In an era where low carbs and high protein have become common for many watching their weight, studies reveal that living on a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates might reduce how long you live, and even cause cancer. A study in the US and another in Sydney have confirmed high protein has potentially unhealthy consequences.
Diets high in protein, such as the Atkins diet and the paleo craze, are being questioned as scientists reveal living on a low protein and high carbohydrate diet could help you live up to 50% longer than those living on a high protein diet. A study has found a diet high in animal protein (as opposed to plant protein) could be detrimental to health and even cut our life span.
In a study published in the US publication, Cell Metabolism journal, middle-aged participants who ate high protein diets had a greater risk of dying than those the same age who did not. Professors involved in the study believe we all have cancer cells in our body, but triggers such as excess consumption of high protein diets can make them multiply.
“Almost everyone is going to have a cancer cell or pre-cancer cell in them at some point,” says one of the study’s co-authors, Valter Longo, a University of Southern California professor. “The question is: Does it progress? Turns out one of the major factors in determining if it does is the volume of protein intake.”
Turns out one of the major factors in determining if it (cancer) does progress is the volume of protein intake.
Although upping the protein and decreasing carbohydrates in your meals might leave you feeling slimmer, an Australian study has also found it’s not a healthy choice for the long term. In fact, high protein diets might leave you with a “poorer health, poorer cardiovascular outcomes, more diabetes and shorter life spans” says Professor of geriatric medicine and member of the research team at Sydney University David Le Couteur.
High protein diets might leave you with a “poorer health, poorer cardiovascular outcomes, more diabetes and shorter life spans”
The University of Sydney study looked at “what a balanced healthy diet actually is” says Le Couteur. Spanning over three years, the study included putting mice on 25 different diets that varied in the amounts of protein from 5% to 60%, as well as varying in amounts of carbohydrates and fats. The mice were left to choose the amount of food they ate to better replicate the food choices of humans.
Results showed that the healthiest diets were the ones with less protein, higher amounts of carbohydrates and low fat contents. Somewhat controversially, the animals that ate a higher amount of calories lived longer lives.
When asked why protein lessens life span, Le Couteur linked it back to the blood levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), essential nutrients the body obtains from proteins found in foods. BCAAs are also used by body builders for gaining and maintaining muscle mass. “The downside of Branched chain amino acids is that they do activate a variety of pathways that are bad for ageing, for example insulin” a crucial element in the bodies aging process says Le Couteur.
Le Couteur says that low protein diets have benefited the life span of all organisms from insects and animals, to humans. The study unveils new approaches for treating obesity-related disorders and diseases of ageing. So next time your time you’re tossing up between a steak and a salad, remember “If they want to have a longer healthier life then a low protein, high carbohydrate diet is the way to go” Says Le Couteur
By BB Intern Dominique Tait
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