Talk:Protein combining

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Article is Biased[edit]

Hey, I'm not an expert in nutrition, but I think this article may be a little biased. The idea of having to eat 2200 calories worth of brown rice - an entire day's worth of nutrition - seems a little off to me. What about the vitamins and minerals from other vegetables? And I think it's uphelpful to imply to vegetarians that they shouldn't worry about whether or not they're getting enough protein, or about which sources they are coming from. While it's true that animal protein is not specifically required in order to meet human dietary needs, science has clearly demonstrated the importance of the essential amino acids in the diet and the importance of a variety of different protein sources in the diet. And there are better examples to use - legumes and soy proteins springing immediately to mind, as they contain higher protein levels and a more complete set of amino acids. CaryK 18:15, 27 February 2007 (UTC)CaryK

I would agree that the estimates of 2200 kcal (ie 10 cups) are not a good comparison for amino acid intake. If a 73kg person’s only source of protein was rice they would need to eat 6 cups a day to receive the estimated full requirement of Methionine & Cystine according to this page. This is not realistic hence the concept of protein combining. ie 2 cups of rice and 1 cup of lentils would cover all essential aa and other foods for other nutrients. The concept that people need to specifically ensure they combine different plant proteins at the one meal is no longer considered necessary as aa that are lacking in one meal are usually consumed in another if a variety of pant foods high in protein consumed.Skeuu 00:49, 19 March 2007 (UTC)jeremy.

You're both missing the point: the chart shows that even if someone were to only eat brown rice, they'd get all of their essential amino acids. For someone who consumes legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, it's even less of a concern. Kyle Key 22:05, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
The displayed statistic still raises contention since it is based upon 2200 calories of a single food. A more effective statistic would be a comparison between requirements and a reasonable daily quantity of a protein-rich plant such as soy. Zbohannan 21:52, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Soy is a complete protein, which would make such a comparison irrelevant. I agree with Kyle Key's comment. I think the point is that foods that are deficient in a particular amino acid are still not completely devoid of it and that EVEN an imbalanced diet can meet protein needs, thus a more varied diet would have no problem meeting protein needs. Of course a diet of junk food would be deficient in many things, including protein, but I think the point is that protein combinations are no more of a concern

for vegetarians than meeting any other dietary need. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:34, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

The brown rice amino acid chart is using WHO research from 1985. WHO published new recommended essential amino acid values in 2007, you can find it under publications. Using the 2007 numbers, the brown rice diet would be deficient in Lysine. Someone else can update it if they would like.
The Point that food combining is not as vital as once thought was not lost on me, however this page suggests that it is completely irrelevant. This is only true in a theory. in practice if someone was only eating fried rice and vegetables and they could easily not be getting enough of some amino acids and still be getting 2200 kcal. As a Dietitian I see some people take ideas to an extreme and i was concerned that someone could easily get the wrong impression from this article. Jeremy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Skeuu (talkcontribs) 02:33, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
What do you mean it's only true in theory? In can be either true or false, not both.-- (talk) 18:00, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

I think that the "bias" concern regarding this article has been put to rest. The "theory" of protein combining was just that--a theory--that has proven to be unnecessary to human nutrition. Bonobos, primates who share 98.7% of their DNA with humans[1], thrive mainly on low-protein fruit (40-90% of their diets). In captivity, they eat a largely vegan diet of fruits and vegetables. Surely they don't worry about protein combining, and neither do their keepers, who want them to stay healthy.[2]SaletteAndrews (talk) 15:34, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

POV problems[edit]

Currently, the article is an essay advocating a position: Protein combining is false. The presentation needs to be neutral, and other positions need to be cited. For example, it appears the American Heart Association disagrees (based on the article), but their position is not represented. Guanxi (talk) 05:53, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

The 'Actual Analysis' section is Original Research and should probably be removed or replaced by actual research. Guanxi (talk) 05:56, 3 December 2007 (UTC)
I navigating to this article by Googling "protein combining table". What I am looking for is a table showing which amino acids are in which foods, and how to combine them to form complete proteins. That type of information seems quite encylcopedic to me, and could be supplemented with information regarding conflicting ideas about the necessity of paying attention to combining. If both sides of the controversy were presented, readers could make their own decision. (talk) 15:50, 10 December 2007 (UTC)sommer
sure, but it should be reliably sourced and I'm not sure if that can happen or not. --WLU (talk) 16:12, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I would like this article to be expanded to show both sides of the protein combining "issue". Let's see some sources and some comparison, though I fear this may instead become more of a controversy "paper" than an encylopedic entry. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:36, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

