Vegan? But what about protein!?
A very real concern of my own when I decided to venture into a meatless world. But now, I’m can only laugh at the question. What I’ve come to understand is if you’re eating a rainbow (variety of foods), a lack of protein will never be a health concern.
Ever heard of someone being hospitalized from a protein deficiency? Didn’t think so. That’s because unless you’re not eating enough calories, it’s nearly impossible to be malnourished from not enough protein.
This is just the beginning of the misconceptions about this praised macronutrient.
The Truth About Protein
To learn more about replacing meat with plants, I synced up with Dr. Garth Davis, who has three decades of experience in the medical industry and has seen patient after patient confused in how their health continues to decline after sticking to ‘healthy’ American diet. As Dr. Garth noticed the same toll on his own health, he took it upon himself to do the research and in the process dispels the many myths that have been perpetuated by doctors, weight loss experts, and the media.
After reviewing thousands of science-backed studies, he’s come to discover how protein really should be incorporated into our diet. He has the success to prove it through his own experience and in implementing his finding with his patients. So what did he discover? Dr. Garth claims that protein is not the answer, it’s the problem. And he lays it all out in his new book, Proteinaholic.
Enjoy our discussion as we bite into the juicy truth about protein:
Dr. Garth. Thanks for your call. Thanks for making time.
I first heard about you from the Rich Roll Podcast. That was when I was starting to just lean more towards a plant-based diet anyway, and so he came on with the radar.
I’ve been doing these series of 30-day challenges, and I decided to start crafting them into a podcast. My first one is I’m going to just go try being vegan for 30 days, document the experience, interview people on both sides of the coin, have some experience, have something to say about the matter, and then just deliver my results at the end, and people can do what they want with them.
That’s my intention with trying to get a hold of you and wanting to hear about what you have to say, because just looking into you a tiny bit, I’ve just been super impressed with your background, your experience, and you have quite a bit to say on the matter.
Yes [chuckles]. That I do.
Thank you for the time. How would you introduce yourself? What are you up to these days?
My name is Dr. Garth Davis, I mainly do weight loss surgery now for 15 years I guess, so I’ve helped a lot of people lose weight. I started out with just surgery, but then I kind of transformed to doing surgery and just diet to help people lose weight. I’ve also started concentrating on people that have had weight loss surgery but couldn’t lose weight and helping them with diet. So I’ve had a lot of experience with what works and what doesn’t in the media and diet world.
I’ve put people on every kind of diet imaginable. I used to be pretty big on Atkins and high-protein diets, and of course now, I’ve totally changed.I totally changed because at one point, I started to ask myself, “Why are we so sick as a country? Why are we so overweight?”
At that time, I was overweight. My cholesterol level was high, and so I really started doing a lot of research which led to the writing of the book, Proteinaholic, and a total change in the way I treat my patients and the way I treat myself and my family.
Yeah. Are you still running that large surgical and medical clinic down there in Houston?
You’re still doing that?
Everyday is a busy day.
Is a busy day. But you’re still trying to transition more into – I think you’re a big believer in the sage wisdom of Hippocrates that food should be our medicine and medicine should be our food.Yes. My big thing with the surgery now is that it’s a tool, but the most important thing is how you eat and what you eat. The focus of my treatment – the surgery is like a one-day event, but treating patients hopefully forever, helping them transition over to a better diet.
Nice. I want to talk about more how you work closely with patients in a sec, but what I love about your story is that you went through medical school, so you have this medical industry. You’ve been in for 15 years now, probably a little longer including medical school.
Yeah. Including medical school, residency, it’s about a long time.
Over a couple of decades.
Yeah around 25 to 30 years.
Yeah, and then you went and did an enormous amount of research for your book, citing thousands of original studies. You have this combined medical, pathological, plus this scientific physiological perspective on diet and nutrition, which seems to be pretty rare that someone has that kind of perspective. Plus, as well as your own experience with being overweight and a proteinaholic yourself and then making a radical transformation in your health.
How did that transformation come about?
It started when I was going to get a life insurance policy because I was having my first child. I was 35-years old. Now, I’m 46. My test came back that I couldn’t get the best grading for the life insurance policy, which I thought was crazy because I thought I was healthy. It turned out I had high liver function test, I was hypertensive, and I had high cholesterol.
At the same time, I was feeling pretty ill. @5:00min I had a lot of GI issues. I was feeling weak, and my belly was getting bigger, my arms skinnier. I just felt weak and tired all the time. That really got me thinking about do I know – in the meantime, I was almost in a position of hypocrisy whereby I’m telling people how to lose weight and be healthy, and yet I’m not thin and I’m not healthy.
While I know everything there is to know about weight loss surgery, what do I know about what had led people into needing my services, and are my services enough or does it need to go further? And so that really started me on a very in-depth study of obesity and of diets, what’s the best way to eat, and that just kind of evolved to the more I read, the more I feel that a plant-based diet is the best diet for a human being.
So you dove into all sorts of studies, spread over multiple countries, took you multiple years. What I love about your work is like Dr. Greger, Founder of NutritionFacts, you trace back to the source of who’s writing the study, did they have an agenda, was there a financial motivation behind there, which I’m sure contributes to most of the confusion about protein and our American diet in general. For the average Joe like myself, how do you go about deciphering those studies?
