Vegan Protein Status

Vegan Protein Status
5 (100%) 4 votes

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

Discuss
Republish

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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 had 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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 had 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more information on plant-based diets and protein, check out these videos:
Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?
Do Flexitarians Live Longer?
Methionine Restriction as a Life Extension Strategy
Treating Kidney Failure Through Diet

And check out my other videos on protein

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

27 responses to “Vegan Protein Status

Commenting Etiquette

The intention of the comment section under each video and blog post is to allow all members to share their stories, questions, and feedback with others in a welcoming, engaging, and respectful environment. Off-topic comments are permitted, in hopes more experienced users may be able to point them to more relevant videos that may answer their questions. Vigorous debate of science is welcome so long as participants can disagree respectfully. Advertising products or services is not permitted.

To make NutritionFacts.org a place where people feel comfortable posting without feeling attacked, we have no tolerance for ad hominem attacks or comments that are racist, misogynist, homophobic, vulgar, or otherwise inappropriate. Please help us to foster a community of mutual respect. Enforcement of these rules is done to the best of our ability on a case-by-case basis.

  1. 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?




    0



    0
    1. Hi Toxins, You seem to be referring to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score, or PDCAAS, correct? While casein (the predominant protein in milk) boast a score of 1.00 and peanuts earn a score of only 0.52,

      these numbers merely reflect the body’s ability to digest a particular protein. Note however, that a higher score doesn’t necessarily equate to a better protein. On the contrary, proteins with higher scores trigger the release of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 more
      than plant proteins may be because the relative ratios of amino acids in
      animal proteins more closely resembles our own.

      So while plant-based foods do appear less digestible than animal-based foods, this feature conveys a virtue rather than a detriment.




      0



      0
  2. 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.




    1



    0
  3. 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?




    0



    0
  4. 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.




    0



    0
    1. 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




      0



      0
      1. 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




        0



        0
  5. Hi Doctor Greger..I have been vegan for 5 years and I seem to have a significance of hair loss. I have had my thyroid checked and iodine is in tac and folic acid in tac, I take B-12 also. I have noticed low protein levels in my blood work. I have added more higher protein foods such as seitan and tofu to my diet and I seem to feel better and be showing more hair growth again. I still consume a lot of beans and whole grains, veggies, fruit and greens in my diet.




    0



    0
  6. I recently started donating plasma at a local donation center here in Utah and when I told them I ate a predominantly vegan diet the nurse performing my physical exam became worried and very concerned as to whether or not I would be able to continue donating long term. I recently downloaded your Daily Dozen app have have been following it and love how simple it makes eating healthy. With all that being said, do I need to worry about my protein levels dropping or becoming “abnormal” with plasma donation?




    0



    0
    1. Make sure you are eating lots of nuts, legumes etc, and taking vitamins. Stay away from vitamin d supplements though because they are made from animals.

      I ways eat a peanut protein bar afterwards and take my vitamins. I’m not vegan though, but I don’t eat a lot of meats. It’s just that it takes your proteins and you vitamins and minerals floating in 90% water.

      If you drink lots of water before you will get done faster.

      Also make sure you take probiotics. Without milk you get less lactobacillus which is a friendly bacteria. Good bacteria in you gut helps you process the cellulose better.




      0



      0
      1. Mayz,
        There is now vitamin D3 that is vegan. My Kind from garden of life has it in a spray and also a chewable tablet. It is made from lichen and is actual D3 and not the D2 which is not very absorbable by the body. Also a good vegan probiotic is the Up4 adult 15 billion probiotic.




        0



        0
  7. In nephrotic syndrome during relapse what diet should be recommended?
    Can a protein diet be given when the kidneys a re spilling proteins?
    And which source of proteins is the best for the kidneys?




    0



    0
  8. Hi, Dr. Greger, do you have any information about whether or not vegans who do weight training/muscle mass building type exercise are benefited by eating more protein or taking vegan protein supplements? And do you have any information on the effects of vegan protein supplements? I would think there would be some negative health effects since these supplements (protein powders) do not contain whole foods, but I’m very interested to see what researchers may have found. Thank you.




    0



    0
  9. Hi there,
    I’m working on a little project for family that is concerned about our protein intake. I would like to make a list of all the essential amino acids, what is necessary to metabolize them (fat soluble/water soluble, binding issues, etc.) and vegan sources of amino acids. Is there a place you can recommend I begin my research? Google does not bring up any scholarly resources I can use.

    Thanks




    0



    0
  10. Does vegetarianism/veganism also affect prealbumin levels? I am 95% plant-based (eat mostly veggies, tons of beans, lots of fruits and grains and a small amount of fish or dairy once/week) and my prealbumin level came back at 11 which concerned my doctor. Would consuming more plant-based protein increase my prealbumin level? If I am otherwise healthy and all other blood markers come back normal, do I need to be concerned?

    Thank you!




