First there was the 1955 bomber gap. "The Soviets flew Bison bombers repeatedly in a loop over visitors at an air show, giving an exaggerated notion of their numbers," says Crock. "A worried US military proceeded to build up its air-defense system."
Another example of taking action based on a wholly manufactured basis is the hyper-ingestion of protein due to the scientifically useless and morally indefensible institution of animal experimentation. Since trying to discern biological trends from human to human is often impossible, what makes us think testing done on a rat will lead to any knowledge about our anatomy and physiology? The breast milk of rats, for example, derives nearly half of its calories from protein. Human breast milk is 5.9 percent protein. Obviously, there's little useful information to be gained from monitoring the protein needs of rodents. However, many of today's "experts" are still relying on protein requirement studies done on rats...in 1914.
What about those who believe we need extra protein because we want to run faster, jump higher, or grow bigger and prettier muscles? "Although in the past it was thought that vegetarian and vegan diets might impair athletic performance," explains Natalie Digate Muth, MPH, RD, "scientists, coaches, and athletes alike now agree that with proper planning a diet without animal products can effectively fuel peak performance." In addition, the decidedly mainstream National Academy of Sciences has declared, "There is little evidence that muscular activity increases the need for protein."
But evidence is rarely the primary guiding factor inside a gym. After all, when was it decided that muscular hypertrophy was the ideal and is there even a shred a proof that such over-development has any correlation to health and fitness? The human body has evolved over millions of years to support muscle mass similar to that of, say, a swimmer. Until the Industrial Revolution, humans had little time to use solely for the sake of gaining size. Today, however, we are surrounded by men and women who have piled up enormous muscles on bodies not designed to bear such a burden. Also, the type of training needed to promote and maintain such unnatural mass is not exactly conducive to joint health.
Look around the gym. How many people do you see lifting more weight than they can handle? You know the type: usually men, big arms and chest, equally big gut, thin legs, and not a shred of muscular definition. Not to mention, the aching shoulders, elbows, knees all covered in an assortment of Ace bandages. All of them chasing what cannot be caught because it doesn't exist"like the missile gap.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy gave America the infamous "missile gap" when he claimed the U.S. nuclear arsenal had fallen behind the Soviet stockpile. Upon his election, JFK revealed that a gap indeed existed but it turned out that it was the U.S. that had the advantage. "That didn't stop Kennedy from launching a nuclear-arms buildup," adds Crock.
Presidents Carter and Reagan combined to make a late 70s/early 80s contribution to the Soviet threat: the "window of vulnerability." Based on the faulty assessment of a group of conservative defense analysts, Reagan announced that the Soviets had the ability to knock out America's land-based nukes in a first strike. "The claims were based on faulty assessments of the Soviet weapons' power and accuracy--to say nothing of Moscow's intentions," Crock explains.
If we chose, we wouldn't have to rely on "faulty assessments" to figure out how much protein we actually need. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says 2.5 percent of our daily calories should come from protein. According to the World Health Organization, it's about 5 percent. How does that work out in grams? A lot lower than the US average of 100 grams a day, that's for sure.