I go through that in the book, but it’s really hard to do. I think the internet’s been great because it brings us information, but the problem is the information is not UNCLEAR@ 6:50. There’s too much information out there, and if you don’t have a scientific background – the thing is there’s an article that say everything out there. I mean there’s an article that says eat nothing but meat. I mean there are all kinds of articles out there.
In the book, we use an analogy of nutritional science being like a picture with a whole bunch of pixels. You might look really, really close at that picture until you’re looking at one single pixel. That pixel may be orange, but you wouldn’t say the sky is orange. You’d say the sky is blue, but there are orange things in it.
Nutritional science is like that. There are these outlier studies that are out there that they might say something different than what I’m saying, but you have to look at them as part of a whole, complete picture of nutritional science.
In the book, what I try to do is I try to go through not just epidemiology, looking at a diet. I think epidemiology is important because if they’re going to say meat’s the best diet, well then you better show me the people that eat a whole bunch meat are long-lived and healthy, which you won’t be able to do. If you’re going to say that plants are the best diet, then you better show me the people that eat plants have long, healthy diets, and of course I could show you that.
But I don’t want to just do epidemiology. I also want to do UNCLEAR@ 8:10 trials. I went through those.
The other thing is I need a mechanism of action. If I say meat causes cancer, well, how does it cause cancer? If I don’t know how it causes cancer, that’s like me convicting a murder without a motive.
All of this, it really takes a complete look at the literature and benchtop research all the way to epidemiology to get a clear picture of nutritional science.
How does a lay person do that? I don’t know. I put a lot of hints as to what to do, like how to see if a study’s been funded, that’s all in the book.
You did. It’s insightful.
But it’s not easy.
Yeah. I like how you state right up the top that our challenge is to know what to do with all of this information and to differentiate what’s right from wrong.
With the power of internet, I think there’s a lot of people doing their own personal experiments. How do you give weight or validity to a nutritional study that’s based on a personal experience and maybe intuition versus –
I get zero.
I get zero personal studies. Again, I’ve done a lot of personal studies on myself.
The problem is you could lose weight any number of ways, and so these personal studies are like, “Oh, I lost 20 lbs.” If you lose weight, you’re going to feel better. You’re going to be healthier, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best way to lose weight. I mean bodybuilders may look like the picture of health, but they’re not. They die at a much earlier age.
And so there are these short-term “This is what I did, and I did great” @10:00min is not any way a proof of what’s best way to eat.
Yeah. I want to dive into the experience you have in your medical industry real quick before we get protein. Were you taught about food and diet in medical school?Oh, no. Not at all. I mean there was absolutely zero talk about food and diet in medical school.
That’s insane to me.
Yeah, I know. It’s bizarre. I think it’s probably changing now. I mean remember all the medical school in the early 1990s. I think it may be starting to change a bit. There’s a few medical schools, like Tulane has a cooking class now.
Nice.A few of the medical school are starting to talk about nutrition. The times have changed, but still, it’s ridiculous that UNCLEAR@ 10:44 that about 85% of the diseases that we have are lifestyle diseases, and yet, doctors are taught nothing about lifestyle.
Medical schools should be 85% lifestyle and nutrition and 15% surgery and medicines. It’s never going to be like UNCLEAR@ 11:07 for awhile.
Is it true that you were taught mostly to treat symptoms versus prevent disease?
Yeah. When I was in medical school, there was no talk about preventative disease. Even now, Western medicine, I’ve heard it called not healthcare but sick-care, and that’s basically what it is. We’re very good at taking care of people that are already sick, but we’re not very good at preventing people from getting sick.
When we talk about preventative care, we talk about mammograms and TSA, and that’s about it. That’s not prevention. That’s early diagnosis. Prevention would be not getting elevated TSA or cancer cell in the breast to begin with. We’re not taught that. It’s not really a focus of medicine at all.
Which when you go into a hospital, it’s almost what you expect now: just to be treated. What kind of reactions do you get when you approach a patient with health and diet versus just a prescription or surgery?
Mixed reactions. A lot of my patients come to me, and they’re desperate. They’ve tried a million different diets before, and they want some help. There are some people that are very open to a huge change in diet. I mean I have to explain to them that everything they’ve done is wrong, and if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you always got. So you have to make a huge change. People have a hard time creating a new habit.
I think people know now – I guess we kind of knew what lifestyle cause lung cancer and heart disease 20 years ago. Now, it seems that we’re much more knowledgeable about them. People know. They know they’re taking that stand because of bad habits. Before, we thought it was all genetic. Now, we know there are habits that are causing this. People have been a little bit more open to this kind of changing thought process and realizing that food is medicine.
Right. But I’m sure as the many systems that are in place, it’s going to take some time for it to really transform into a lifestyle-driven operation industry.
That’s because you’ve got all these medical students, graduating doctors every year, and those students are taught to face a disease. The thing is Western medicine is so sub-specialized now. You have a heart doctor, and all he’s thinking about is the heart. The lung doctor is always thinking about the lung. No one’s really thinking about the whole person.
