By: Mark Hegsted of New England Regional Primate Research Center, Harvard University
If we are in protein balance-a state where the body is not losing any more protein than it is taking in-we are said to be getting all the protein we need. False. We have to look at other measures. We must look at the overall measure of health. When most of my clients first come to see me, they are eating around 50 grams of protein per day. At that amount, they are not losing muscle mass. But when they increase that to 100 grams per day they feel much better. This is not because they were not in protein balance-they were, but now their protein supply is more optimal and therefore they are healthier. If you were given $100 per week to live on and you could, and that was all you spent, someone might conclude that was all you needed because you were in fiscal balance. But life could be better, even though you could stay in financial balance at that low an amount. Now suppose you were given $1,000 per week. You would again be in balance, but the quality of your life would be greatly enhanced. So it is with protein. By looking only at balance studies, we have decided that is the only thing that counts. Nutrition experts use protein to balance and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. We must therefore think far beyond mere protein balance if we want to find the amount of protein needed for optimal health.