Some of you may have read or heard that an anti-aging diet that’s high in red meat has been linked to some forms of cancer. Previous evidence has certainly indicated that people who eat more high-protein animal products can show an increased risk of developing cancers of the breast and digestive tract. Further research has now provided some new insight into the understanding of how your anti-aging diet can affect the growth of cancer cells.
Researchers analyzed the data of over 6,000 subjects over an 18-year period and assessed the relationship between their anti-aging diet and the frequency of cancer development. The research indicated that people between the ages of 50 and 65 who consumed an anti-aging diet that was higher in animal proteins were up to four times more likely to develop cancer, compared to people who consumed a low-protein anti-aging diet.
High Animal Protein and Increased Cancer Risk
The participants aged 50 to 65 consuming a high animal-protein anti-aging diet had higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone produced in the liver that can have an accelerated effect on cancer cell growth and cancer-related death. Those who ate the most protein also had a mortality rate that was 75% higher than in subjects who ate less protein from meat and other animal products. However, for participants aged 65 and older, a high-protein anti-aging diet was associated with lower mortality rate and a reduced risk of cancer.
Furthermore, it was discovered that subjects who got more than 20% of their daily calories from foods like meat and dairy products had the same type of risk for chronic disease and cancer as is commonly associated with smoking. However, those subjects who consumed the same amount of protein, but from plant sources, did not have any of the associated risks of chronic disease and cancer that the subjects who consumed their protein from animal sources only had.
Animal Protein and Increased Diabetes Risk
The researchers also found something else that was very interesting. Regardless of age, increasing the amounts of animal protein in the anti-aging diet increased the risk of developing diabetes, which contributed to the increased mortality rates among this section of participants.
This study is interesting because it looks at the effects of consuming larger amounts of animal protein in your anti-aging diet over an extended period of time. Although this type of high-protein anti-aging diet has been shown to influence cancer growth and mortality rates, especially among older adults, it is not necessarily the protein that may be at fault here.
The Real Culprit: Fat
In my opinion, it is the type of fat that is likely the culprit more so than the protein. Animal products can be excellent sources of protein in your anti-aging diet, but they also contain higher amounts of saturated fat and arachidonic acid, which can decrease insulin sensitivity, increase blood sugar, and greatly increase inflammation. Inflammation and insulin resistance easily account for the higher incidence of diabetes and mortality in this study.
Prolonged periods of high inflammation in the body can also greatly encourage cancer cell growth. Also, the effects of IGF-1 upon cancer growth, as found in subjects whose anti-aging diet contained high animal protein, was more likely caused by the higher insulin levels.
The better choice for those who want to benefit from the consumption of protein, but without the risk, is to switch to the Mediterranean anti-aging diet, which contains an adequate amount of protein and healthy carbohydrates, plus fiber, antioxidants, and essential fats. Click here to learn more about the Mediterranean style of eating and how it can benefit your anti-aging diet.
Gholipour, B., “High-Protein Diet Raises Cancer Risk As Much As Smoking, LiveScience web site, March 4, 2014; http://www.livescience.com/43839-too-much-protein-help-cancers-grow.html.
Levine, M.E., et al., “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,” Cell Metabolism 2014; 19(3): 407-417.