Popular Thinking About Animal Protein

Topic: What factors have shaped popular thinking about animal protein, and why might Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s ideas be so shocking?

As Dr. Campbell pointed out, his findings went against his own initial thinking about protein and its role in human nutrition. He believed in protein’s importance (the lecture states it has been considered the most important nutrient for a long time) and that high quality protein was synonymous with animal protein. He himself considered dairy milk “nature’s perfect food”. His colleagues had and have these same viewpoints, but without the firsthand experience of performing studies involving animal and plant protein for 27 years. It is difficult to reject a belief you have held to be true your entire life and it will likely take many more studies conducted by different people to get these views to change.

For the general population, we hear how important lean meats and low-fat dairy are to our health and weight control mainly because of their protein content. The government’s food guidelines throughout the years demonstrate this. We as a public were taught that plant protein is inferior because it is not a complete protein and thus lower quality. We used to be told you had to consume certain combinations of plants together in order for your body to process them. Fortunately this was proven not to be true1, but many people still believe it is. In addition, low carbohydrate diets like Atkins continue to promote meat-centric diets, confusing the public further.


1Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets. JADA, 2003; 103(6) 748 – 765.


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