This article is not an essay advocating an opinion. It is an article about the theory of protein combining, and how it has proven to be unnecessary for human nutrition. Several comments have requested representation of the "other side" of the "issue." Those requests were made in 2007 and 2008. So far, nobody from the theorized "other side" has come forward to offer evidence that protein combining is necessary for human nutrition. Therefore, I would argue that this article does not have a POV problem and is neutral.SaletteAndrews (talk) 17:43, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Conflict with article on "Complete Protein"[edit]

Another problem with this page is that it seems to conflict the page Complete_Protein. That page implies that there are only a few plant foods which contain complete proteins (ie all 9 essential amino acids) and lists them, while this page on protein combining implies that almost every plant food source, save fruits, has a complete protein. If this is not a contradiction, it should be clarified. If it is, then the two viewpoints should be stated. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:00, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

It looks like the Complete Protein article has been removed, so I guess that removes the conflict. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:53, 22 December 2007 (UTC) This article has not been removed. It clearly states that some sources do not contain all essential amino acids. Advocating the consumption of large amounts of a single incomplete protein seems irresponsible. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:45, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

I do not think the author was ever advocating eating a single source of food or protien. I think he was 1., discussing whether or not protien combing is even necasary, and 2. pointing out that in diets of single food sources, protien levels can be met. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:07, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

It took me a while to work out that the page Complete protein exists, but not Complete Protein (the capital 'P' causes difference). FrankSier (talk) 17:43, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

The article on Complete protein no longer states that some plants are missing essential amino acids. I believe that this concern has also been put to rest.—SaletteAndrews (talk) 17:46, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Suggestion on more neutral wording[edit]

Something like: "Protein Combining is the practice of eating complete protein in each meal by combining vegetable protein sources. Widely practiced after being recommended by Lappe, combining is not regarded as necessary if the overall diet contains sufficient quantities of the essential amino acids."

Spope3 (talk) 21:06, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

The problem with that wording is that it seems to suggest that a diet deficient in essential amino acids is a possibility. According to Dr. John A. McDougall, MD, "People worry more about protein in their diet than any other nutrient. The obvious truth is: there is enough protein in plants to grow an elephant, horse, or hippopotamus. Certainly there is enough protein to grow relatively small people. Furthermore, all plants contain all of the amino acids in proper balance for ideal human growth. In other words, it is impossible to make up a diet deficient in protein or individual amino acids from any unrefined starches (rice, potatoes) and vegetables. You must get over this common myth in order to comfortably follow a diet that is best for you and the family. The only real problems with protein come from eating too much."[3] This is another concern that has been put to rest, I believe.

SaletteAndrews (talk) 18:57, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Original Research[edit]

Back in December Guanxi pointed out that the 'Actual Analysis' section was original research. I'm going to tag the section and, if no one can find any primary or secondary references to support it over the next few days, delete it. Mmyotis ^^o^^ 00:12, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

No objection here. That section seems to be the source of most of the problems with this article anyway (particularly the assertion that a diet of just brown rice would be sufficient for protein intake). -kotra (talk) 01:05, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

As the 'Actual Analysis' section has been removed, this concern has also been put to rest.—SaletteAndrews (talk) 19:00, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Article lacks consensus opinion, presents a currently radical perspective[edit]

This article is extremely radical, goes against current USDA recommendations and could do considerable harm to any vegetarians or vegans that use it as their source for dietary information. The sources it uses to make this non-consensus based argument are outside of mainstream scientific study and more than 20 years old. The consensus opinion is not even present.

see the following link for the current consensus as established by the USDA -

I agree protein combining may not be necessary for life, but it certainly is for health. To argue otherwise, please provide current research and studies refuting the idea of essential amino acids or that most vegetables do no provide enough of one or more of these to satisfy the human dietary needs. Even then it will merely be an argument, until a new consensus is reached.

This article makes wikepedia a health hazard and discredits it as a valid reference source.