It’s hard for a primary care doctor. You see a patient. He’s overweight, and he’s sick. You got 15 minutes with him, and he’s got heart disease and high cholesterol and diabetes. He’s there for you to fix him, and you have certain medicines that will help. They’re going to be a short-term solution, but that’s what you’re going to do because you only have 15 minutes. There’s no way you’re going to UNCLEAR@ 14:12 this guy’s life.
I’ve given lectures to groups of endocrinologists. We talked to them about how plant-based diet is fantastic for diabetes. They’re like, “Okay. Your science is pretty good, but listen, my patients are not going to go vegetarian. They’re just not going to. So I’m going to put them on medicines. That might be the case, but I’m going to ignore it because that just isn’t something the patients are ready for.” There’s almost this paternalistic view on Western medicine that people aren’t ready for changing. I kind of think they are now.
Nice. I’d imagine people would prefer that instant gratification of a surgery or some sort of prescription versus changing their lifestyle which takes discipline and hard work. That’s not what they’re coming in the hospital to do.
Right. We’re a society of @15:00min quick fixes. Nothing like a drug. They talk about these hacking, all these different ways to hack life. Well, drugs are a great hack. You could hack your high cholesterol just by taking a pill, but that’s not the best way to do it.
You touched on a really good point, though, that was frustrating for me just in the past couple of weeks. I have a hernia I’m trying to get fixed, and I have blood in my stool. I have no idea where it’s coming from. I feel like I have a bug in my gut from a recent trip to India. It’s just like I wish someone could take more of a holistic approach with my lifestyle and see if some things are correlated, but no. I’m sent from person to person depending on what I’m dealing with. It’d be really nice to see more of a holistic view of medicine.
Proteinaholic, brilliant name by the way. Love it! The subtitle which, for those who are listening, is How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. You walked through a really good historical snapshot of how we’ve become so obsessive over protein. Can you briefly walk through that? Why has meat been so praised?
There’s lots of things. Protein was discovered in the late 1800s. They found that whatever tissue they looked at, protein was there, and so protein got the name “protein” from a Greek derivative proteus meaning “very important.” And so the deduction then was “Well, protein is in all parts of our body, so therefore, we need lots of protein.”
In early studies done on how much protein we needed would look at workers that were working really hard and how much protein do they end up eating, and that must be what we need. Of course that’s kind of ridiculous. That’s not very scientific.
Through the years, there’s been all kinds of discussions about diet and things like that. There’s been a lot of debate. For instance, in the 1970s, the Senate had a committee that looked over the diet of America and decided we’re eating way too much meat, and that’s a problem. The meat industry of course went crazy over that. They also said we eat too much eggs and too much dairy, and so the dairy industry went crazy, and the egg industry went crazy. They got all those recommendations from the Senate selected committee… kind of taken away. The only remaining advice was eat less fat.
That kind of started off this whole eat less fat, eat more carbs, so people weren’t eating SnackWell’s. We’re sort of having low-carb versus low-fat debate. The whole time that we have low-carb versus low-fat debate, there was one macronutrient that’s raising itself up to this status of it might be fats, it might be carbs, but it’s certainly not protein. And yet, the whole time, it may actually be the protein, the worst of the macronutrients, which is like heresy, but it may in fact be true.
Very interesting. Let’s dive into protein a little more. Plant protein versus meat protein. Let’s compare protein that comes from my garden, pesticide-free, and the meat that comes from the game from my elk-hunting trip yesterday. Assuming both are just free from pesticides, no antibiotics, just pure, natural goodness, is there a difference between animal and plant protein?
Yeah, there definitely is. There are several things. Every time you eat a meat, it doesn’t matter if it’s game meat or what – game meat’s going to be better than obviously the…
Cow that’s been eating the corn and given antibiotics and all the hormones in it, but game meat still has hormones in it. People seem to miss this. I love the fact that people are like, “Oh, I don’t want to drink soy milk because it’s got phytoestrogens.” I’m like, “Oh my god. The milk you drink is filled with estrogen, and the meat you eat, these animals have hormones in them.” Those hormones do get transferred to us.
The other thing that happens when you eat meat is you take in – animals have bacteria in them. While you could kill the bacteria when you cook them, the bacteria and toxins called endotoxins, which are in their muscle cells – when you eat their muscle, you will intake their endotoxins, and that will cause a rise in inflammation.
On top of that, when you grill any protein, it will denature and form something called heterocyclic amines. Heterocyclic amines are very carcinogenic. On top of that, no matter where you get your animal protein from, it will stimulate IGF, one which is a hormone that has been linked with cancer. Animal meat will have heme iron in it, which is extremely oxidizing and can create all kinds of disease processes.
@20:00min I can go on and on as I do in the book. There’s Neu-5-GC. There’s thermal resistant virus. There are so many things that are in it now.
The other thing that people don’t understand, the actual amino acid makeup of an animal protein is somewhat different than the amino acid of a plant protein. People will say, “Oh, plant protein is inferior because it doesn’t have the same amino acids,” but in fact, it may be superior because it has different amino acids.
For instance, animal protein is very high in leucine. We now know that leucine stimulates in the human system, something called mTOR, the mammalian target of rapamycin, which is a pathway that’s going to create cellular problems, including cancer and cell death that could lead to aging.
