A study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that taking part in a diet high in meat, dairy and cheese in middle-age could result in an early departure from life. Researchers from the U.S. and Italy conducted this longitudinal study spanning twenty years. They followed thousands of adult participants and found that those who consumed a diet high in meat during middle-age were four times more likely to acquire cancer than their mostly plant eating brethren. If these findings prove consistent through follow-up studies, a diet high in meat over middle-age could be analogous with smoking in terms of cancer promotion. Those with high meat consumption also significantly increased their chances of dying from diabetes, researchers found. Gerontology professor at the University of California and director of the school’s Longevity Institute Valter Longo was one of the study’s co-authors. He said for a long life, the vast majority of Americans should decrease their overall protein intake, particularly from animal sources.
There is one exception. Those over 65 may find a higher protein intake beneficial. After age 65, more protein can protect against frailty and help seniors maintain a healthy bodyweight. How much protein is the proper amount is still a matter of debate. Those who take part in Paleo or Atkins may be successful in shedding pounds in the short-term. But long-term they could be compromising their overall health and longevity. In this study a high protein diet was one where protein made up 20% of the total food consumed or more. A low protein diet consisted of less than 10% of the total. Longo recommends that middle-aged adults consume 0.8 grams of protein per day for every kilogram of body weight they carry. Someone who is 150-pounds for instance should consume eight or nine ounces of animal protein or several cups of beans or lentils, daily. He also recommends that Americans get more of their protein from plant rather than animal sources.