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Letters to the Editor Issue 87

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 87 - April 2003

In the article Reflexology from the Grassroots Up by Candice Caradoc (Issue 85 February 2003), the photo captions erroneously identified the author, rather than Reflexologist Lynn Hatswell.
We apologize unreservedly for any embarrassment caused by this error.

New Clinical Massage Journal

As an avid enthusiast of Positive Health, whose students of Complementary Therapies at Bradford College are urged to read it regularly, I would like to call to the attention of readers interested in practical
massage studies the publication of a new bulletin.

I have recently founded a small non-profit making journal to publish case studies, clinical massage studies, summaries of published research on massage as evidenced in databases such as Medline, student dissertations on massage, the results of published systematic reviews, and historical papers on massage etc. The Northern Institute of Massage has kindly offered to print and distribute the Bulletin and one edition has already been sent out to masseurs on the LCSP Register.

I would like to invite contributions of practical massage studies for publication from Positive Health readers.

I am a Professor of Health Sciences Research and am editing the Bulletin with the assistance of academic and professional massage colleagues.

We are particularly interested in remedial massage, sports massage and general therapeutic massage in the Swedish tradition. Studies should be practical and based on evidence and can be short summaries, papers of up to 3000 words, or full dissertations which we will summarise if necessary.

Contibutions should be sent to me at 24 Moorland Drive, Leeds, LS17 6JP or by e-mail to, with some author biographical information if possible.

I thank you in advance for assisting in promoting practical recording and evaluation in massage.
Prof Len Goldstone
Professor of Health Sciences Research
South Bank University, London

EU Directive: Sodium & Potassium Hydroxide and Calcium Oxide Safe

Dear Mr Hasslberger,
Commissioner Byrne has asked me to thank you for your electronic mail of 12 December 2002 regarding Directive 2002/46/EC on food supplements and, in particular, the list of vitamin and mineral substances approved for use in food supplements.

Your letter raises concerns regarding the safety of three substances authorized for use in food supplements and included in Annex II of this Directive: sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and calcium oxide. These substances have been evaluated by the Scientific Committee for Food and approved by the Council for use in the manufacture of foods since well before the adoption of the Directive on food supplements. These same substances have been evaluated for use in foods by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), convened under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation and appear in the list of food additives included in the Codex Alimentarius Standard 192-1995. They have been safely utilized in foods for over 30 years.

The manufacture of foods requires the use of a wide range of nutritional substances adapted to the different chemical environments associated with their manufacturing processes. These ingredients are utilized in the necessary amounts as determined by the particularities of the individual product. These amounts are usually very small. In addition to level of addition, there is a significant qualitative difference in that these substances when utilized as ingredients of foods, must meet specific quality specifications (i.e. the form must be ‘food grade’), including purity criteria.

Therefore, I cannot accept the allegations you are making regarding the potential safety risk associated with the use of these substances in food supplements. Indeed, the primary objective of European food legislation is to ensure the highest level of consumer protection. The Directive on food supplements is fully in line with this objective.

In line with the provisions of the Directive, the Commission will put forward proposals to update the list of substances appearing in the Annexes of the Directive on food supplements when requests for substances to be added have been evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority.

I hope that the above explanations have addressed your concerns and help to place the issue you raised in the right perspective.

Paola Testori Coggi   Via:
Source: European Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General
Commission européenne, B-1049 Bruxelles / Europese Commissie, B-1049 Brussel – Belgium. Telephone: (32-2) 299 11 11. Office: B-232 4/95.
Telephone: direct line (32-2) 2953430. Fax: (32-2) 2950285.

The Editor Comments
The above beggars belief. While the EU is about to outlaw scientifically and medically proven supplements such as chromium picolinate and selenium methionine, they are content to approve as safe in supplements caustic ingredients such as sodium and potassium hydroxide!

Protein Combining Disproved

In Penny Crowther’s Column in Issue 85 (Feb 2003) The Pitfalls of a Vegetarian Diet there’s a misleading and false statement:

“However I explained to Nancy that if she was relying solely on vegetable protein she needed to be aware of the best way to combine foods to obtain the most comprehensive range of amino acids. Vegetables tend to be low in methionine, for example, whilst beans and lentils are rich in this amino acid. So combining beans or lentils with rice, or mixing millet with sesame seeds improves the overall quality of the protein.”

The idea that we need to combine plant foods to get enough amino acid has been disproved may years ago by nutritionists and by the author of this myth herself; in fact, it has been proved that combining two different high-protein foods can be very detrimental for our health.