Meanwhile, plant-based proteins are very high in something called glutamic acid, and glutamic acid actually gets broken down into glutathione, and it’s a very strong antioxidant and very good at hypertension. They think the reason plant-based diets are so great with hypertension maybe is that plants have a higher glutamic amino acid, and meats don’t.
And then meat is very high on methionine. Cancer cells absolutely thrive on methionine. If you’ve got cancer, one of the best things you could do is to not eat any meat so you could starve them UNCLEAR@ 21:24.
There’s a whole bunch of things different between an animal protein and a plant protein.
Wow. That was very enlightening, especially in a place like Portland, Oregon, where everyone prides themselves of free-range cattle and grass-fed beef, all that stuff. Mostly just marketing jargon I guess.
Yeah, definitely marketing jargons. There is some benefit. You could look at certain places where people do have long lives, and they eat meat, like for instance in Iceland. They eat a lot of lamb. Their lamb at the time have very high omega-3, and higher omega-3 is going to cause less inflammation. If you look at our omega-6 to omega-3 in America, it’s 15:1 or 20:1, and it’s supposed to be 4:1. It gets closer to 4:1 if you’re in Iceland because even the meat you’re eating is high in omega-3.
But they’re still not healthier than a Seventh-day Adventist vegan who will live much longer than Icelandic person. So I think those things are healthier, but they’re not the healthiest.
What was that study that looks into the healthiest cultures in the world?
The Blue Zones?
Blue Zone, that’s right. What was the conclusion of that?
They looked at the National Geographic study, and they looked around the world. They were looking for the most UNCLEAR@ 22:48 areas, so the cultures that have the most people living over 100. They found five places. It was Okinawa, Sardinia, like the hills of Sardiniana or Sardinia, a small island called Icaria, which is kind of an interesting island. They call it “the island that forgot to die.” People live forever. The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica and the Seventh-day Adventists.
They try to extrapolate what – all these cultures are dynamically different, which is great. You are a whole bunch of different cultures, so you could try to say, “What is common amongst all of them?” There were several things that were common. Strong social structures, the people as they age still had a purpose. They weren’t put into a nursing home. They were still active. They didn’t smoke, but a plant-based diet was a very big part of it.
When I say “plant-based,” it wasn’t vegan or vegetarian but the majority of what they ate. I always hear people say, “Oh, the Okinawans, they eat meat. So meat’s great.” The Okinawans, literally, they eat pork once every two weeks. I’m talking about the traditional Okinawan diet. Obviously it’s changed now. The traditional Okinawan diet is 85% carbohydrate mainly from sweet potatoes. That’s the vast majority of what they eat.
All of the Blue Zones eat a lot of legumes. They’re definitely a big part of the diet. When you look at the Blue Zones, probably the healthiest people of all the Blue Zones were the Seventh-day Adventists. If you look at the Seventh-day Adventists, UNCLEAR@ 24:22 health studies have been really interesting because they’ve been able to follow thousands of people over many years, and all the Seventh-day Adventists are somewhat the same in that they don’t smoke, they exercise, and they kind of believe that the body’s the temple of the soul and should be treated that way.
But some do eat meat. Some don’t eat meat but will eat fish. Some won’t eat any animal but will eat milk and dairy. And then some are vegan. They’ve been able to follow vegan versus lacto, ovo-vegetarian, versus pescatarian, versus meat eater. They found that the less animal products you do, the better no matter what you’re looking at @25:00min (heart disease, diabetes, weight, longevity), with the only exception being in some of those categories, pescatarians do really well. But vegans are always the healthiest.
Along the same lines, you definitely delve into a bunch of studies that compared meat eaters and no-meat, vegan-diet eaters. What were the commonalities in those studies?
The studies are hard to look at because what is a vegan in the end? A lot of the studies, when they’re looking at vegan, they’re looking at ethical vegans. Ethical vegans really don’t care what they’re eating. They’re eating tofu patties. I think tofu’s fine, but the processed meats and the vegan – Oreos are vegan.
And so for instance, in the Ethic Oxford Studies, they took some pretty healthy meat eaters, certainly much healthier than the average English person. They didn’t eat a lot of meat either. They eat some meat. UNCLEAR@ 26:04 people that ate meat but no vegetables, so the group they’re looking at are meat eaters that ate vegetables and didn’t eat that much meat. They were comparing them to vegans.
Again, those vegans, a lot of them, when they looked at these vegans closer, they didn’t get a huge amount of fiber. For me, why I use the term plant-based, I want people eating 35-40 grams of fiber. These vegans were eating 21-22 grams. A lot them weren’t taking B12 supplements. A lot of them weren’t even getting 500 milligrams of calcium. It wasn’t the healthiest vegan group, but it was the healthiest meat eater group. Yet still, when they compared them for heart disease and cancer, the vegan group did better in just about every category.
Wild. I mean not wild. It makes total sense. Plants are nutritionally packed. They have protein in them. Is there such thing as a protein deficiency? Is that possible?
There is such thing as a protein calorie deficiency, but I’m not sure there’s such thing as a – I certainly have never seen someone who eats adequate amount of calories and is protein deficient.
