Doctor's Note

This is another reason plant protein is preferable. Cheaper too! See Eating Healthy on the Cheap. Beans specifically have been linked to lower blood pressure (Fill in the Blank). Other healthier sources of protein, such as nuts, also lower heart disease risk via a variety of mechanisms. See for example How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?). More landmark research for Harvard in Harvard's Meat and Mortality Studies and What Women Should Eat to Live Longer.

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For more context, check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

  • Jan

    Thank you!


    So, do you think that saturated fat, as utilized in studies, is just a marker for animal protein intake? Reason I ask is the issue of cow’s milk ghee in Ayurveda. Has saturated fat, but no animal protein. Anecdotally, practitioners in India (no formal studies I could find) are reporting reversal of coronary artery blockage when patients move to an essentially vegan diet, but uses ghee instead of vegetable oils..

    Given that Ayurveda was geared towards the promotion of longevity, would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Joe B

      Just curious, not trying to be confrontational, but how does ghee NOT have animal protein if it is from cow milk? Thanks!

      • mollyhorn

        Since it is clarified (separated), the milk solids and moisture are removed, leaving only the fat part of the butter behind. The solids that are removed constitute the protein, whereas the fat contains, well… fat! :)

        Incidentally, ghee contains 8 mg of cholesterol per TEAspoon, according to Wikipedia. O_o

        • SJSMD

          Agreed. Also has a ton of Vitamin K2. I’m interested in looking at this a bit further, given the huge role ghee plays in a traditional Ayurvedic Diet. Ayurveda was geared towards promoting longevity, so I assume they would’t recommend an agent if it was disease causing. However, the mechanism needs to be clarified (no pun intended).

      • Jay Quasters

        I was thinking the same. I can’t believe for example that coconut products would cause health problems.

        • Toxins

          coconut milk and oil are indeed unhealthy as they contain a very high saturated fat content.

          • Bruce Swayze

            Wrong. Sorry, that’s just plain wrong. Not all saturated fats are the same. Coconut oil does not contain the long-chain fats found in animal products or lard. Medium chain fatty acids, MCFA’s, are good for you. They don’t go into your fat cells, but straight to the liver where they are converted into energy (without sugars or carbs… good for diabetics). The health benefits of coconut oil are numerous, well researched, and documented. I don’t have room here to list them all, but you can find them. Do a little research.

          • Toxins

            I prefer to rely on the available science rather than look at articles on the internet. What you are suggesting about coconut oil is false.

            Coconut oil does indeed contain medium chain fatty acids and this may be metabolized differently but there are very few studies to make the conclusion that coconut oil is “ok” or that medium chain saturated fats are negligible. A tablespoon of coconut oil has about 11.7 grams of saturated fat. about 8 grams of this is medium chain saturated fat and about 3.7 grams of this is long chain saturated fat. We have an abundance of evidence concluding that that long chain saturated fats are harmful so we cannot consider this oil a healthy option based on that alone.

            As far as minerals and vitamins go, there is not one
            significant vitamin or mineral in coconut oil. The only vitamin present in a tablespoon of coconut oil is .1 micrograms of vitamin k which does not even register as a percentage of daily value. Its also absent of any
            omega 3 fats. Just looking at coconut oils nutritional profile we see that it is clearly a junk food. Junk food is by definition empty calories.

            The available science on the oil is limited and does not really support coconut oil as a “superfood”.

            The evidence to prove its health benefits are scant.

            Only 1 study on weight loss:

            Forty obese women cut their food intake by 200 calories a day and exercised four days a week. Half of them used two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 240 calories’ worth) every day in their cooking and half used soybean oil. After three months, both groups had lost the same amount of weight, about two pounds.

            Only 1 poorly concluded study with very mixed results on alzheimers:

            Placebo and coconut oil consumers scored no different on a cognitive impairment test when the subjects were randomized. If they weren’t randomized (which could represent stacking up the placebo group with very sick
            patients) then the coconut fat consumers scored slightly better after 45 days in the study. After 90 days though everyone pretty much evened out in cognitive improvement which does not show any real gain.

            Only 1 old study done to “support” heart disease:

            “In the only study done in people in the last 17 years, Malaysian researchers last year found that when they fed young men and women 20 percent of their calories from coconut oil for five weeks, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol was 8 percent higher and HDL (“good”) cholesterol was 7
            percent higher than when the participants were fed 20 percent of their calories from olive oil”

            Just because Both bad cholesterol and good cholesterol went up does not mean that coconut oil is protective against heart disease and it does not at all mean its healthy. This doesn’t make good sense.

            After looking through the livestrong article, the only support of evidence are opinions of a couple doctors from Oprah. The opinions of doctors do not count as science. The only study that the livestrong article posts is the one i discussed about weight loss which is not significant.

          • Suzette Rene

            I do use coconut oil…….I love it!

      • SJSMD

        Mollyhorn gave a great answer…ghee is casein and lactose “free”

  • Ed

    Colin Campbell told us almost 8 years ago that a similar relationship between animal and plant protein exists in relation to cancer. This is more reason to avoid animal protein.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    I love protein too, just plant protein. Just imagine how strong you can become eating plants and how healthy you’ll be.
    Look at the fantastic pic below of one of the greats Billy Simmonds.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Just like Windows 8. Have to change things up to keep me thinking. (Argh!) Please don’t start charging for your changes, I truly appreciate what you do, and all for FREE!

    • Jo

      Here, here! This website is a true public service!

  • Chocolate KenDoll

    Do you think soy (namely in the form of edamame beans, tempeh, or tofu) or quinoa would yield similar results since they are high quality proteins? Tofu also has a comparably higher amount of saturated fat for being a legume (food).

  • Harold Kyriazi

    Dr. Greger, this seems to imply that adding MSG to one’s meal of animal protein would make it more like plant protein, and possibly confer the benefit of lowering blood pressure. However, I suspect the amounts of MSG added to food in a typical Chinese restaurant, for example, would greatly exceed the proportion found in plant protein.

  • Mary Ellen Ryall

    I am happy to eat less meat or no meat at all. It’s been nearly half a year now. I question why nutrition studies are done on men only. Don’t women get heart disease too?

  • Maureen

    KNOWTHYFOOD.COM stated that “After researching these products, my understanding is that they both contain high quantities of the amino acid glutamate, which has the same toxic effect as MSG described in Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills written by Dr. Russell Blaylock.”

    What are your thoughts on Nutritional Yeast and other Yeasts such as autolyzed yeast added to many foods?

  • Jordan

    Im on low/moderate fat vegan diet, trying to build muscle to gain weight. Are plant based protein shakes okay? Such as Hemp or Pea protein? They contain about 20G of protein per 2 scoops. Usually I mix with coaco powder, almond milk and ground flax seeds.