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Vegan Protein Status

The anti-inflammatory nature of plant-based diet may explain higher blood protein levels in vegans.

December 7, 2010 |
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Transcript

Last year we learned, in a study of Buddhist nuns, that long-term vegans —vegans for up to 72 years straight had clinically equivalent bone mineral density despite milk-drinking women getting twice as much calcium intake in their daily diet.
This year, there was a 200 page review published on health indicators in people eating vegetarian long-term. What about protein status? Both vegans and meat-eaters, on average, get the recommended amount of protein in their daily diets. Meat-eaters eat about 20% more protein a day, though, but do they achieve significantly higher levels of protein in their blood? Who has higher plasma protein levels? Three choices: vegans higher, meat-eaters higher, or both the same protein levels.
Despite 20% less protein in their daily diets, vegans actually have significantly higher plasma albumin, the predominant protein in the blood, though inflammation suppresses protein production in the liver, so this is more likely just an indicator of how much less inflammation there is in the bodies of those eating vegan.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on protein. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on protein. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Why is it that the study referenced says that the digestibility of plant based foods is not as good as animal based foods? Where does this myth perpetuate from?

  • Liviu Deacu

    There is another possible explanation for the higher albumin level in
    vegans: albumin is a heterogenous class of protein, so its aminoacids sequence is not constant; it can vary to certain limits.
    It is possible that albumin serves as a sort of aminoacid buffer (store) to contain excess/waste aminoacids from vegetarian diet to avoid excess gluconeogenesis due to unbalanced aminoacid intake from vegetarian food. These molecules could break down some days later when the subject changes the protein sources profile in order to provide missing aminoacids, while other albumin molecules are build up with different excess aminoacids from the current diet. Just a speculation.
    We shouldn’t forget that the cells are provided with aminoacids as protein source, not with albumin.

  • Sagar

    How much protein should a vegan consume after exercising such as lifting weights or aerobics exercises. Does eating protein it help in the recovery process?

  • Chelsey

    Hello, I’ve been vegan since January. Blood tests have shown my Albumin and platelet levels are low. My doctor wants me to eat meat, I don’t know what to do. I’m 25 and female.

    • JacquieRN

      Hi Chelsey. Did you have a blood test before changing to a vegan diet with the albumin and platelets within normal range – meaning do you know that the diet is the cause of these low values? Low albumin and platelet counts can be caused by a variety of conditions- so your MD has ruled out everything else except for diet?

      If everything is healthy for you, continue to learn about your eating/nutrition, have MD monitor and maybe you can share information with MD!

      Low Albumin: So as a vegan are eating nutrient-dense plant protein? For starters check this information out: http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/faq_protein.pdf
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/Vegetarian-Starter-Kit.pdf
      http://www.pcrm.org/

      Low platelets: A low platelet count can be caused by diet, but this would be exceedingly rare without other more prominent signs and symptoms. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are 2 vitamins that are required for platelet production which can be deficient in some cases. You should be tested for levels of these two vitamins as a part of your work-up. Since the body stores B12 it takes years for a vegan to become B12 deficient not usually a few months as in your case-so this is puzzling. Nonetheless be sure and get your B12.

      Check for and get enough through fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soymilk, and fortified meat analogues contain a reliable source of the vitamin. Nutritional yeast, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, is also a reliable source.

      But supplementation is easy, cheap and worry free:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vitamin-b12-recommendation-change/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/new-vitamin-b12-test/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cheapest-source-of-vitamin-b12/
      For more B12: http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=b12

      • Chelsey

        Hi JacquieRN

        Thanks for your considered reply. Unfortunately I don’t have blood tests to
        compare pre-vegan. My Cumulative Liver
        Function Test came back normal and Cumulative Electrolytes were normal too, but
        Creatine was on the low side. However my
        Vitamin D level was significantly low, but I attribute that to not getting out
        in the sun (now supplementing).

        Iron was low but I have being taking Ferro-tab which has
        bought things back to normal. FT4 was
        low in the thyroid so I now take Thyroxine.
        I’ve been treated for Major Depressive disorder and panic disorder for
        the past 11 years and have taken lots of medications in that time.

        Vitamin B12 is at 313 pg/mL and Red Cell Folate is 549 ng/mL
        (I’m from Australia.) The test says
        they’re both normal.

        Thank you for the links, I like to eat beans but will
        attempt to get more dietary protein, I’m looking at a vegan protein powder.

        I suppose I’m a bit nervous as to whether I’m doing the
        right thing, especially when most say I need to eat meat, but in my heart I
        want to be vegan.

        Thanks again