Okay. From eating straight fruit –
If you’re not eating the calories in general, that’s different. You see a starving person or these kids in Ethiopia with large bellies and with skinny arms and legs. That’s called kwashiorkor. That’s a protein calorie deficiency.
How about if I’m eating fruits and veggies that are pretty low in protein, but that’s all I’m eating?
There are lots of fruitarians out there who are eating mainly fruits. If you think about there’s a lot of animals that eat mainly fruits, if you think about apes, and they’ll eat plants and fruits and maybe some bugs and occasionally a chimp that eats a smaller monkey, but it’s very rare. They’re mainly eating plants, so they definitely have a preference towards fruits.
A fruit itself is very healthy. It does have amino acids in it, so it’s not like you’re not getting any amino acids.
Our bodies are actually pretty amazing because we’re constantly cycling the over cells ourselves. When you turn over a cell, you release into the bloodstream amino acid, so we have this kind of labile supply of amino acid that we could recycle.
It’s kind of interesting to me that there’s a lot of athletes and people that I know that have turned to very high fruit diet and perform exceedingly well. I certainly haven’t met a fruitarian that has shown any signs of protein deficiency. Possibly, I guess there could be these ridiculous people who takes all this stuff to the extreme where they eat nothing but fruit or nothing but strawberries or God knows what, then maybe we would see problems in that situation. I certainly wouldn’t condone that activity, but I’ve never seen a problem with a fruitarian.
How about an over consumption of protein regardless if it’s coming from animals or plants?
I would imagine there would be a problem, especially when you start looking at the aging literature because there’s a lot of studies with the aging literature. The big thing with aging was calorie restriction at the beginning, but now, they’re starting to see that maybe it’s not calorie restriction. Maybe it’s amino acid restriction, and so restricting amino acids like leucine may help with aging. Of course this is a new science, and there needs to be a lot more born of it.
I have not seen a lot of studies about plant protein excess and a problem with plant protein. It’s like most of the articles I encountered @30:00min that clearly showed there was a problem with animal protein did not seem to feel that there was a problem with plant protein. I would imagine that there could be an excess, but there hasn’t been a good study shown.
What’s your strategy? Just eat a rainbow and don’t worry about it?
I never sit there and think how many protein and how many carbs. I just think, “Did I get dark green leaves? Did I get some beans? Did I have a handful of nuts? Did I get some fruits, a whole fruit? Did I get some berries, nuts?” That’s kind of my daily thing.
Do you ever do a food log to check in?
No. I may have done a few food log a couple of times just to experimentally see what I’m doing. I think I averaged like 60 or 70 grams of protein.
Nice. You’re vegan right now. Is that correct?
How long have you been a vegan?
I don’t even know. It’s such a gradual transition from vegetarian to vegan. I’ve probably been vegan two or three years I guess.
The terms “vegetarian,” “vegan,” I just don’t think about them. I certainly don’t want to eat an animal. I don’t even think of eating flesh. I certainly don’t eat flesh. I’m at a restaurant. I told them no cheese, and UNCLEAR@ 31:24 cheese gets in my salad, and it gets in my mouth. I’m not going to bother.
Sure. Makes sense.
There’s been gradual transitions of when I eat out and there’s cheese, I won’t say anything, and then they’re asking for no cheese but not caring if there’s cheese there. They’re just starting to care, and so it’s been a gradual transition towards pretty much a vegan diet.
Nice. I actually tried to go keto for 30 days. I did do it shortly before going vegan, and I was a huge advocate for it. It does made a lot of sense to me that with the convenience of grocery stores these days, we don’t give our body a chance to use that stored fat for energy, hence putting your metabolism in a ketogenic state.
What’s up with keto? Would you ever recommend someone doing that temporarily or long-term at all?
No. I mean I’ve put people on keto diets. We actually put people on keto diets quite often right before surgery because it’ll shrink the liver. The ketogenic response is an emergency response the body has to get UNCLEAR@ 32:38 get in fasting.
The paleo diet has done a lot of good UNCLEAR@ 32:45 made people start to consider natural foods and has people not eating dairy and not eating junk food. It’s good, but some of the paleo stuff was just pure fantasy, like this idea that paleo man was eating three squares a day loaded with protein. It’s just complete myth. It’s a complete myth that paleo man was eating a UNCLEAR@ 33:14 diet. That just wasn’t the case.
While they may have been in ketosis when they were starving, they certainly get one or few ketosis, and they probably got most of their food from gathering, not from hunting. They were gathering probably carbs.
In fact, there’s been some pretty good evidence that our brains got larger not because of meat consumption. They’re just kind of strange, but I don’t know where people get this idea that our brains grew and evolved because of meat consumption because that clearly is not –
All the studies that I’ve looked at in, some of the top people like UNCLEAR@ 33:49 have looked at this pretty closely and found that, actually, the one thing that was really calorie-dense that was able to get enough calories to grow our brains were probably the gathering of roots and tubers and bulbs, like potatoes and onions were what really helped us grow our brains. UNCLEAR@ 34:14
If you look at a lot of the studies with high-proteins diets UNCLEAR@ 34:20, while people do lose weight, they then will feel pretty sick, then they tend to be losing weight not because of any kind of special thing that happens when you’re in ketosis, etc. The ketones make you not that hungry, make you a little bit nauseous. They end up eating less calories when there’s less choice of food, and so you end up eating less calories.
