Pro Lean with Protein | Daily News

Pro Lean with Protein

A sedentary man, with not much physical activity going on for him, needs on average 56g of protein to be consumed in a day. A woman of similar stature needs 46g per day. Studies* done on Sri Lankan food patterns however, show that an average adult man only consumes 52.8g while a woman has 40g per day.

The biggest crisis in protein however, occurs as the Sri Lankan population mired in religious and cultural conservatism, grows older and further lessens their protein intake.

“Most of our elderly become vegetarians for religious or cultural purposes. They would get a little bit of protein from rice or dhal, but this is not sufficient for them,” said Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association President, Dr. Renuka Jayatissa addressing a seminar on ‘Protein for All’ at the Taj Samudra, Colombo recently. The event was jointly organized by the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association and the World Poultry Science Association (Sri Lanka Branch).

As adults hit 60-70 years of age, the likelihood of them being at risk of Sarcopenia- the loss of muscle mass and bone, is greater.

Dr. Jayatissa recommended that those above 70, consume 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day and 1-1.2g per kilogram if they are suffering from any disease.

This protein however has to be of good quality with a proper mix of both animal and plant sources.

Why do we need protein?

As the old scientific adage goes, ‘Proteins are the building blocks of life’. Every cell in our body contains proteins and having protein in our diet helps the body repair and make new cells. In addition, you need proteins to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. More importantly it is an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.

Having protein in your diet also satiates you faster, lessening the need to eat more and thus helps in controlling obesity.

According to Dr. Jayatissa, your age and level of physical activity determines the amount of protein you require per day. A child of 1-2 years needs 20g of protein per day, with young adults between the ages of 16-18 years needing 85g of protein per day.

“15-20 percent of an adult’s diet has to be protein. That is one third of your food plate needs to be protein. A 100kg person will need 90g of protein in a day,” she explained.

These numbers are worked out under the assumption that people are healthy, the protein comes from a good mix, are of good quality and used efficiently in the body.

Given the reluctance and myths around protein food, she stressed that the elderly could easily consume eggs, the easiest form of protein that is of good quality without any worry. Eggs also have the micronutrients needed to help have a better nervous system and memory.

“They can easily eat one egg per day without any issue,” said the doctor.

At least some protein in all three meals in a day was highly recommended in order for the person to reach their optimal height, without gaining weight.

Eating the right type of protein

Once we have decided to embark on the path to protein, choosing the right type of protein to eat is also important. Whilst protein deficiencies are also harmful to the body, the same in excess can also lead to problems in your kidneys.

“Protein quality is very important. Then we have to look at the factors which affect quality. One is digestibility,” explained Dr. Jayatissa.

Protein digestibility thus depends on its source. Animal protein which contain most of the essential proteins have an absorption rate of 99 percent into the body whilst plant protein has a far lesser absorption rate, this would mean that vegetarians need to consume more and a varied protein diet to make up for what they are missing from animal protein sources.

Food Myths

Bad diet, tobacco smoking, excess alcohol and lack of exercise are the main reasons behind the most common causes of death.

“80 percent of people in the world die of four Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). They are heart disease/stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes,” said Senior Lecturer in Medicine and Honourary Endocrinologist, Dr. Prasad Katulanda.

South Asia is one of the worst affected regions in the world for NCDs, with coronary heart disease impacting Sri Lanka severely. Coronary heart disease together with diabetes make up for almost 50 percent of deaths in Sri Lanka, according to Dr. Katulanda.

We have to live according to our genes, he further remarked as he went on to explain that we needed to eat according to our energy needs with a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Our biggest problem today however, is over nutrition - a diet high in carbohydrate and fat, especially during dinner time. Sri Lankans also mostly try to make up for their protein intake through dhal and rice which is insufficient.

Barriers to nutrition

One of the biggest barriers to an efficient protein diet are certain food myths.

“People are in the false belief that eating meat and eggs is bad for your health. Some people have gone to the extreme and some old women in particular have a voracious dislike for eggs and meat,” explained Dr. Katulanda.

“They say they start vomiting if they eat eggs, because it has been so ingrained into them that it is bad. Perhaps it is the fault of our medical fraternity and also religious reasons.”

These myths also lead us to over indulge in food believed to be ‘good’.

“They believe that bread and flour based food is bad and that brown rice is good. So instead of eating two slices of bread, they eat two cups of rice,” he said as he stressed the need for moderation in all foods.

