Eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age can make you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet.
Researchers say it’s a mortality risk comparable to smoking.
“The majority of Americans are eating about twice as much proteins as they should, and it seems that the best change would be to lower the daily intake of all proteins but especially animal-derived proteins,” said study author Valter Longo, in a news release from the University of Southern California. “But don’t get extreme in cutting out protein; you can go from protected to malnourished very quickly.”
The research comes as many people look to high protein diets to help them lose weight and build muscle.
“Not only is excessive protein consumption linked to a dramatic rise in cancer mortality, but middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources – including meat, milk and cheese – are also more susceptible to early death in general,” the news release states. The study was published in Cell Metabolism.
In the study, those who ate a lot of protein were more likely to die of any causes within the study period than those who consumed little protein. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes, the release states.
The study also showed that our body’s need for protein changes as we age. People over the age of 65 who ate a moderate- to high-protein diet were less susceptible to disease.
The study’s findings support recommendations from several leading health agencies to eat about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day in middle age. A person who weights about 130 pounds should eat between 45 to 50 grams of protein every day, with much of it coming from plants such as legumes, Longo said.
Sources: USC news release, Cell Metabolism
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