The Protein Combining Craze
In 1971 America, however, the idea of not eating meat was considered much crazier than it is today. Many people actually believed that vegetarianism wasn’t simply unhealthy, but it was impossible to survive on a vegetarian diet. Frances Moore Lappé knew that her book would be met with this bias, so she researched vegetarian nutrition, and in doing so made a substantial mistake which would dramatically change the course of vegetarian history. Lappé found some studies conducted around the turn of the century on rats, which showed that rats grew best when fed a combination of plant foods whose amino acid (protein) patterns resembled that of animal foods. Lappé had her magic bullet – this would be the way she could convince readers that they could make their plant foods ‘just as good as’ meat.

Lappé devoted half of her book to this idea of ‘protein combining’, or ‘protein complementing’ – how to serve beans and rice together, for example, so that the protein would be ‘complete’. The protein combining idea was contagious – it appeared in every other book by every other vegetarian author published after that, and made its way into academia, encyclopaedia entries, and the American mindset. Unfortunately, the idea that protein combining is necessary was absolutely wrong.

The first problem was that the protein combining theory was just that – only a theory. There had never been any studies on humans. The idea of protein combining was thus more superstition than science. And it’s not surprising that rats would grow differently than humans, since growing rats need ten times as much protein per calorie as growing humans. (Rat milk is 50% protein while human breast milk is only 5%.) Further, if plant foods were really so inferior, then how did cows, pigs, and chickens who eat nothing but grains and other plants get their protein? Wasn’t it odd that we were eating farm animals for protein, and they were eating nothing but plants? Finally, plant foods were not even as ‘deficient’ in various amino acids as Lappé had thought.

Diet for a Small Planet was a runaway best-seller, and made Lappé famous. It was therefore surprising – and commendable – that Lappé owned up to making a mistake about the very thing which made her a household name. In the 1981 edition of Diet for a Small Planet, Lappé recanted and explained that:

“In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein… was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.

“With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on: 1) fruit or on 2) some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on 3) junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein.” (Diet for a Small Planet, 10th Anniversary Ed.; 1982; Frances Moore Lappé.)

Protein has been the most widely-publicized of all human nutritional needs, and this has led many people to be obsessed with making sure they get enough protein. The problem is that the average American consumes over 100 grams of protein a day, which is three to five times the amount experts now say is necessary. This excessive amount of protein is harmful, and more physical problems are being caused by people consuming too much protein than are caused by people not getting enough protein.

Official US policy on human protein needs has changed so drastically that there is no longer even a minimum daily requirement for protein listed on the latest nutrition labels. Modern research has shown that most people have more reason to be concerned about medical problems caused by consuming too much protein, rather than not getting enough. Protein is an extremely important nutrient, but when we get too much protein, or protein that we cannot digest, it causes problems. In his book, Your Health, Your Choice, Dr Ted Morter Jr warns, “In our society, one of the principle sources of physiological toxins is too much protein.”

It may come as quite a shock to people trying to consume as much protein as possible to read in major medical journals and scientific reports that excess protein has been found to promote the growth of cancer cells and can cause liver and kidney disorders, digestive problems, gout, arthritis, calcium deficiencies (including osteoporosis) and other harmful mineral imbalances.

It has been known for decades that populations consuming high-protein, meat-based diets have higher cancer rates and lower life-spans (averaging as low as 30 to 40 years), compared to cultures subsisting on low-protein vegetarian diets (some with average life-spans of more than 90 years).

Numerous studies have found that animals and humans subjected to high-protein diets have a consistently higher rate of cancer development. As for humans, T Colin Campbell, a Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and the senior science advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, says there is “a strong correlation between dietary protein intake and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas and colon.” Likewise, Myron Winick, director of Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, has found strong evidence of “a relationship between high-protein diets and cancer of the colon.

Writing in the Sept. 3, 1982 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers Dr Barry Branner and Timothy Meyer states, that “undigested protein must be eliminated by the kidneys. This unnecessary work stresses out the kidneys so much that gradually lesions are developed and tissues begin to harden.” In the colon, this excess protein waste putrefies into toxic substances, some of which are absorbed into the bloodstream Dr Willard Visek Professor of Clinical Sciences at the University of Illinois Medical School, warns, “A high protein diet also breaks down the pancreas and lowers resistance to cancer as well as contributes to the development of diabetes.”

In his 1976 book, How to Get Well, Dr Paavo Airola, PhD, ND, notes we “have been brought to believe that a high protein diet is a must if you wish to attain a high level of health and prevent disease. Health writers and ‘experts’ who advocated high protein diets were misled by slanted research, which was financed by dairy and meat industries, or by insufficient and outdated information. Most recent research, worldwide, both scientific and empirical, shows more and more convincingly that our past beliefs in regard to high requirements of protein are out-dated and incorrect, and that the actual daily need for protein in human nutrition is far below that which has long been considered necessary. Researchers, working independently in many parts of the world, arrived at the conclusion that our actual daily need of protein is only 25 to 35 grams (raw proteins being utilized twice as well as cooked)… But what is even more important, the worldwide research brings almost daily confirmation of the scientific premise… that proteins, essential and important as they are, can be extremely harmful when consumed in excess of your actual need.”