Every study that has looked at varying macronutrients, whether you’re in ketosis or whether you’re in a high-carb diet, it all comes down to how many calories you’re eating, so eating less calories.
The other thing when you’re in ketosis, you’re eating up your glycogen stores, which is why you feel pretty UNCLEAR@ 34:57. @35:00min And glycogen is stored with water, so you’re losing a lot of water when you’re low UNCLEAR@ 35:03 glycogen stores, and so that’s going to be a big reason you lose weight too.
When you look at some of the studies that have gone on higher protein diets, you’ll find out that their C-reactive protein, which is a measure of inflammation, will go up, and urinary cortisol levels will go up, which is a stress hormone response. You’re basically putting your body into a stress-response system. Not to mention if you’re going to avoid carbs, you’re going to end up eating the meats, and the meats have all those things we talked about before (increasing IGF UNCLEAR@ 35:33, increasing heme iron). I just find it to be a very unnatural state for the human body.
The human body, if you look at our biochemistry, if you look at the way our cells run, if you look at the Kreb’s cycle, our cells are running on carbs. Our body is best fueled by carbs, and so I think people ought to be eating a high-carb, not a low-carb diet.
Yeah. You mentioned in your book carbs are not the enemy. They’re actually the source of energy and staples for the diets.
Yeah. They’re fantastic source of energy. That’s why runners load up with carbs before they do marathons. They’re hitting the walls when you depleted your glycogen source, and if you keep your glycogen –
The other thing that other people don’t understand, it’s almost physiologically impossible for your body to take carb, like a potato, and turn it to fat. It’s almost impossible. It’s called de novo lipogenesis.
The only way your body will turn a carb to fat is if your glycogen stores are saturated, which means you’ve eaten a crap load of carbs. I mean a ton. Now, you’re eating extra carbs and you’re eating more calories than you burn. You’re basically eating a high-calorie, extremely high-carb content. Finally, your body will turn carbs to fat, but in order to do that, it has to burn energy. So it’s an energy-burning process to turn carbs to fat. It’s very difficult for your body to turn carbs into fat.
When it comes to protein synthesis, doesn’t it need carbs to do its job?
If you’re talking about building muscle, like after you work out – this is a big thing about nutrition after a workout – certainly there’s been some studies showing that higher protein levels will increase muscle protein synthesis. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be stronger, bigger UNCLEAR@ 37:24. I talk about this in the book, like studies on either side of that.
The one thing that has been shown is it’s not just the protein that you need; it’s also the carbs. If you don’t replete your glycogen stores, that’s going to be your body’s main concern, and protein may actually go to a pathway called gluconeogenesis where your body generates carbs out of protein in order to replenish its glycogen stores.
Glycogen repletion is one of the most important things after exercise and activity. The going recommendation now is four carbs to every gram of protein after I exercise.
Interesting. You run marathons, right?
I do, yeah.
What do you do after a 26-mile run?
I eat a lot of fruit.
A lot of fruit?
Yeah. As soon as I get in – I love bananas, and then I usually go for UNCLEAR@ 38:20.
The one thing I love about my diet is it doesn’t cycle or change. It’s the same thing every day. I don’t have to carb load before, and I don’t have to eat a bunch of protein after. I just always eat what I always eat. Oatmeal and berries for breakfast. A big salad, potato, beans for lunch. Apple and some almonds for a snack. Veggies, stir fry with tofu for dinner. Something like that. There’s nothing special or changed. I eat pretty much the same every day.
Have you beat your personal marathon record? I think you wrote in your book is that.
Every year, I’m going faster. Before 2009, I never did anything. Not even a 5k. My first marathon was 356. My most recent one was 335, which was a year ago, and I think I’m pretty much ready for a 325 now.
We’ll see at the end of the summer.
You’re a busy man now. You got a lot going on. You got a family. That must be hard to try fit in training for this.
Yeah. Getting in the training was tough. I only run 3 days a week, so I’m not one of these high-volume runners. What’s been amazing is I could run 3 days a week and still continuously, despite getting older, despite going over the 45 hump, and still get faster and still get stronger, leaner. I’ve never been healthier than I am at this moment. That’s for sure.
Nice! That’s awesome to hear. I am a bit inspired by you and some other people to pick up some long-distance running. I’m 26 and I have more time on my hands than I’ll ever have. @40:00min I figure now’s the time to get involved in something like that just to give it a shot. What would you recommend as far as just getting involved with that? Just start running?
First of all, get involved with something you enjoy doing. I like running because, to me, it’s very easy. You get out and go do the run. There’s very fixed goals, so it’s easier to make goals. I love triathlons, but you got to have time to really train for the triathlons. I’ve done quite a few of that Ironman, but I’ve kind of lately just been focusing on running, and I do CrossFit.
I think the one thing I would do, don’t just run. I would do something else and lift weights too. Doing some resistance training, especially at your age, is really important.
There’s a great book. Again, I love to have scientific studies. Furman University did some scientific studies on the best way to train for a marathon, and I came up with this book called Run Fast and Run Shorter? I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s Furman University.
