you for posting on things that are going where “no man fears to tread” – I think we need to look objectively at what we do and why we do it in life. I also appreciate the intelligent and lively conversation of the comments. I pick up many little nuggets of food for thought in them!

    Food used to be for nourishment but lately has become such a hotbed of debate. When did food become equal to religion and politics? It used to be that people could eat the way they liked (or had to because of region, finances or health) culturally, geographically or personally and it was understood. Today it seems that the melting pot created by media/communication has hurt as much as it has helped. Knowledge is a wonderful and powerful thing. Sometimes we can get so much of other people’s varying information that we tend to lose sight of what is best for us personally.

    There are health generalities (like processed, packaged, boxed and bagged food-like substances are bad and that whole, real foods are good) but ultimately what each individual needs to nourish his body is a personal thing. It depends not only on the foods but the current health of the person and their mental, emotional and spiritual condition as well. All of those things can cause us to not properly assimilate the foods we eat, even if they are the best and healthiest foods on the planet. I used to think everything was “right or wrong”, “black or white” in an “all or nothing” mentality but then found that it was prideful, self-centered and showed my ignorance more than knowledge! I have learned to not make food a religion and to not think people are “sinning” because of what they eat or don’t eat. Each person will reap what they sow in health and we can make loving suggestions but “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”! I’ve also seen that being dogmatic in beliefs about what we are eating (worrying about every bite; is this OK? Is that bad?!) can have just as negative effects on our digestion and assimilation as well. I don’t suggest it, but I’ve seen some people who eat the worst possible diet but just don’t care or worry about anything and live peaceably and be as healthy as a horse!

    On this topic of assimilating our foods: I think our gut health has so much to do with that! Just the day before I saw this post I posted a video showing how to make homemade cultured/fermented sauerkraut as a follow-up to a video I posted about how to make homemade cultured/fermented veggies. Those and other fermented and cultured foods and drinks are wonderful ways to get good healing probiotics and digestive enzymes to heal our guts and help us to properly assimilate our foods. My new fav is water kefir! It’s much yummier than drinking raw apple cider vinegar with a meal…

    Thanks again for your time and efforts, I really enjoy your site and your insight!

  59. Andrew Chin says:

    Hello All,
    Here are some final thoughts on this topic:

    It seems humans are generalists, instead of specialists. We can digest both plant foods and animal foods, but we don’t seem to digest plant foods quite as well as herbivores, esp. ruminants who have four compartments in their stomach, and we don’t seem to digest animal foods as well as carnivores, who produce more stomach acid.

    What Dr. Nick Gonzalez has noticed in his practice is that people who do well on a more carbohydrate and a vegetarian in the diet seem to convert ALA into EPA and DHA better than those who do better on more fat and protein and animal foods. Some people perhaps produce more of the Delta 6 Desaturase enzyme to make the conversion.

    Perhaps some people are also more efficient at breaking down the nutrients in plant foods, whereas others are more efficient at breaking down the nutrients in animal foods.

    This could be based on ancestry, or maybe even blood type. One exciting area of study is enterotyping. There seem to be three different enterotypes, or types of bacterial ecosystems. Enterotype 1 synthesizes riboflavin, biotin, pantothenate and ascorbate, and Enterotype 2 synthesizes folate and thiamine. These enterotypes seem to be independent of ancestry, diet, age, health, and geography. This area of research could shed some light into why some people become deficient in certain nutrients, while others do just fine.

    It’s been a true blessing to be a part of this discussion. Thanks Kevin and Anne Marie.

    Love and Gratitude,

  60. Sarah says:

    Hi Kevin:

    You really are awesome! And so are your readers! I was so thrilled to read what you have to say about this topic. I am a nutritionist and I have been dealing with this issue in my practice for 15 years. I can’t answer your question as to why some vegan experts insist that getting enough protein from a vegan diet is never a problem when we know that people fom all walks of life can and do suffer from protein deficiency. I suppose it may be the ones who are personally passionate about their cause who say this. My experience as a practitioner has echoed much of what you and many of your astute readers have said. It really comes down to digestion and how well someone digests and assimilates the protein component of the food they eat. We have so many impediments to proper digestion these days, from all those who are taking acid blockers (the “purple pill”) to those who don’t chew their food, to those who live under constant stress (digestion shuts down)to poor quality food to a lack of good digestive flora and so on. I try to educate all of my clients about all of these issues! The stomach acid (lack of)issue is highly significant. As was mentioned above, you need hydrochloric acid in order to make pepsin to digest your protein. So if someone has low hydrochloric acid output, this is a problem. Chewing food is important (yes, it is!:)). Protein must arrive well broken down and digested in the small intestine in order to be properly assimilated by the body. I could go on and on about many other factors that are important for proper protein digestion! I am a big fan of Donna Gates and her ‘Body Ecology Diet’ for tips on how to prepare food so it is easier to digest. Regarding Charlie’s cholesterol issue: It is important to understand what cholesterol does in the body. Dietary cholesterol is not that much of an issue, (and I don’t think there is any cholesterol in coconuts, only saturated fats and these are NOT the same). I am not diagnosing here (and I never would) but you did mention that she has been under stress. The stress hormone, cortisol, is made from cholesterol. So here is only one possibility why someone’s cholesterol levels might be elevated. You also need to have cholesterol to make vitamin D. Finally a personal request: might you all consider referring to those who eat some meat as “omnivores” rather than “carnivores”? And regarding the Weston A. Price Foundation: there are many members who are vegetarians. The Foundation does not insist that people eat meat. They have a published set of guidelines for healthy eating, but that is all they are – guidelines. It is up to the reader to determine which of those guidelines they wish to follow. WAPF’s primary mission is to support the small family farm and to protect our right to have access to clean, non factory-farmed food. If you read Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions”, you will find many recipes for vegetable dishes.