The doctor also highlighted a research study called the ‘Pure Study’ which showed that eating one egg a day reduced the risk of strokes in both men and women.

Safe to eat

As the seminar had representatives of the poultry industry, Dr. Jayatissa took the opportunity to voice some of the concerns regarding the industry. She noted that many doctors and nutritionists were hesitant to recommend chicken to their patients, given the concerns over antibiotic and hormone use in the meat.

These concerns however, were dispelled by Singapore based Poultry and Veterinary Consultant, Dr. Chin How Cheonga, a frequent visitor to poultry farms in the island.

“Fifty six percent of the chicken in the world live in Asia and we still need more,” said Dr. Cheong.

“Chicken is the cheapest and most accepted source of meat. In the next 20 years, as populations double, chicken will be the only source of meat able to meet and supply growing demand,” he added.

Surveys however, show that the public was most concerned about three factors when it came to chicken; antibiotics (chemical residue), pathogens infecting the food system and hormones in the meat.

According to Dr. Cheong, much of these concerns and fear are generated by people who do not really understand chicken.

“Less than 20 percent understand chicken production, more is hearsay or what they read online,” he said.

Understanding chicken

Antibiotics, Dr. Cheong explained, was used in bacterial treatment. In the past they were added to feed but this is now highly regulated.

Department of Animal Production and Health, Director General, Dr. R.M. Ariyadasa speaking to Daily News, explained that the government had taken steps to ban a list of selected antibiotics which are similar to those used in humans.

“The decision was taken so as to prevent humans from developing immunity towards these drugs,” he said.

This comes in the wake of a worldwide movement to reduce the antibiotic use in chicken and if used, to ensure that they are not the same as that used by humans.

Dr. Cheong explained that as China, one of the main producers of these antibiotics has also banned its use in the country- there would be a scarcity in the market, leading poultry farmers to refrain from its use, simply based on high costs alone.

In addition many farms are also switching to alternatives to antibiotics, as in the use of e enzymes, pre and pro biotics and biological means of control. This has happened in a majority of farms in Sri Lanka.

“These alternatives regulate the micro fora in the intestine, enhance gut integrity and strengthen the immune system. They can use one or a combination of alternatives instead of antibiotics,” he said.

At the end of the day, antibiotics and disease is a costly affair to a poultry farmer and thus Dr. Cheong explained that most have opted to ensuring biosecurity in their farms, to reduce their expenses in combatting disease.

“Most chicken feed is cooked in high temperatures to make it more digestible and to reduce pathogens in the feed.”

When it comes to hormones, the Singaporean consultant categorically denied any hormones being used in chicken worldwide - further it is a banned practice. The beef industry, he said used specific hormones administered as implants to speed up growth, but chicken already had fast growth and thus did not need hormones.

“Chicken grow fast because of having selectively bred fast growing varieties over the years. You also have too many chicken, so administering hormones is not cost effective,” he explained.

Chicken today take on average 30-35 days to reach full size at approximately 2.5kg, thanks to careful selection of pedigree and years of selective breeding- “We need at least 5-10 years to come up with a good breed,” said Dr. Cheong.

The poultry consultant explained that most Sri Lankan farms have to depend on three factors for success -Nutrition, Housing (reducing stress) and Cleanliness.

When it comes to pathogens infecting the food system, the greatest fear all poultry farmers have is that of Avian or Bird flu.

Sri Lanka fortunately has not experienced this pandemic thus far and Dr. Cheong believed that the relative isolation of the island has played to its advantage.

Government monitoring systems, environmental regulations and standard certifications such as ‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points’ (HACCP) have also ensured that all proper procedures for safety and health are followed during production, said Dr. Cheong.

In Sri Lanka, most people buy processed chicken with few opting for chicken from small, unregulated farm shops.

Hence health and safety of chicken in the market, up to a great extent has been standardized, he added.

“In Asia chicken is cooked very well. Any organism which remains is destroyed in the process. What is more, consumer pressure in this country is high, so companies have had to ensure that food standards are met. No food company wants a food safety issue,” said Dr. Cheong.

*Jayawardena R, Thennakoon S, Byrne N, Soares M, Katulanda P, Hills A. Energy and nutrient intakes among Sri Lankan adults. International Archives of Medicine. 2014;7:34. doi:10.1186/1755-7682-7-34.

Lean protein health foods.


Add new comment

Or log in with...