by Dr. David Minkoff February 10, 2022 7 min read
The following is adapted from The Search for the Perfect Protein, chapter 2.
Several common myths surround protein and its importance in our lives. This chapter offers insight into the problems created by these myths and how to approach solving them.
You may think there’s nothing wrong with this statement, but one look at this amino acid utilization chart shows us that they are most definitely not the same. The chart shows the substances and foods people consider to be sources of protein and their utilization rates based on amino acid profiles.
Let’s consider algae for a moment. Many health food stores are big on selling spirulina, a popular and nutritious algae. A common sales line touts it as one of Earth’s primary foods, which is true, as spirulina is packed with minerals, phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids. People who sell algae say this wonder food is great for building bodies because it can build and sustain the life of a whale.
But don’t rush to your local health food store’s algae aisle just yet. The balance of the eight essential amino acids in a food must be exact—if even one of the essential amino acids is low, it throws the entire nutritional profile off balance. Spirulina is deficient in the essential amino acids lysine and methionine to the point that the utilization is calculated at 6 percent or less in some twenty-four examined species. It’s definitely a good source of green food, but it’s not a valuable source of protein.
The next time you look at the side of a yogurt carton and it says 14 grams of protein, be aware that only 16 percent is usable. A Balance Bar has 14 grams of dairy and soy protein, but only 16 percent is usable. And a can of tuna fish has 16 grams of protein, of which 33 percent is usable. Please refer to the chart for more information.
Total Protein vs Usable Protein
Actual Usable Protein
||Total Grams Protein = 84
|Rice Milk (1gm)
||Actual EAA content based on AAU = 17
|4 pcs Whole Grain Bread (12gm)
||Total Grams of EAA needed per day for an average adult = 30
|Almond Butter (2gm)
||Deficit 30-17= 13 grams
|4 oz Lean Turkey (20gm)
||EAA DEFICIENCY DAY BY DAY RESULTS IN REDUCED LEAN BODY MASS
|6 oz Organic Yogurt (6gm)
|4 oz Salmon (28gm)
|Green Beans (2gm)
|Baked Sweet Potato (2gm)
Don’t believe that all proteins are all the same, because they aren’t! This leads us to the next myth that permeates the dietary industry, with dieticians included.
Through my years of testing and reviewing essential amino acid levels of patients, I can tell you that countless people aren’t getting enough protein. This issue is not made apparent by physical appearance; at first glance of these three images, most people assume the obese man certainly isn’t protein malnourished. However, the fact is, all three probably are. Many obese and starving people are protein malnourished, but so are people with “normal” diets—it all comes down to essential amino acid levels in the blood.
Dieticians offer the blanket belief that daily intake of one gram of protein per body weight is adequate nourishment—this generalization assumes that all proteins are the same. This concept is flawed and contributes to the widespread belief of this myth. Athletes, pregnant women, and those recovering from injury or surgery need more protein than the average person. These people need to consume more than the recommended amount of protein to provide their bodies with what they need. This belief also assumes that they chew their food adequately; have enough stomach acid and pepsin in their stomachs; have sufficient pancreatic enzymes; the lining cells of their intestine can absorb the digested food; the lining cells have not been compromised due to glyphosate damaging their membrane; their membranes are also intact after eating foods they are allergic to (like gluten); and they have no parasites, yeasts, or bad bacteria that are living there and causing damage to the membrane. These assumptions are made but never looked into by the vast majority of medical doctors, nutritionists or dieticians.
Everyone needs clean protein sources in adequate amounts, and more importantly, we must be able to digest and absorb it. Digestion can be a challenge for many people, and supplements are required in those cases. I’m definitely not suggesting that people only take essential amino acid tablets or drink a special elixir for their protein source, but high-quality protein with the addition of supplements can greatly improve a person’s health.
Earlier, we discussed popular misconceptions about whey and spirulina. Both are viewed in a favorable light and soy is, too. However, soy rides the popularity roller coaster just like every other food in the area of diet science—and right now, it’s very much out of favor. It’s known as a source of protein in terms of its amino acid content and utilization, but the truth is that soy is very similar to whey.
Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body, making up about 30 percent of all body proteins. There has been a big rise in the popularity of promoting collagen as an ideal protein supplement, and it’s now available in powder form for protein shakes and soup mixes, in nutritional bars, and even face creams. With all of these products on the market, one might think that eating collagen is a great source of this protein. However, we need to look more closely at this logic and ask if their claims are true.
When we look at the amino acid profile of collagen, over 50 percent comes from four nonessential amino acids: proline, glycine, hydroxyproline and arginine. Collagen is missing the essential amino acid tryptophan and is deficient in three other essential amino acids: isoleucine, threonine, and methionine.1
It has been proven that if a dietary protein is missing any of the essential amino acids, the body is unable to utilize it as a precursor for protein synthesis. If we did an analysis for amino acid utilization (AAU), then collagen would be at zero percent because essential amino acids are missing. Compare that to 99 percent AAU for PerfectAmino.
The body can absorb the amino acids from collagen if it is eaten along with other foods that can make up for lack of tryptophan and low amounts of isoleucine, threonine, and methionine—however, the AAU will still be very low. This means that most of the collagen you eat will end up as sugar or carbs, and to boot, there will be a heavy burden of nitrogen to detox. This is disappointing in light of the marketing surrounding collagen products, but it’s the truth—you’ll have a much better AAU if you eat steak, chicken, fish or eggs.
Also, you’ll want to be cautious if you purchase and use collagen products. They contain collagen from animal tissues—joints, bones, skin, hair, feathers, hooves from cows and pigs, or fish. These animals may or may not have been grass fed, free of antibiotics or hormones, or free of GMO feed unless stated by the manufacturer. Recent testing reveals that popular collagen and bone broth products contain a number of potentially hazardous contaminants, including antibiotics, prescription drug metabolites, parabens, steroids, and insecticides.2 3
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are heavily promoted for athletic recovery and building muscle protein. BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are three of the eight essential amino acids, but since five essentials are missing, they also have an AAU value of zero percent. You can’t make any proteins with just three amino acids—all eight are required at the same time, in the right proportions for maximum AAU.
Many people think that putting collagen on their skin will help build up their own collagen and get rid of wrinkles. Unfortunately, this is also a myth: The molecule is too big to be absorbed, and it just coats the top, outer layer of your skin.
Even though their AAU is zero percent, BCAAs are not useless. There is evidence that if your body is short of carbs and starts to break down muscle for calories, it will use the BCAAs for fuel instead of pirating its own proteins.
So, it does have a muscle sparing effect, but you could also eat a banana and get the same result.
As I mentioned earlier, whole eggs—the white plus the yolk—are the best source of dietary protein, with the exception of breast milk. And since breast milk is not readily available, we look to eggs for protein. Eggs have an AAU of 48 percent and are a cut above meats, fish or any dairy proteins.
Some people are convinced that they should not eat egg yolks due to concerns about cholesterol. This is a totally incorrect assumption, as it has never been proven that eating eggs contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries.
However, many cardiologists have been brainwashed with this theory, and they dutifully pass it on—their patients think they should avoid egg yolks, or only eat two eggs a week, or some such propaganda. So, they resort to eating egg whites.
The truth is, without the yolk, eggs are no longer the best source of dietary protein—they become more like dairy or soybeans and have a low AAU of 16 percent. Egg yolks contain the essential amino acid methionine, and you should not deprive yourself of it. So, eat your eggs as nature intended: with the yolks. And enjoy them without limit!
The amount of misinformation that exists around nutrition and nutritional “science” is truly amazing. The bottom line is that if you look at profiles of serum blood amino acid levels, you will come to the conclusion that our bodies don’t get, digest, or absorb enough protein. Even when we think we eat enough protein throughout the day, the utilization rate is low, and I’m revealing the truth behind these myths to explain that most people are protein malnourished. Simply put, we need access to adequate amounts of clean protein, and we need to properly digest and absorb it. We’ll talk more about how the body digests protein in the chapters to come.
by Dr. David Minkoff
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