Eric Alban -- a pilot, snowboarder, and neighbor in Park City -- wrote to me a couple of weeks ago about my blog entry on protein. and a recent newsletter where we talked about a University of Washington School of Medicine study showing diets with 30% protein and less than 20% fat resulted in significant weight loss.
Eric had read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and wondered why we were promoting protein for waist watchers in a recent newsletter, since Dr. Campbell's major point is that diets with higher protein are strongly correlated with higher cancer rates.
For perspective, I sent the following from the forward to The China Study:
"We found that not all proteins had this effect. What protein consistently and strongly promoted cancer? Casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process. What type of protein did not promote cancer, even at higher levels of intake? The safe proteins were from plants, including wheat and soy..What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects."
Perhaps our newsletter on post-holiday weight management tips should have mentioned that plant proteins are preferable to animal proteins, with casein, from dairy protein, being the ultimate bad boy protein linked to higher cancer rates according to The China Study.
After answering Eric's note, I did a little more research and came across an interesting alternative perspective on The China Study by Chris Masterjohn (on The Weston A. Price Foundation's web site):
"Campbell exercises caution when generalizing from casein to plant proteins, but freely generalizes from casein to animal protein. He entirely ignores the role of wheat gluten, a plant product, in autoimmune diseases, so he can emphasize the role of milk protein, an animal product."
As someone who suffers when I don't watch my intake of gluten, I appreciate Masterjohn's analysis, although not his "thumbs down" rating for The China Study.
Meanwhile, Bill Henderson, author of Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-Toxic Healing weighed in on this topic in our recent teleseminar (maybe you enjoyed Bill's talk last week?!).
In that call, Bill endorsed both The China Study's vegetarian conclusions and also a gluten-free diet for anyone with or worried about cancer.
So, protein itself is not the issue, it's the type of protein that matters.