Russell Henry Chittenden Tells the Truth a Century Ago

Russell Henry Chittenden Tells the Truth a Century Ago

Such narrow-minded thinking should have been stopped by 1905 when Russell Henry Chittenden, Yale UniversityProfessor of Physiological Chemistry, published his scientific findings on human protein needs in his classic book,Physiological Economy in Nutrition.2  Professor Chittenden believed Dr. Voit had cause and effect reversed: people did not become prosperous because they ate high protein diets, but rather they ate meat and other expensive high protein foods because they could afford them.   One hundred years ago he wrote, “We are all creatures of habit, and our palates are pleasantly excited by the rich animal foods with their high content of proteid (protein), and we may well question whether our dietetic habits are not based more upon the dictates of our palates than upon scientific reasoning or true physiological needs.”

He reasoned that we should know the minimal protein requirement for the healthy man (and woman), and believed that any protein intake beyond our requirements could cause injury to our body, especially to the liver and kidneys. As he explained it, “Fats and carbohydrates when oxidized in the body are ultimately burned to simple gaseous products…easily and quickly eliminated…”  “With proteid (protein) foods…when oxidized, (they) yield a row of crystalline nitrogenous products which ultimately pass out of the body through the kidneys.  (These nitrogen-based protein byproducts) – 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.”  With these few words Professor Chittenden explained the deleterious effects of diets high in protein and meat – consequences too few practicing doctors know about today.

The First Scientific Experiments on Our Protein Needs

Professor Chittenden’s first experiment was on himself.  For nine months, he recorded his own body weight, which decreased from 143 pounds (65 Kg) to 128 pounds (58 kg) on his new diet of one-third the protein that Dr. Voit recommended. Chittenden’s health remained excellent and he described his condition as being with “greater freedom from fatigue and muscular soreness than in previous years of a fuller dietary.”  He had suffered from arthritis of his knee and discovered that by reducing his intake of meat his condition disappeared and his “sick headaches” and bilious attacks (abdominal pains) no longer appeared periodically as before; plus he fully maintained his mental and physical activity, with a protein intake of about 40 grams a day.

Chittenden performed valid scientific studies by collecting data on the daily dietary and urine histories of his subjects (including himself) to determine protein utilization. Because he was contradicting the known “truths” of his time, he proceeded with extreme caution with his further investigations.  He organized three controlled trials with increasing demands for testing the adequacy of diets lower in protein than commonly recommended.

The first trial involved a group of five men connected with Yale University, leading active lives but not engaged in very muscular work.  On a low-protein diet (62 grams daily) for 6 months, they all remained healthy and in positive nitrogen balance (more protein went into, than out of, their bodies).  The second trial used 13 male volunteers from the Hospital Corps of the U.S. army. They were described as doing moderate work with one day of vigorous activity at the gymnasium.  They remained in good health on 61 grams of protein daily.  His final trial was with 8 Yale student athletes, some of them with exceptional records of athletic events.  They ate an average of 64 grams of protein daily while maintaining their athletic endeavors, and improving their performance by a striking 35 percent.  Following these studies, Chittenden in 1904 concluded that 35–50 g of protein a day was adequate for adults, and individuals could maintain their health and fitness on this amount.  Studies over the past century have consistently confirmed Professor Chittenden’s findings, yet you would hardly know it with the present day popularity of high protein diets.


Lentil & Rice Loaf

december 19, 2013 by  41 comments

This flavorful loaf is perfect for the holidays, or anytime you want a hearty main dish. It can be made with fresh or dried herbs. Make two loaves while you’re at it and freeze one for leftovers. This is delicious topped with Creamy Mushroom Gravy!

LentilRiceLoaf Small

1¾ cups water
½ cup brown-green lentils
½ cup short-grain brown rice
2 teaspoons dried poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 medium onion, chopped
5 medium white or brown (cremini) mushrooms
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves)
¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaf (or 1½ teaspoons dried, rubbed sage)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (or ¾ teaspoon dried)

1. In a medium saucepan on high heat, combine water, lentils, rice, poultry seasoning, and granulated onion. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer, and cook covered for 45 minutes. When done cooking, remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes with the lid still on. (Prepare your remaining ingredients while the rice and lentils are cooking.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard size loaf pan (9 by 5 by 3-inch) with parchment paper (see photo below) and set aside (or use a silicone loaf pan).

3. In a medium skillet on high heat, add 1 tablespoon of water. When the water begins to sputter, add the chopped onion, mushrooms, and celery, and cook stirring for about 3 minutes, adding water just as needed to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and cook stirring for an additional 2 minutes, until the vegetables have softened (adding water as needed). If you’re using dried herbs, stir them in with the garlic (if using fresh herbs, add them in next step). Remove from heat.

4. In a large bowl combine the oats, tomato paste, nuts, and if you’re using fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage) add them now as well. When the cooked vegetables, and rice and lentils have cooled for about 10 minutes, add them to the bowl and stir until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

5. Place half of this mixture into a food processor. Pulse about 3 times, then scrape down sides; pulse another 3 times, so it gets blended but is still somewhat chunky. Spoon this into the loaf pan. Place the remaining mixture into the food processor and repeat pulsing in the same way. Add this second half to the loaf pan. Press down firmly and into the corners. Shape the top flat or with a slight rise down the middle.

6. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the top is browned and the edges are crispy looking. Remove and let cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve as is or with Mushroom Gravy or homemade ketchup.

Preparation: 55 minutes (including cooking rice and lentils)
Cooking: 55 minutes (baking loaf)
Makes: 1 standard loaf (about 10 ¾-inch slices)


Herbs: During the holidays I like to use fresh herbs in this recipe, especially fresh sage, as its aroma and flavor are very “holiday.” But fresh herbs aren’t always practical, so feel free to use the measurements for dried. Or even a mix of fresh and dried.

Rolled oats: I like quick oats in this recipe, but if you only have “slow” oats, just pulse them a bit first in the food processor.

Blending: I’ve also made this loaf without using the food processor at all (just mixing everything in a bowl) and it still bakes up well and tastes great, it’s just more on the chunky texture side.


Above: Cook until the top and sides are browned, as shown. The longer the cooked loaf cools, the firmer it will be and easier to slice.


Above: The loaf pan is lined with parchment paper (see this post for instructions on how to line a pan with parchment). I used a ceramic pan, but you can also use metal, glass or silicone. Press the uncooked loaf “dough” into the pan firmly before baking.


Above: Lentil & Rice Loaf Served with steamed cabbage, celery, kale and yam, with red onion and grated pistachios on top.

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