Gorillas’ diet doesn’t mean protein does not exist

30 March 2023
What was claimed

Protein doesn’t exist.

Our verdict

It does, and we need to eat enough of it to remain healthy.

An Instagram clip from an American radio interview in 2019 contains false claims about protein and plant-based diets.

The video has over 48,000 likes on Instagram and the original video uploaded to YouTube has 2.5 million views.

Protein is an essential component of the human diet, needed to maintain, repair and grow tissues like muscle. False claims about food and nutrition can cause harm, as bad information about health can influence people’s decisions. 

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Does protein exist?

The clip begins with the claim: “There’s no such thing as protein.”

It continues: ”Think about the gorilla. What protein does he get?”

Proteins are compounds made up of smaller units called amino acids. They were discovered in 1838. They exist, and have been widely studied. Thanks to electron microscopy we can see detailed pictures of proteins.

Gorillas are generally vegetarian, eating fruit and, indeed, green leaves. But some do consume insects and larvae. In any case, the leaves they consume contain good amounts of protein. 

A study of gorillas in Uganda found that their diets vary throughout the year, and “when leaves dominated gorilla diets, 31 per cent of total energy is consumed as protein”. Some subspecies of adult gorilla eat 18-30 kg of plant matter a day.


Image courtesy of Joseph Twinamatsiko

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