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High protein diet quadruples cancer risk: Paleo-style diet compared to smoking

Bite into a vegan sandwich for health, says a vegan physician.
Bite into a vegan sandwich for health, says a vegan physician.
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The Paleo diet may want to go back in the cave. Following a high protein low carb diet in middle age makes you four times as likely to die of cancer as those on low-protein diets, based on new research reported by Scientific American on March 4.

To conduct the study, researchers followed about 6,000 people ages 50 and older for 18 years. The results:

  • People ages 50 to 65 who ate a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age were more than four times as likely to die of cancer when compared to those who ate minimal meat.
  • A moderate amount of meat for people older than 65 can, however, protect against frailty.

"Popular diets in many cases have high proteins and low sugars. They may make you lose some weight, but that's not a good diet to increase life span," said study researcher Valter Longo, professor of biology at the University of Southern California (USC) and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

Longo compared the risks of a high-protein diet to smoking: Those who regularly smoke are four times more likely to die of cancer compared with nonsmokers.

In addition, his research team discovered that middle-age people who ate substantial amounts of animal protein, as advocated on the Paleo diet, were 75 percent more likely to die of any cause than those who ate a low-protein diet.

The research substantiates the arguments of vegan physician Neal D. Barnard, M.D., who is on the attack against gluten-free, low carb diets. He is the author of "The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook: 125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Jump-Start Weight Loss and Help You Feel Great" (click for details).

Adjunct Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Barnard recently debated against a Medscape interview with Dr. David Perlmutter, Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine, about his opinion that high fat, high protein diets that eliminate grains and sugar protect against diseases ranging from dementia to diabetes. Read about Dr. Perlmutter's views by clicking here.

Rather than blaming grains, Dr. Barnard points to fatty foods.

The transition to a diet heavily based on animal products, especially meat and cheese, aided and abetted by fryer grease and sugar, is the real culprit in the current epidemics of obesity; diabetes; and, as we will see, Alzheimer disease.

While Dr. Perlmutter cites research showing a link between Alzheimer's and starchy carbohydrates, Dr. Barnard notes that researchers at the Chicago Health and Aging Project determined that "fatty foods were linked to Alzheimer disease."

In particular, those researchers found links between saturated and trans fats and increased Alzheimer risk.

"Bottom line -- avoiding "bad" fats is a good idea," concludes Dr. Barnard.

Author of "21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health," Dr. Barnard also references studies showing that by replacing animal products "with healthy beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits, weight melts away, blood sugars fall, and the need for medications drops."

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