    0



    0
    1. Leslie,

      Perhaps starting off with a quote is in order: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/prealbumin/tab/test/

      Until recently, the prealbumin test was believed to be a useful marker of nutritional status and was used to help detect and diagnose protein-calorie malnutrition as well as to monitor people receiving total parenteral nutrition (TPN, getting nutrition via a solution injected into a vein). It was also used to monitor changes in nutritional status in someone undergoing hemodialysis as part of treatment for kidney disease.

      Some health practitioners continue to use the test in this manner; however, there is controversy because changes in prealbumin may actually reflect other conditions such as inflammation, infection, or trauma. As such, it has been suggested by some health professionals that the prealbumin test should no longer be used to assess nutritional status or diagnose malnutrition. However, others believe that the test can be useful in determining prognosis for people who are critically ill, hospitalized, and/or at risk of poor outcomes and can prompt nutritional and other support that may improve patient outcomes.”

      Even way back in 2005…. it was questioned as being an indicator of nutritional status in really ill folks https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2823053/

      Typically as a vegan/vegetarian you should, especially with your description of your diet, be getting adequate protein. I would look at the whole of your tests and then have someone do some further interpretation. You can do a quick check of your protein level intake by using the nutritionfacts.com calculator. I suspect your probably going to find your fine both medically and in terms of your protein intake, but it never hurts to double check.

      I suspect your albumin levels are normal ? Did you fast prior to the blood testing or have any changes to your diet just prior to the tests ? Let your physician know the answers to these questions and have him/her check your liver function, including GGTP not just AST/ALT….. these are common tests.

      Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger




      0



      0
  11. I also have a low platelet count on a vegen diet ive been on it for a year and my alt is elevated and my glucose is 113 but my a1c is 5.1




    0



    0
  12. I recently had a Urea Nitrogen, 24-Hour Urine test to check my protein. The results came back at 8 flagging it ‘LOW’. Normal should be in the 12-20 range. I have been told frequently that I am malnourished in protein. However, I have been a vegetarian since 1990, tried to go Vegan for a few months and was told I messed my gallbladder up and had to have it removed. I am now going Vegan again and feeling great! I wondered if there were different standards as it relates to the normal range for a Vegan or Vegetarian vs the normal Meat Eater. My doctor wants to see me next week Friday and I’d like to have some information on this before he tries to once again tell me it’s because I don’t eat meat. I will never eat meat again, plain and simple. I eat so many veggies and I do add tofu and other vegetarian meat alternatives, as well as beans & legumes to my diet. I feel very healthy. Your thoughts? Thank you so much.




    1



    0
  13. Hi Mary and thanks for the interesting question. Low protein intake is one possible cause of low urine urea nitrogen, but there are others. To verify low protein is the problem, its best to weigh your food and keep a food log for a few weeks to see how much your protein you’re actually ingesting. You can then bring these calculations to your physician and have an informed discussion as to what needs to be corrected.

    I noticed that you mentioned “vegetarian meat alternatives” which could include eggs and dairy. Dr. Greger consistently recommends avoiding animal derived foods, so it would be best to eat vegan meat alternatives. One thing to keep in mind is that these “alternatives” are often highly processed with significant amounts of sodium and added fat. Your best source of protein, as you already listed, is whole foods like beans and legumes.

    Thanks for reading!
    Dr. Ben




    1



    0
    1. I too had my blood tested in a study I participated in and they flagged me as having too low of BUN (5 mg/dL–their range is 8-22 mg/dL).

      I tried to do a vegan diet for a couple of months but had to stop–I started developing this awful vertigo, where just standing would make me feel woozy. I started eating meat again and the vertigo went away. However, I did stay completely off of dairy, and I make it a point to have at least 1 vegan meal per day. I’ve also lowered the amount of meat/eggs I have per serving and make sure I have an abundance of vegetables. I also eat a lot of peanut butter.

      So do you think it could be that I just have low protein in my diet as well?




      0



      0
      1. Without a lot of additional info I wouldn’t know. There are a lot of things that can cause vertigo. Inadequate caloric intake is one. You’d really need to keep a complete food log for awhile along with an account of your daily activities, all prior to development of the vertigo. Your best strategy would be to appoint with a doctor for exam/consult that is very familiar with WFPB lifestyle.




        0



        0
  14. I’m glad to see that maybe the higher blood protein levels are due to reduced inflammation, because I was afraid that maybe taking in less protein in the diet was causing the body to “eat” its muscles for protein. I realize there are a lot of vegan weightlifters, but I also noticed I’m eating a lot less when I eat a vegan diet, as opposed to the vegetarian one I’ve been following for 26 years. My blood tests from February and July show an increase in protein that doesn’t logically make sense. I didn’t want to put my theory about eating muscle out into the world and then have someone latch onto it to “prove” this diet is dangerous to your health. I know a lot of times a theory gets presented as fact, and I didn’t want to add to the misinformation. The inflammation explanation is probably correct, since I also have normal cholesterol levels that I haven’t seen in my entire adult life. Maybe “God” should have stopped talking after we were told to eat from the trees.




    0



    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This