The good news about protein, however, is that it is much easier to meet our minimum daily protein requirements than most people would imagine… with just fruits and vegetables… Many nutritionists now feel that 20 grams of protein a day is more than enough, and warn about the potential dangers of consistently consuming much more than this amount. The average American consumes a little over 100 grams of protein per day.

A good way of determining which foods provide sufficient protein is to consider recommendations on the percentage of our total calorie intake that should be made up of protein, and then determine which foods meet these recommendations. These recommendations range from 2½ to 8 percent. Reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition say we should receive 2½ percent of our daily caloric intake from protein, and that many populations have lived in excellent health on that amount. The World Health Organization established a figure of 4½ percent. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends 6 percent, while the National Research Council recommends 8 percent of our calories should come from protein.

The 6 and 8 percent figures are more than what most people need, and these higher percentages are intended as a margin of safety. But still, these recommendations are met by many fruits and greatly exceeded by most all vegetables. For example, the percentage of calories provided by protein in spinach is 49%; broccoli 45%; cauliflower 40%; lettuce 34%; peas 30%; green beans 26%; cucumbers 24%; celery 21%; potatoes 11%; sweet potatoes 6%; honeydew 10%; cantaloupe 9%; strawberry 8%; orange 8%; watermelon 8%; peach 6%; pear 5%; banana 5%; pineapple 3%; and apple 1%. Considering these figures, any nutritionist would have to agree it is very easy for a vegetarian to get sufficient protein.

Another important lesson to ‘unlearn’ is that the need to consume foods or meals containing ‘complete protein’ is based on an erroneous and out-dated myth. Due to lingering misinformation from that 1914 rat study, many people still believe they must eat animal products to obtain ‘complete protein.’ And for other people, this fallacy was replaced by a second inaccurate theory that proper food combining is necessary to obtain ‘complete protein’ from vegetables. Both of these theories have been unquestionably disproved, because we now know people can completely satisfy their protein needs and all other nutritional requirements from a good variety of raw fruits and vegetables without worrying about proper food combining or adding protein supplements or animal products to their diets.

Protein is composed of amino acids, and these amino acids are literally the building blocks of our body. There are eight essential amino acids we need from food for our body to build ‘complete protein,’ and every one of these amino acids can be found in fruits and vegetables. (There are a total of 23 amino acids we need, but our body is able to produce 15 of these, leaving eight ‘essential’ amino acids that must be obtained from food.) There are many vegetables and some fruits that contain all eight essential amino acids, including carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, okra, peas, potatoes, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and bananas.

But the reason we do not necessarily need all eight essential amino acids from one food or from one meal is that our body stores amino acids for future use. From the digestion of food and from recycling of proteinaceous wastes, our body maintains an amino acid pool, which is circulated to cells throughout the body by our blood and lymph systems. These cells and our liver are constantly making deposits and withdrawals from this pool, based on the supply and demand of specific amino acids.
Niklas Daniel

Penny Crowther Replies

All plant food does contain the 8 essential amino acids. But some of the amino acids will be in quantities which are too small to be of use to humans. These are known as the limiting amino acids of a particular food source. Each food is given a protein score which assesses its biological value, based on the particular pattern of amino acids.

Provided a varied plant food diet is followed one does not have to get all 8 amino acids from one meal. The body cells have an amino acid pool in which amino acids are stored and synthesized. So in a mixed diet the limiting amino acids from one particular food can be made good by surpluses of amino acids in another food. However if a single plant food features to excess in the diet one can get into trouble from the standpoint of protein intake. For example maize, cassava and wheat gluten have a very poor complement of amino acids.

So the key is to follow a varied diet. From my experience as a nutritional therapist I find that many vegetarians (and meat eaters) rely heavily on the same foods. It is currently estimated that only 3% of the Western population follow a healthy balanced diet. We obtain 90% of our calories from 18 foods. 4000 years ago the average diet used to be based on 225 foods.

We know that certain combinations of food such as rice and beans, soya and millet provide a better amino acid balance than if these foods were eaten on their own. For example soya and millet if eaten separately have protein scores of 73 and 70. Whereas the protein score of the two foods combined increases to 92. Therefore why not incorporate such combinations into the diet now and again? I could have pointed out in my article that it is not essential to protein combine in order to be a healthy vegetarian.

You comment (which presumably relates to plant foods) that “combining two different high protein foods can be very detrimental to health”. Let’s get a sense of perspective here. I think most nutritionists would prefer to see people combining beans and rice in place of the ubiquitous burger and chips!

Finally I am not promoting a high protein diet. The adverse effects of high protein diets are well documented. As I point out in my article, most Westerners consume too much protein. But based on several years of clinical experience and the theory of biochemic individuality I find that some vegetarians feel much better when they increase the protein in their diet.


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