Let's Talk Amino Acids & Protein with Integrative Medicine Practitioner Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH

Amino Acids: Building Blocks of Your Body

Proteins are the building blocks of life and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The protein foods we consume contain amino acids in various proportions.

When protein intake is too low to meet the body’s needs over time, it causes a type of malnutrition that, in its most extreme form, is known as kwashiorkor.

Kwashiorkor is characterized by edema, diarrhea, muscle wasting, abdominal distention, liver enlargement, hair loss, and other symptoms.1

Integrative medicine practitioner Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, who is president of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists, ranks amino acids as among the most important components of the diet. “There are 22 amino acids that we have to have in our body,” he stressed.

High Protein: Diet and “Diets”

“There are so many high protein diets out there,” Dr. Pescatore observed. “Why do they work and why don’t they work? The key for me, and my patients, was getting the amino acid balance right. Our food supply is so damaged that it’s hard to get a really good food source that can provide you with the amino acids that you need, and that’s why, with The A-List Diet, the A stands for amino acids.”

The A-List Diet has been a worldwide best-seller, along with other books authored by Dr. Pescatore that include Feed Your Kids Well and The Hamptons Diet. Dr. Pescatore is also the author of Thin for Good, The Allergy and Asthma Cure, and The Hamptons Diet Cookbook. While The Hamptons Diet focused on the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet and healthy fats, The A-List Diet emphasizes the importance of the amino acids in our food.

The Standard American Diet (whose acronym, SAD, should tell you all you need to know about its effects), with its abundance of processed food and nonnutritive carbohydrates, fails to supply an adequate amount of amino acids needed by the body for good health. Making simple changes in our food choices in favor of whole foods and healthy protein sources will go a long way toward ensuring we obtain the amino acids our bodies need.

It’s actually quite easy, according to Dr. Pescatore:

“No. Processed. Junk. Food.”

In comparison with diets that include animal-sourced protein, vegan diets don’t contain single foods that provide complete protein, with a healthy balance of all the essential amino acids (the ones your body can’t make). Vegans can get that balance and maintain overall high-quality protein intake by eating a variety of plant protein sources, such as soy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.2 When it comes to beef, grass-fed and grass-finished beef are thought to be healthier than beef from cattle that are fattened on corn. (It’s a little-known fact that cattle that provide beef labeled as “grass-fed” are often “finished” during the last month of their lives by being fed with grain to fatten them prior to slaughter.) There are fewer inflammation-promoting fatty acids in grass-fed beef compared to beef derived from corn-fed cattle.3,4

Good Food Changes Your Life: Illness Model vs. Wellness Model

“I hated medicine when I graduated from medical school and residency,” Dr. Pescatore admitted. “All I saw every day were people dying, people sick, people just not helping themselves.”

During the 1990s, Dr. Pescatore began to notice a change in people’s approach to wellness. “It changed my life being able to watch people take vitamins, exercise, and be healthy,” he observed.

As a physician, Dr. Pescatore’s own approach changed as well, and he now utilizes a wellness model as opposed to an illness model of health.

“The connection between food and health is what your grandmother used to say: ‘You are what you eat.’ If you’re going to put bad gasoline into a Ferrari, it’s not going to act like a Ferrari. If you put good food into your body and your gut is healthy, you’re going to feel great.”

“Good food changes your life.”

Like what Dr. Pescatore has to say? Listen to the Live Foreverish podcast with Life Extension’s Dr. Michael Smith and his guest Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, as they discuss Amino Acids, by visiting LiveFOREVERish.com.

If you like what you hear, please take a moment to give Live Foreverish a 5-star rating on iTunes!

Those who are interested in learning more about The A-List Diet and Dr. Pescatore’s work can visit www.Alistdietbook.com and www.DrPescatore.com

  1. Semba RD. Ann Nutr Metab. 2016 Aug 30;69(2):79-88.
  2. Marsh KA et al. Med J Aust. 2013 Oct 29;199(suppl 4):S7-S10.
  3. Phillips HN et al. PLoS One. 2017 Nov 3;12(11):e0187686.
  4. Razminowicz RH et al. Meat Sci. 2006 Jun;73(2):351-61.


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