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High-Protein Diet May Raise Cancer Risk

    March 16, 2014
    Chris Tepedino
    Comments are off for this post.

High-protein diets like the Paleo Diet and the Atkins Diet have long been associated with bodies packed with muscle and low in fat. They also have been suggested by many as a way to lose weight quickly. But a new study suggests that high protein diets may increase cancer risk, especially if a person is between the ages of 50 and 65.

The study titled Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population was published in the journal Cell Metabolism on March 4, 2014, and already media outlets are pouring over the results.

In the study, researchers followed 6,381 adults aged 50 or over that represented a cross-section of society, meaning the study population is representative of the United States population in terms of ethnicity, education, and health characteristics. Participants in the study reported dietary intake and were divided into three categories regarding protein intake.

The first group was called the “high protein group” and consisted of individuals whose protein intake was at least twenty percent of their total calorie intake. The second group was called the “moderate protein group” and consisted of individuals whose protein intake was between 10 and 19 percent of their total calorie intake. The final group, the “low protein group” was anything beneath that.

Results showed that both high and moderate protein groups were at a higher risk for diabetes mortality compared to the low protein group. Researchers noted however that this needed further study to solidify the link.

Results also showed that among those between the ages of 50 and 65, high protein levels were linked to significantly increased risks of all-cause and cancer mortality. In this age group, those in the high protein group were four times more likely to die of cancer than their low protein group counterparts.

When researchers analyzed the animal-plant protein variable, they found that when they removed animal protein from the statistical sample, the link between high protein consumption and mortality disappeared. Researchers suggest that consuming a high level of animal proteins can lead to death by all health-related causes, including cancer.

Participants aged 65 or older actually need more protein than those in the low protein group, due to the fact that those over 65 suffer from protein malnourishment as their body weight starts to drop.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


  • Kevin Nimmo

    Whatever! Next week there will be a study claiming the opposite. Ho-hum!

  • gizmoprof

    The Mayo clinic has studied the effects of high protein diets and they have NOT reached this conclusion. I’d trust Mayo before I would trust “WebProNews”. Their name implies confidence, but they don’t have the credentials to back up that implication. It is essentially a Wiki!

  • Fancy

    This study, if it is was actually done, is very likely to have included some people who have diabetes (already), some who are obsese and many who have a high sugar intake as the article states it was a cross section of people. Therefore the result is predictable but the cause is not protein and not animal protein. Also, some of these people may have had a high fat diet with a high furctose intake such as many soft drinks. Therefore, a strict diet would have helped these people both with or without lean animal proteins.

  • WeAreNotAmused

    I’m really sick of people claiming Paleo is necessarily high protein, when in fact, it’s really high in non-starchy vegetables and fruit in proportion to normal protein servings around the size of one’s fist. The biggest thing about Paleo is the reduction in grains.

  • Jessay Connesay

    This is infuriating, nutritional science has become swarmed with BS overwhelming information. I have PCOS I’ve been told to eat low carb diet and grains put weight on me like nothing else. So if I eat a high carb diet with tons of whole grains, vegetables and fruits Ill get diabetes and be fat with PCOS and if I eat low carb and high protein Ill get cancer. Perfect.

  • Guest

    Why is there a huge picture of a cow? Protein doesn’t only come from meat. Proteins are found in plants like hemp etc This article didn’t specify what type of proteins these people where consuming. Steak and eggs is not necessarily healthy.

  • Guest

    That huge picture of a cow makes this article misleading because good protein actually come from plants like hemp etc. and NOT necessarily from meat and eggs. Read the second to the last paragraph.

    • Shanil S

      No come on think deeper. It’s because most of the protein consumed in America comes from animals.

  • Steve Grover

    I love these articles that say that something ‘MAY’ cause something terrible. Typically, whatever they are suggest MAY happen is the writer’s pet peeve, whether there is any credibility or not. Just writing such a headline is enough to convince many people there is a case, even if there is absolutely no way to connect the dots.

  • Dave

    Everything causes cancer nowadays. I have accepted that I will most likely die from it.

    • phil g

      Must remember to stop breathing.

  • phil g

    Another idiotic study done to meet someones agenda.And the uneducated(or just doesn’t care) reporter runs with it.

    Let’s say 2 people eat 150 grams of protein a day. Call them A and Z. A is one extreme. Z is the other. With many degrees of how someone can get their protein in between.

    A doesn’t work out. Gets his/her protein from the drive-thru. Egg McMuffin with sausage for breakfast. A double Whopper for lunch and the fries that go with it. Because BK has the 2 for $5 deal he/she saves that Original Chicken sandwich for a mid afternoon nosh. Spouse at home has some Chicken Fried Steak with gravy,biscuits and such. Their idea of healthy is fried fish. A vegetable is potato chips.

    Z works out. Oatmeal with fruit in the morn. Hemp protein shake mid morn. A salad with chicken and avocado for lunch. Cottage cheese with more fruit in the afternoon. maybe a handful of Almonds at some point. Spouse has a good grilled salmon waiting at home. Grilled with Olive Oil. Maybe with asparagus and lima beans. The occasional couple eggs for breakfast and lean meat for dinner are on the menu.

    I’ve been A. I’ve been Z. And everywhere in between. I had about the same amount of protein every day. One of these is high in saturated fats. One while much lower in fat has the good ones and healthy fiber to go with it. This study makes it seem as though they both have a better chance of dying.

    Get real. There are 3 food groups last I checked. Carbs. Fat. Protein. There is bad and good of both. The bad can kill. The good can save. And our bodies need all three of the good. But we can eat the bad occasionally as long as the good is the bulk of our diets.

    • Shanil S

      wow and what research is your work based on?

      Yeah none. Look at the real study before you rant.

  • phil g

    Hmm! So protein is bad. Fat is bad. I guess I’ll just have Cheetos and beer 5 times a day.

    • phil g

      Oh. And I only breath when I simply must.

  • homer

    The actual study report at cell dot com is interesting reading.

  • Joey Jacobson

    You are not going to get good information on these fad articles. Protein is fine. Fat is fine. Just not excess food in general. Carbs are ok from natural sources here and there. You just have to look carefully and will understand more about how the body works and you do not need years of school.. information is free. Just most is bull hockey. Low fat diets, and really high protein and carb diets are not healthy. And you are better off eating cow than like a cow lol (if you don’t get it I mean only plants and huge amounts of food). Watch out for people who wear shirts professing their diets or exercise program like it is a religion. A lot of centenarians ate eggs, lard sandwiches, milk, butter, and pork. Food is energy. Thats it. Eat energy dense foods in medium/small portions and not frequently. And while we argue smug opinions on here, lots of people make money off of you with their lies. Let’s share information and try to understand, rather than fight about food. Nothing gets done that way and we contribute to the confusion.

  • Vegaia

    The Scary News About the Paleo Diet
    …those who ate the animal-protein heavy diet fared way, way worse than others: They were 74% more likely to die early than those who followed a low-protein diet.
    http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/scary-news-paleo-diet-190000020.html

  • Zz Gcl

    This article is a bit misleading but if you read the second to the last paragraph where it clearly states that the research is based on ‘animal’ protein consumption that leads to death, why doesn’t it even mention the fact that proteins come from other sources like plants? Neither did it go into detail as to what type of protein being consumed during this research. I think that in this complicated world we live in right now, it makes a big difference whether your diet intake consist of organic plants or non-organic GMO plants to grass fed cows and free roaming chickens or the animals raised with growth hormones/antibiotics.