Are high protein diets really bad for you?
Are high protein diets really as bad for you as smoking?
A small trial seems to show that eating a high protein diet will greatly increase the chances of you dying of diabetes or cancer. We look at whether you should be concerned, or whether this is being blown out of proportion by the media.
What the study appears to show:
1) Eating a higher protein diet between the ages of 50 – 65 was linked to significantly increased risks of all-cause death and cancer mortality
2) People who ate a high plant protein diet had no increased risk of dying
3) Eating a higher protein diet over the age of 66 was associated with the opposite outcomes for overall and cancer mortality but a similar outcome for diabetes mortality.
What does this mean?
The study appears to show that in middle age, eating a diet high in animal protein increases the risk of you dying of diabetes, cancer or from another cause. According to the study, eating a plant protein diet doesn’t increase your risk of dying.
The researchers claim that after the age of 66 however, eating a high protein diet protects you from dying from except from diabetes.
Should we be concerned?
These are the facts about the study
1) The study is based on a 24 Hour Dietary Recall
The people in the study were asked what they had eaten in the last 24 hours and then classified into low, medium or high protein diets. The researchers then monitored their death rates for the next 18 years. Asking people what they ate and then assuming that they continue to eat exactly the same foods for the next 18 years is nonsense. Do you eat exactly the same foods today as you did 18 years ago?
2) The study is observational
All you can deduct from an observational study is that two events happen simultaneously, and not that they cause or have any influence on each other. For example, icecream sales increase during summer as does the rate of sunburn. Does eating icecream cause sunburn? Of course not.
3) There is no difference in cancer rates
The rate of cancer across the low, medium, and high protein groups was actually 9.8, 10.1, and 9.0%, respectively. There is no difference whether people ate a high or low protein diet.
4) There is conflict of interest
The senior researcher, V. D. Luongo is the founder and has equity in L-Nutra, a Vegan Based Nutrition System. It is therefore in his best interest to show that plant based proteins are superior to animal ones.
5) There is no assessment of confounders
This study doesn’t take into account any other factors that might influence the outcome. For instance, what is the source and quality of the protein? What is the vegetable intake across the groups? Is there a socioeconomic influence? Are the low protein eaters part of a religious group who have lower rates of disease just because of a positive outlook on life?
There’s no doubt that there is a link between IGF-1 and the growth of cancer cells. High protein foods, and in particular whey protein and dairy, do contain or cause the production of IGF-1 in your body. Hypothetically, a high animal protein diet containing these foods could contribute to cancer growth but does this research show this? Should you be concerned? No. This research is seriously flawed and proves nothing.
The W8less 40 Day Challenge uses a natural plant based protein powder and the total intake of animal proteins is what the researchers of this study conclude is a “safe” amount.