A diet heavy on meat and cheese could be very bad for our health if you're middle-aged. It could be as bad as smoking cigarettes.
According to a study from the University of Southern California, middle-aged people who got most of their protein from animal sources, like meat and dairy, were four times as likely to die from cancer. Protein from plants didn't have the same effect.
For those age 66 years old and up, a high-protein diet turned out to be good. Older people who ate a higher-protein diet were less likely to die from cancer.
Researchers say diet can have a different effect at different stages of life.
Over a period of nearly 20 years, USC researchers studied more than 6,000 Americans over age 50. They found people between ages 50 and 65 who ate high protein diets had a higher risk of cancer. But the people over age 65 who ate high protein diets had a lower risk of cancer.
The study defined a high protein diet as one that consisted of 20 percent or more of the total calories being derived from protein.
However, researchers only found fault with animal protein, or meat and cheese. In fact, the study showed no mater what their age, people who ate high protein diets from plant-based sources, like beans and legumes, did not have an increase in cancer risk.
Why the Age Difference?
Why does too much meat and cheese causes cancer in middle-age? Researchers say its because animal proteins activate a growth hormone that causes cancer cells to grow. But during our senior years, that growth hormone diminishes, so that animal protein is actually good for people over age 65.
The latest research has many people wondering what foods are safe to eat. Health experts have warned against eating all three categories of food: fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
The secret to good nutrition is understanding that there are both good and bad fats, good and bad carbohydrates, and good and bad proteins.
For instance, most know they should avoid bad carbohydrates, such as sugars and refined starches like sweets, soda, white bread, white rice and white pasta. But we should eat plenty of good carbohydrates, such as vegetables.
When it comes to fat, we know that trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils, are extremely harmful to our health and have been linked to heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer's disease. Trans fats are common in processed foods, vegetable shortening, and margarine.
However, not all fats are bad. The healthy ones include olive oil, fish oil, and coconut oil.
As for protein, studies have shown that processed meats, such as ones containing nitrates or nitrites are linked to cancer, so we should stay away from such products. Nitrates and nitrites are often found in bacon, luncheon meat, and hot dogs. Check the labels. Dairy proteins, such as cheese, have also been linked to cancer and allergies.
Heath concerns also surround the consumption of animals raised for food that have been exposed to antibiotics, steroids, or are corn fed.
Therefore, healthier protein sources consist of organic meats, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, as well as fish, although experts recommend limiting fish consumption to about three servings per week over concerns about mercury toxicity.