Furman University, okay.
If you put Furman University and marathon, you’ll find it. It’s a great plan. That book is fantastic. I’ve used that plan and just got faster and faster. What it does is kind of use some tempo runs and some interval training and long runs and kind of combines them all together. I think it’s a pretty healthy way to train.
Nice! I’ll take a look at that. I just had a quick Google. I think it’s called Run Less, Run Faster.
That’s it. Run Less, Run Faster.
Awesome. Switching gears for a sec, before I went vegan, I did a gut bacteria test through the company, uBiome. After 30 days of going vegan, I did a follow up test. Still waiting to see what the results are and see if there’s any differences. From your studies, have you noticed any sort of gut differences between omnivores and herbivores?
Oh, yeah. Huge! Humongous. They did a great study within nature that showed that if you took a meat eater and made them vegetarian, in just a week, their whole gut bacteria changes and vice versa. If you take a vegetarian and give them meat, their whole gut bacteria changes. That might be a big reason a vegetarian diet is so healthy for you, because these high fiber –
It’s one thing that people go and take probiotics, because if you take a probiotic and yet continue to eat things that will kill off the bacteria in your system or don’t feed the bacteria in your system, you’re going to kill off the probiotics. And so there’s a huge difference between the bowel bacteria of a vegetarian and a meat eater.
What’s really fascinating is there’s been a bunch of studies in the fact that if you eat carnitine, it could turn into a substance called TMAO. TMAO has been very tied and very linked to heart disease and cancers.
You said that was carnitine?
Carnitine, yeah. It’s been very linked to heart disease and cancer. The interesting thing is that if you gave carnitine to a vegetarian, they don’t necessarily develop TMAO. They’re not sure why that is, but what they think it is is the bowel bacteria because if you give a meat eater a certain antibiotic and then give them carnitine, they don’t form TMAO. Basically, vegetarians have a bowel flora that won’t turn carnitine into this very toxic TMAO derivative.
There’d definitely a huge difference in the bowel bacteria and the health of the bowel in a vegetarian versus a meat eater.
Wild. What other medical tests or data logging would you recommend for me to do for ongoing dietary experiments?
If you’re doing an experiment and you want to see the reaction, the thing UNCLEAR@ 43:55 inflammatory markers. If you got a lab, take a look at your inflammatory markers like IL-18 and IL-16 to see if they react to protein. I just got to say that a lot of labs don’t check that stuff, and so I don’t know that you’ll be able to find those kind of things.
You want to make sure you’re getting the necessary multivitamins and minerals, so with my patients, I’ll check vitamin D, B12, B1, zinc, these kind of things that we commonly see are deficient.
I think lipids are important to keep track of if you have any problems with them, if they’re high or not. Have iron studies to make sure, both, that you have enough and that you don’t have too much, because too much iron can be really bad for you.
Interesting. BMI, probably an obvious one.
Yeah. BMI is an okay measure. It’s certainly something that we use a lot for research because it’s easily translatable, but probably more important is hip-to-waist ratio.
@45:00min You want to measure around your belly button and then around your hips, and you don’t want your belly to be bigger than your hips, which is what you see with the big beer bellies.
Interesting. Diet aside, do you have any lifestyle suggestions for just a healthier overall life?
I go through lots of stuff with patients. I look at a whole section of it in the book. There are so many different things. When people are making transitions, I think journaling is really important and very helpful to journal what you’re eating because we eat so subconsciously, making that element of change is really important.
I tend to like people to eat at schedules times. I’m not big on grazing. Not that that I think if you’re grazing on fruits, it would be a problem, or vegetables. But when people start grazing, they tend to eat junk food. And so I tell my patients to have very set times when you try to eat at the same time every day.
I like four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. If you eat at those exact same times and you know it’s 2:00 and your snack time’s at 3:00, and you’re kind of hungry but you’re not going to go eat anything until 3:00, that kind of prevents you from doing this mindless just reach in for chips or reach in for whatever.
Yeah. There’s a great book on that called Savor.
It’s called Savor, just about mindful eating. I think Thich Nhat Hanh.Yeah, mindful eating is huge. I think mindful eating is really important.
I don’t like people counting anything. I think that messes people up but just eating a whole food diet. If people have a hard time, UNCLEAR@ 46:36 it’s like, “Oh my god. I’ll eat salads, but I don’t really like that. What I really like is meat and I love my cheeseburgers,” I have them take a picture of themselves that they don’t like and then surrounded by pictures of what they usually eat. It’s somewhere where they see it every day, so then they get this kind of idea that “If I eat this, it’s going to get bad.”
Likewise, take a picture of what your goals are – crossing finish line in a marathon – and then surround that with pictures of fruits and vegetables, so that you can get an idea that “These colorful pictures or these colorful foods are going to lead towards my goal,” and then you’ll start to crave those things, just like I crave vegetables all the time.
Are you still working with Kristina from Rawfully Organic to do the pharmacy meds?
No. We tried to do that pharmacy when we were doing prescriptions. That became kind of difficult because of the change of her website, and so we’re trying to do something different at her hospital now. We’re trying to shift the whole pharmacy program, so I haven’t been working with her lately.
