Debunked: High Protein Diets Linked To Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Early Death

by Teffy Thachenkary

high protein diets dangerous

Debunked: Paleo Diet Dangerous

There was a flutter of news headlines and emails today about a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology.  Articles related to the study state that high protein intake is detrimental and is as dangerous to health as smoking cigarettes.   The study associates increased protein intake to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Some of the articles warn Paleo Diet followers to reconsider their protein intake.  One news source is linked below:

High-Protein Diets In Midlife Linked To High Risk Of Premature Death, Study Says

Scary Paleo Diet headlines from today
High protein diet quadruples cancer risk: Paleo-style diet compared to smoking
High-protein diet ‘as bad as smoking 20 cigarettes a day’
High-Protein Diet Linked with Cancer, Early Death
Low-carb diet may make you unhealthy, shorten your life: study

If I was new to Paleo and considering following the Paleo Diet, I wouldn’t be after reading those headlines.  Is Paleo is going to kill me?  Steer clear!

The first things that jump out about the articles
1. Milk and cheese intake are included with meat as animal protein
2. Quality of protein is not taken into consideration (ie grassfed, pastured, organic)
3. No mention of carbohydrate intake anywhere in the articles
4. What does “High Protein” mean exactly?

From Study
On average, subjects consumed 1,823 calories, of which the majority came from carbohydrates (51%), followed by fat (33%) and protein (16%), with most of it (11%) derived from animal protein. The percent of calorie intake from protein was used to categorize subjects into a high protein group (20% or more of calories from proteins), a moderate protein group (10%–19% of calories from proteins), and a low protein group (less than 10% of calories from proteins).

From Wikipedia
The typical American diet is about 50% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 35% fat.

Reading the study and deducing from above, the subjects of the study were ages 50-65 and were on a standard unhealthy Western Diet or “Standard American Diet” (S.A.D.).  Subjects that ate more meat, milk, & cheese died from heart attacks and cancer more often.  Subjects that ate less meat, milk, & cheese died less often.  Anything mind blowing here that we didn’t know before?

It was fun to see how the various news sources spun and sensationalized the study findings.  The real article title should be “Standard Western Diets Cause Heart Attacks and Cancer”.

Link to actual study
High Protein Diets Linked To Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Early Death