Here are a few of the sensational headlines generated from the new, deeply flawed Cell study showing, on the basis of one 24 hour dietary recall 18 years ago that for people between ages 50 and 65, protein intake over 20 percent of calories increases risk of death, especially death from cancer.
- Meat and cheese diet could be as lethal as smoking
- Eating Large Amounts Of Meat, Cheese May Be As Deadly As Smoking
- Study says too much protein could lead to early death
- Meat And Cheese ‘As Bad For You As Smoking’
- Meat And Cheese Scare: Protein May Be As Bad For You As Smoking
This type of hysteria doesn’t do anyone any favors.
It doesn’t help consumers make choices.
It makes the researchers quoted, if the news reports are to be believed, seem PR crazy, not like serious scientists.
It contrasts with the positive, funny, smart example that Michelle Obama sets as she plays along with the hilarious goofiness of Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell, and so many others, to get people excited about exercise and even Kale Chips (my recipe here). Childhood obesity is declining, slightly. What she has achieved is remarkable.
Aside from the faulty methods, wild conclusions and the media department’s wish for publicity (press release opening sentence: ~that chicken wing could be as deadly as a cigarette~) , there is this, which readers should know and should rely upon:
- Protein stays in the stomach longest–at least 4 hours, versus much less for carbs or fat. Many people find protein-containing foods deeply satisfying
- Yet no one eats protein, fat or carbs. We eat food, which almost always combines these and thousands of phytonutrients we don’t even name, much less put on labels, but probable do as much or more good than those we do.
It’s widely recognized that sugar and starch make overweight people hungrier, and that those calories boost insulin resistance in anyone with extra visceral fat (about 70% of Americans, with Mexico, Latin America and much of Europe right behind).
And surely, if you’re not eating cruciferous vegetables along with your steak, meatloaf, chicken or salmon, you’re not detoxifying the cancer causing chemicals which arise when meats are cooked at high heat or charred or both. Brussels sprouts are actually a do-over for people who eat lots of animal protein.
So yes, eat more vegetables and less processed food, and certainly less processed and ground meat (full of additives and extra iron, which for men and post menopausal women probably increases oxidation and inflammation).
But most of all, to avoid cancer, as obesity is a bigger cause of cancer than tobacco, don’t smoke, eat sensibly and make your weight half your height.
Stop the sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, juices, sports drinks, teas and coffees and drink my citrus water (make with bottled juice if you like). To lower death from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, avoid extra sugar : it’s an independent risk factor.
Try a 6 inch plate for dinner at home: it will get full quickly and make the choices for you. Try nuts and beans and seeds as sources of protein: they seem to protect people older than 65 from frailty, and it is known that the older you get the more protein you need to maintain your muscles, stay strong, avoid falls.
In other words, if you’re in your mid-60s or older, or know someone who is, feel good–culinary medicine good- about preparing my Mandarin Chicken with Almonds or my Zesty and Gluten Free Black Bean and Ripe Avocado Burritos.
And if you’re 50+, do it anyway. Because they’ll be better than any fast food meal or nearly anything you can buy when you’re eating out, and because you’re making dinner yourself: and that is the very best preventive medicine.