Yeah, sweet. I love her message and I loved your guys’ ideas as far as describing a box of veggies and fruits. It’s brilliant.
Yeah, I love it. I love it. I love the whole concept. We’re trying to make it even bigger.
Nice. I want to be respectful of your time. I’ve got one more question. If you could replace every “Got Milk?” billboard in the world, what would you say?G
If I could do what?
“If you could replace every ‘Got Milk?’ billboard.”
Oh, “Every ‘Got Milk?’ billboard.” Gosh. “Got fiber?”
[Laughs] You think that’s what we’re mostly deficient in?
Yeah. If you look at the UNCLEAR@ 48:19 look at what people eat, we’re ridiculously deficient in fiber. The idea of talking about protein is just so ridiculous because we’re not even close to deficient. We’re over consuming protein, and we’re not even coming close to consuming enough fiber. There’s been so many studies showing the benefits of fiber consumption. So yeah, “Got fiber?” would be the answer there.
Awesome. You elaborate on everything that we’ve mentioned in your book and some and plain more. It’s chock-full with good stuff. Are there any big misconceptions that I didn’t touch on that you would like people to reconsider or just think about?
You touched on a lot. In the book, I just really go into the – to me, the central misconception is this idea that we need a lot of protein. Actually, that has driven people into just very, very bad diets and idea that we need high protein in order to survive and thrive. It’s just blatantly not true, and I think I proved that pretty well in the book.
You do. Thank you, Dr. Garth. I really appreciate your time to share your wisdom. I would highly recommend your book to anybody interested, who might consider themselves a proteinaholic. I sure am. I don’t even know if I have converted yet, but I see the light, and you do an amazing job revealing the truth about protein, overall diet, how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, I think you have a lot of tools and resources and just sharing your knowledge transparently to enable anyone to get to know their own body better @50:00min and discover their own ideal diet.
I’m a big believer that everyone’s system is different, and they need to experiment and see what works best for them. Frankly, it seems like you’re on the way to figuring out the ultimate human diet.
I hope so.
I think there’s a lot of people who will have their lives transformed by the work you’ve done, so thank you.
All right. Thank you very much. Nice talking to you.
Hey, how do people find you?
I’m on Facebook at Dr. Garth Davis.
Oh, you post such good stuff on there. I just saw that video of a short film of a group of students or something, but they took what the dairy industry would be like if we replace the cows with females.
Yeah, that video is tough to watch.
Yeah, it just makes you… I think these images are important because people are always like, “It must be hard to eat the way you eat.” It’s not hard at all. My brain now, after seeing videos and stuff like that, I can’t even fathom drinking a glass of milk. I couldn’t deal not just what’s in it for my health standpoint but UNCLEAR@ 51:14 environmental standpoint that I know from an ethical standpoint about the cruelty involved. I don’t want to drink a glass of milk that equals this cruel treatment of the cows.
Yeah. True that. It’s been a really enlightening experience. I first just dove in because I was interested in the health concerns of meat and quickly just peeling back layer and layer of the ethical environmental side of just a vegan lifestyle and what the meat industry is doing. It’s pretty wild.
All right. Thank you, Dr. Garth. I really appreciate it.
No problem. Take care.
Yeah, you too. Bye-bye.
Animal vs Plant Protein Takeaways:
Below are a few excerpts from Dr. Garth’s new book, Proteinaholic addressing the differences between animal and plant protein and a vegan diet in general. Of course, these just skim the surface and are all backed by science-based studies he himself reviewed.
Animal protein is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer—the main killer of our time.
Animal meat, even fresh game from an elk hunt, is filled with that animal’s bacteria and hormones that cause inflammation in human bodies.
When many Americans get double the RDA of protein, which itself is roughly double our true requirement, it becomes a big problem.
Higher animal protein consumption is linked to poor mood, loss of mental concentration, and dementia.
Meat breaks down in the body to purines and uric acid. These substance cause gout, which can be an extremely painful arthritic condition.
We are poorly designed to eat animal protein; we do not handle acid nearly as well as carnivores, and our jaws, saliva, and intestines are better designed to consume plants and fruits.
Plant-based protein is not only abundant, it’s much better for you than animal protein and contain more than enough to support health needs.
Plant-based diets help protect against diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and premature death. That is just scratching the surface.
The most common [assertion is] that a vegan/ vegetarian diet is deficient in essential vitamins, which proves that it’s dangerous and unnatural. I find this myth ironic in the extreme, given that I run lab tests on thousands of meat eaters and most of them are extremely vitamin deficient.
Rather than becoming “anti animal protein,” I’d rather you take a stand “pro fruits and vegetables.” That is, the vast majority of the calories you consume should come from fresh, whole fruits and veggies; nuts and seeds; beans of all types; and whole, unrefined grains. By focusing on the healthy and delicious plant-based options, you automatically crowd the animal protein off your plate without obsessing over it.
What do you think?
Dr. Garth challenges us to determine what to do with information and differentiate wrong from right for ourselves.
Do you agree with Dr. Garth’s findings? Is our protein obsession is killing us? If so, what are you going to do differently? Have you experienced anything to inform your decision between meat or plants? Let’s chat about it in the comments below.