The actual source for this article is an obscure vegan website:

Even on a another page OF THE SAME WEBSITE SOURCE the unnamed author writes sound advice lacking here:

We recommend eating a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit (9,10).

see: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:39, 18 June 2008

The USDA page you say represents "current consensus" says "Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary."
This article agrees with that statement. I don't think it's arguing against the concept of essential amino acids, either.
However, you do have a point about the "single-source" statement this article seems to be making. I only know of a few vegetable sources (soy, hempseed, flax, spirulina, quinoa, etc) that are complete proteins, contrary to what I think (it is confusingly worded) this article is saying: that most vegetables, by themselves, have the full complement of essential amino acids. I'll finish rewriting this article to reflect the current prevailing scientific view. -kotra (talk) 22:27, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
Rewrite completed. I paid special attention to adding reliable sources, so hopefully the POV concerns are met. In any case, comments are appreciated. -kotra (talk) 02:19, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

According to the (relatively) new FDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, released July 2010:

"Vegetarian diets that include complementary mixtures of plant proteins can provide the same quality of protein as that from animal protein. Education is needed for those designing diets containing complementary proteins for consumers switching to a more plant-based diet." see:
While these recommendations do not explicitly cover protein combining, it does strongly indicate that the scientific consensus remains in favor of protein combining -Chelsea99 (talk) 23:34, 18 January 2011 (UTC)
Um..have you guys actually read the article? And the sources? It nowhere near says or implies that the scientific consensus remains in favor of protein combining IN THE SAME MEAL and that is also what the article states. --Echosmoke (talk) 05:58, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

This article does represent current consensus, not a radical view. The sources cited are part of mainstream scientific and medical study. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are published jointly every 5 years by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), as mandated by Congress. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), formerly the American Dietetic Association (ADA), bases its recommendations almost exclusively on the USDA Dietary Guidelines. Unfortunately, lobbyists and special interests typically have more influence over the final recommendations than science.

The USDA is charged with, among other things, promoting the nation’s agricultural businesses. Top USDA positions have been filled over the years with former executives from Monsanto, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Livestock and Meat Board, the Packers and Stockyards Administration, the Meat Export Federation, Infinity Pork, and ConAgra Foods.[4]

If anyone is looking for an actual chart that shows that vegetables have all the amino acids, it's here:

You can make your own using the USDA database.

I think that the concern that this article lacks consensus opinion and presents a currently radical perspective has also been put to rest.

  1. ^ Bonobos Join Chimps as Closest Human Relatives
  2. ^ Bonobo Nutrition - Relation of Captive Diet to Wild Diet
  3. ^ Protein, Meat and Poultry

SaletteAndrews (talk) 19:21, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Current Status..."and some nutritionists"[edit]

The following statement

However, this recommendation has been challenged as unnecessary and misleading by vegetarian and vegan associations and some nutritionists.

...has had the "and some nutritionists" removed by me because it has been without citation since June 2008. An unsupported "and some nutritionists" is by no means encyclopedic sounding and reminds me of a high school child's report that was 3 words shy of their length requirement.Tgm1024 (talk) 21:55, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Actual nutritionists, medical doctors, and researchers have been named and cited, so this concern has also been put to rest. SaletteAndrews (talk) 19:21, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Latin American diets[edit]

Perhaps this article could address the ancient societies of Mesoamerica, and other Native American groups who practiced the "Three Sisters" form of agriculture. Particularly among Mesoamerican commoners, the diet was largely vegetarian and based on the "protein combining" of maize and beans. New World beans contain all of the amino acids of a complete protein except for one, which happens to be the only one found in corn.

The same is found to be true for rice and beans (New World varieties or Old World cowpeas), the concept of which was imported from West Africa to the Americas from Brazil to New Orleans. For West Africans prior to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and to this day for many inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly below the poverty line, rice and beans are a dietary staple.