  61. Sarah says:

    To lynsi: I think “The Secret Life of Plants” was written by Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins. Great book! The concepts within are why I routinely give my houseplants Rescue Remedy in their water.

  62. Sarah says:

    Hi Kevin and Everyone: I just went back and read the first article of this series of two and wanted to comment about blood tests. (This is actually my area of expertise: blood chemistry analysis). A reader commented that blood tests are not accurate because he had sent his blood to labs in different parts of the country and the reference ranges were all different. This is a little known fact: the way that reference ranges are obtained is by looking at the local population and determining what’s in range and what is out of range for that population in that particular place based on the state of health of that population. So it would definitely be true that a lab “high” for a blood marker in Berkeley California might well be different from that same marker’s lab “high” in New Orleans. In other words, if we want to look really healthy, we might find a really sick population and go there to get our blood tested! (Just kidding) We are more interested in what Kevin calls the “optimal range” and what I was taught to call the “functional range”. The lab highs and lows tend to be at the extreme ends of these ranges. A number outside the optimal or functional range is where the functionality of the body is a little off but not enough to register yet as “disease”. The good news, of course, is that if we know this, we can intervene and correct it before it manifests as a disease. You have referred to this, Kevin. But what is also important, is the finesse in reading blood tests. You can also look at patterns rather than at just individual markers to see where someone’s biochemistry is heading. This is really where the rubber meets the road in blood analysis and can be extremely useful in assisting someone in reversing a possible disease development pathway.

  63. LeeH says:

    I confessed I stopped reading at “I am wondering if the high cholesterol is the result of all the coconut I eat …”

    There is no cholesterol in coconuts. Cholesterol is made by your liver or consumed in animals products. There is saturated fat in coconuts and lots of people confuse the two.

    I asked this question after the first article: which proteins are we talking about and what were the deficient measurements? Albumin and Globulin are those most often measured as they are the dominant components of blood total protein. ‘Normal’ ranges, that I have seen quoted are 4-6 g/dl for albumin and 2-4 g/dl for globulin. Units are grams per deciliter.

  64. Gail says:

    Ouch. My head hurts from banging my head on the desk from reading many of these. (#46)
    Time to do the quick healthy things we discussed – much better topic. Ok, deep breaths, stretch..

    Bottom line – “You are what you absorb.” And if you might not be absorbing then discover why, and fix it.

    Next point..changing what you think, and therefore what you say, is called wisdom, and GROWTH. Thank God I am forever learning and growing. I don’t mind the occasions when I have had to explain my new enlightenment; and I don’t even mind, when I’ve had to ‘eat my words’. It’s part of what makes the world go round and learning and communicating!
    Doing otherwise, is to be stagnant, stuck, hard headed, close-minded, and seeing with blinders on..right?!
    And it’s also stubborn!
    Kevin is saying he’s noticing some folks who are saying they are fine when they are not. Nobody should be that fanatical to not see the need to look at the truth. That kind of stubborness is foolish!

    Actually, if it weren’t for the Great Health Debate earlier on, I could’ve easily gotten stuck in the ‘this is THE most PERFECT diet for all mankind FOREVER’ thinking, too. It’s just not so!
    Not only are we all individuals, but sometimes things get out of sync and should be checked. If we readily accept that for our CARS, why wouldn’t we accept that for our BODIES!!??

  65. Gail says:

    Oh, and I’d love to hear Al Sears and Dr. Joel Fuhrman have a discussion on the topic listed! HA!

  66. Andrew Chin says:

    Hello LeeH and Sarah,
    Please see post #23 for a discussion of coconut and cholesterol. Coconut at least in some people seems to raise HDL cholesterol.
    I’m not sure of the mechanism by which this works. It might have something to do the the high level of medium chain fatty acids, which is metabolized differently by the body. These fats are metabolized by the liver, converted into ketones, and used for energy instead of being stored as fat. I am guessing this somehow increases the amount of cholesterol carried from your arteries back to your liver, which is your HDL.


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