Consuming the high-quality protein found in lean meat and dairy is important to promote growth in children and reduce the loss of muscle mass in adults, a US professor of nutrition has said.
Professor Teresa Ann Davis, who is visiting New Zealand, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast that getting the necessary protein from a plant-based diet was difficult but not impossible.
“You can get a nutritionally sound diet from eating plat-based foods but it’s very difficult to do, even some dietitians have difficulty in planning out a well-balanced diet using only plant foods, it is possible but it is difficult,” she said.
“Lean meat and dairy contains that high-quality protein that young children need to grow muscle and promote better height.
“It’s also important that we consume high-quality protein to maintain muscle mass in adults and to prevent sarcopenia (the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass) in the elderly."
“If you want to promote growth in children, it’s important that they consume milk, because there are studies that have shown that children who consume cow’s milk, as opposed to the soy beverage, have greater height.”
"There are a number of studies that show adults and the elderly who consume lean and high-quality meat, they can prevent the loss of muscle mass as they get older."
The Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College said only lean meat and dairy had all the necessary amino acids.
“Protein contains individual amino acids and some of those individual amino acids we can’t produce in our body, so we have to consume them,” she said.
“Plant proteins are missing in some of those essential amino acids that we can’t make.”
Professor Davis, who was also a Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M University, said research had shown that only 30g of protein was needed at each meal.
“It is important that we balance out our protein throughout the day, so that we consume about 30g at breakfast, 30g at lunch and 30g at dinner in order to maximise the synthesis of proteins in our muscle."
“You can get that 30g of protein from eating about 100g of lean meat,” she said.
For the sake of comparison, Professor Davis said you could also get that 30g of protein from eating about six tablespoons of peanut butter, which would amount to 600 calories as opposed to 150 calories for the necessary protein in lean meat.
Asked about links between eating meat and heart disease as well as poor colon health, Professor Davis pointed to recent studies that had shown there was no link between consuming meat and heart disease and colon cancer.
“I think it’s important we eat a variety of foods, but there are studies now showing there’s really no relationship between the consumption of red and processed meats and cardio-vascular disease,” she said.
“And really very little relationship between red meat and processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer.”