It would be interesting to see historical and anthropological arguments brought into this article, which seems only to look at a modern, middle-to-upper class Western way of life with ready access to a variety of alternative protein choices. -- (talk) 03:30, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes, many traditional cultures ate a variety of plant foods, in a variety of combinations. But this isn't about having "ready access to a variety of alternative protein choices." It's about eating traditional, unrefined foods and not worrying about complicated combinations. SaletteAndrews (talk) 19:21, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Adelle Davis's Contribution[edit]

Adelle Davis discussed protein combining in her book Let's Eat Right To Keep Fit published in 1954, so I question the statement that Francis More Lappe was the original promoter of the concept. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dogwalkingdude (talkcontribs) 20:59, 18 January 2011 (UTC) Dogwalkingdude (talk) 05:32, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

If you want to credit Adelle Davis with protein combining, go for it. She has been criticized and even sued for the death of a child over her nutritional advice. If she's the source of the protein combining theory, it will be much easier to discredit it. SaletteAndrews (talk) 21:23, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Dangerous and Poorly Written[edit]

This article is poorly written and seems to be some kind of strange advocacy for the idea that people don't need to worry about the protein sources in their diet. Most of the reference articles cited stress the importance of eating a diet with a VARIETY of different kinds of protein sources, specifially the kind of variety (e.g., legumes+grains) that have often been referred to as 'complete proteins', so the tenor of the article does not agree with its refrences. An important distinction needs to be made between the need to have complete (or balanced) protein in one's diet and the need to have complete protein in any particular meal. Yes, the idea that it is necessary to have 'complete proteins' in every particular meal is discredited, but it is still widely agreed that a balanced mix of protein sources is essential to maintaining a healthy diet (e.g., as stated repeatedly in the cited article by Young and Pellett) and to imply otherwise is both factually incorrect according to mainstream science and extremely irresponsible.

For example, in the Weil article that is cited he states, "You'll do well if you eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy foods - some newer varieties are very tasty." Yet this wikipedia article seems to be trying to advocate that a balanced diet is unnecessary and vegetarians+vegans are just fine eating only cereal grains, a proposition that is contradicted in most and probably all of the cited references.

I don't have the energy to mess with it myself right now, but in the form as it is I think this article should just be deleted. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:24, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

It's not strange advocacy that people don't need to worry about protein sources in their diet. There are virtually no cases of protein deficiency in the developed world, except perhaps among people who get their calories from nothing but alcohol or sugar. I challenge you to correct me if I'm wrong. The tenor of the article does in fact agree with its sources: eat a variety of food and you'll be fine. Again, this is another area where concern is unfounded. SaletteAndrews (talk) 21:55, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

What about some science here...either way[edit]

Having been influenced to becoming vegetarian by 'Diet for a Small Planet' about 40 years ago, I long bought into the notion of combining proteins. I'm also a scientist but having seen the dreadful science that often contributes to opinions about nutrition (and psychology for that matter) and the resulting constant reversals of scientific positions in these arenas, I'm dubious of the authority claimed by science in this arena. Based on its record (and dubious links with the food industry) it lacks credibility. Still, poor as it is, it is a little more credible than the quasi-religious and often profit-motivated claims of what is often 'the other side'.

To claim any authority--either way--on Wikipedia there should be some evidence of scientific study. Citing the opinion of X or Y, no matter how many degrees they have, is not in my view (and in this day and age), sufficient to make a claim either way. The EPA needs to cite studies supporting its opinion; this article needs to cite its scientific evidence for refuting the idea. I'm sure I read some years back of a fairly substantial study that showed that combining proteins during a meal was not necessary as long as protein combinations sufficient to meet dietary needs was met during the day. For that reason I support the opinion here. But I am disappointed to see what I believe to be insufficient evidence or argument on the side of this opinion.

-- (talk) 16:17, 31 March 2012 (UTC)

I, too, was influenced by Diet for a Small America, and it took a long time to undo that influence, as I did not purchase the 1981 edition. The problem with citing only "studies" is that studies must be funded, and they often are, by organizations that have an interest in perpetuating the standard American (animal-based) diet. SaletteAndrews (talk) 21:58, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Deliberate Denial of Needed Knowledge Hurts the Poorest Most[edit]

This article deliberately denies historical protein nutrition knowledge, and thus deprives the poorest among us of the information they need to maintain their health without expensive foods or supplements. While a variety of incomplete proteins may be eaten within 4 hours of other (balancing) incomplete proteins, denying the need to balance essentials isn't helping. Shame!

