Comparison of Dairy Milks with Human Milk

Milks are complex lipid emulsions in water containing protein, fat, lactose, vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes, hormones and immunoglobulins which provide initial immunity functions.

There is approximately 5,500 species of mammals which initially supply their young with milk. There are vast differences in milk composition among the mammal species.

SpecieskCal/dLProtein
% Energy
Fat
% Energy
Carb
% Energy
Human72.165638
Monkey67.1135235
Pig116.2206417
Cow: Ayrshire70.1215327
Horse49.6222949
Rat19024706
Sheep88.1255421
Rabbit158.626695
Cat156.128639
Dog127.5305912
Guinea Pig79.5414415

Mammals have evolved over millions of years to provide nutrition for their infants in the first stage of life. There are significant difference between species depending upon factors such as rates of growth.

Proteins in human milk provide sufficient nourishment to sustain infants for the first six months without any additional food, as well as establishing a suitable environment for the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.

Human milk has the lowest protein content of any mammal. Human milk is supplied to babies when the need for protein is at the greatest. Babies double in size during the first 6 months of our lives. The ideal food for a baby is mum’s milk where 5% – 6.5% of the energy requirements is obtained from protein.

This should offer reassurance that as long as we a consuming an adequate diet, we do not need a high protein diet.

You cannot store protein so excess protein is broken down into ammonia, which is converted to urea and eliminated from the body. You do not build muscles by eating additional protein. The kidneys are vital organs that filter the blood. Excess protein damages the fine blood vessels of the kidneys. Decades of filtering the waste products of protein results in loss of kidney function and progressive kidney failure.

Russell Henry Chittenden was professor of physiological chemistry at Yale from 1882 to 1922. He was not convinced that the current protein requirements of 120g per day was correct and determined that 50-60g per day was more appropriate. As Chittenden explained back in 1904: 1

Fats and carbohydrates when oxidized in the body are ultimately burned to simple gaseous products.
[Proteid foods] when oxidized, yield a row of crystalline nitrogenous products which ultimately pass out of the body through the kidneys— frequently spoken of as toxins— float about through the body and may exercise more or less of a deleterious influence upon the system, or, being temporarily deposited, may exert some specific or local influence that calls for their speedy removal.

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is 2 standard deviations above the average requirement. The result is that the RDI meets or exceeds the requirements of at least 97.8% of the population. You do not need to take additional protein “just to be safe”.

Next time someone asks where do you get your protein (or iron or calcium), tell them you get them from plants including peas, lentils, mushrooms, vegetables and leafy greens. Elephants, mountain gorillas, aurochs and the brontosaurus all manage to survive quite well without consuming animals.

NutrientUnitsSoyKaleMushroomChickpeasPotatoPumpkinTomatoWheatRye
Energykcal1412829164782018339338
Proteing12.351.93.288.862.860.720.9513.6810.34
Energy from protein%352745221514211612

As the very quotable Mark Twain once wrote, “Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain’t so.”

Footnotes

  1. Chittenden, R. H. (1904). Physiological economy in nutrition, with special reference to the minimal protein requirement of the healthy man. An experimental study. Frederick A. Stokes Company.

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