No, this is ludicrous. Where did you get 4 hours from? Food doesn't cost more if eat separately instead of at a single meal. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:14, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

Where is your citation for "historical protein nutrition knowledge"? Are you talking about folklore? Common knowledge? How does knowing that an inexpensive, plant-based diet is sufficient to maintain health hurt poor people? It's shameful to buy into the argument that people need expensive supplements or animal products. SaletteAndrews (talk) 22:01, 21 December 2012 (UTC)


Today a new section on Criticism was added. Several sources were already cited. Dennis Gordon was removed because the link was dead. Joel Fuhrman and T. Colin Campbell were removed as no relevant comments were found. Better balance in views was sought.Rgdboer (talk) 21:51, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

No Basis?[edit]

Suzanne Havala is quoted as saying there is no basis for protein combining. The abstract of the article cited states that combinations may well serve a balanced diet. The Concept section of this article outlines the biochemistry behind protein combining, while the Criticism section shows that there is controversy. Food issues are particularly contentious subjects. Readers will take-away their preferred perceptions of the issue; we editors adhere to WP policies that reflect various positions.Rgdboer (talk) 21:24, 30 December 2014 (UTC)


The idea of protein combining is recognition that there are several essential amino acids. The experiments to determine them were largely done Thomas Burr Osborne (chemist) and Lafayette Mendel. There is no need for a citation concerning applicability of the Liebig's law of the minimum since that law is applied to determine what amino acids are essential. The "citation required" tags in this article should be removed. The subject of this article is not a matter of debate, the science is long recorded. Of course people choose their own food and debate with others about it, so the "Criticism" section of this article merely notes that some people resist science. Weighing down this article with tags shows resistance to science.Rgdboer (talk) 01:58, 15 January 2017 (UTC)

The following was removed:

The article does not say what is stated here, and is not on point for protein combining.Rgdboer (talk) 01:51, 16 January 2017 (UTC)

The following was removed:

It is true that some plant proteins are relatively low in certain essential amino acids. So, about 40 years ago, the myth of “protein combining” came into vogue—literally, the February ‘75 issue of Vogue magazine. The concept was that we needed to eat “complementary proteins” together, for example, rice and beans, to make up for their relative shortfalls.<ref name="Myth" {{cite web|last1=Greger|first1=Miichael|title=The Protein-Combining Myth|url= January 2017}} /ref>

Use of term "myth" makes it Criticism, but reference given does not address biochemistry. Rgdboer (talk) 02:12, 20 January 2017 (UTC)

The following was removed:

The concept that plant protein was inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on rodents more than a century ago. Osborne and Mendel found that infant rats don’t grow as well on plants.<ref name="Osborne & Mendel" {{cite journal|last1=Osborne|first1=T B|last2=Mendel|first2=L B|title=Amino Acids in Nutrition and Growth|journal=J. Biol. Chem.|date=1912|volume=17|page=27|url= January 2017}} /ref> But infant rats don’t grow as well on human breast milk either.<ref name="Breast milk" {{cite journal|last1=Davis|first1=T A|last2=Nguyen|first2=H V|last3=Garcia-Bravo|first3=R|last4=Fiorotto|first4=M L|last5=Jackson|first5=E M|last6=Lewis|first6=D S|last7=Lee|first7=D R|last8=Reeds|first8=R J|title=Amino acid composition of human milk is not unique|journal=J Nutr|date=Jul 1994|volume=124|issue=7|pages=1126-32|url= January 2017}} /ref> Rat milk has ten times more protein than human milk, because rats grow about ten times faster than human infants.<ref name="Lab Rat" {{cite journal|last1=Sengupta|first1=P|title=The Laboratory Rat: Relating Its Age With Human's|journal=Int J Prev Med|date=Jun 2013|volume=4|issue=6|pages=624-30|url= January 2017}} /ref>

These references are not on Protein combining topic. Rgdboer (talk) 03:11, 22 January 2017 (UTC)

The following was removed:

In 1970, H. N. Munro described how the mammalian body maintains pools of free amino acids, particularly lysine, that it can use to do all the complementing for the organism.<ref name="Munro" {{cite book|last1=Munro|first1=H N|title=Mammalian Protein Metabolism|date=1970|publisher=Elsevier Inc|location=Cambridge, Massachusetts|pages=299–386|url= January 2017}} /ref>

The recycling does not address limiting amino acid concept. Rgdboer (talk) 03:15, 22 January 2017 (UTC)