So you know how I’m always telling you sugar kills? Well it looks like one research team really wanted to change the subject. And their little sleight of hand got a lot of attention last week.
As you probably guessed, I’m talking about the recent study linking high protein diets to premature death. Of course, you and I both know how absurd this conclusion is. But the headlines caused quite a stir. And more than a little panic among my patients.
So let me tell you what the news reports said. And then I’ll explain why they’re completely wrong.
First up, the headline: “Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking.” Yes, that’s actually what these people are insinuating. Their basis for this outrageous comparison?
Apparently, this new study showed that people between the ages of 50 and 65 who reported high animal protein intake suffered a 75 percent increase in overall death risk. And more specifically, a four-fold increase in risk of cancer death over the course of 18 years.
These are absolutely shocking numbers. They’re also shockingly deceiving.
For starters, this was an observational study. Researchers simply asked people to report what they ate. Which is notoriously shoddy science. Needless to say, this type of study can never properly make the sorts of sweeping conclusions we all read about last week. NEVER.
What’s more, beyond citing that the subjects were “middle age,” the study fails to mention any other relevant health demographics. Were any of the participants already struggling with chronic health conditions? Or any other factors that would pre-dispose them to dying early—like a strong family history or obesity?
If you’re not accounting for all of these confounding factors, it’s just plain irresponsible to place the blame squarely on protein.
Oh, and here’s one juicy tidbit NONE of those sensational news stories have reported, pulled directly from the study itself: “On average, subjects consumed 1,823 calories, of which the majority came from carbohydrates (51%)…”
And somehow protein is to blame for these premature deaths?! Please. I’d be paying a little more attention to that sesame seed bun than I would to the beef patties sandwiched between it. Though I guarantee you the headlines for that study would be a whole lot different.
But while we’re on the subject, let’s talk a little bit about those “all-beef” patties. And that cheese, and milk, and chicken, too. You don’t suppose these researchers bothered to ask their subjects where these animal products came from, do you?
I guarantee you they didn’t. And this raises yet another enormous downfall of this study.
In conjunction with our national carbohydrate addiction, this country essentially lives on cheap, factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy. And let me tell you—there’s a big difference between factory-farmed animal products and those from locally raised, pastured livestock. HUGE.
And chief among these is the use of growth hormones. The farmer gives the cows a shot. And you get an extra helping of IGF-1 with your pot roast.
These researchers, of all people, should know that this difference matters. After all, they cite growth hormone and IGF-1 levels as a driving force behind their findings. In fact, it’s the whole reason they launched this study in the first place!
But I guess they just couldn’t be bothered with these “pesky” little details. They were too busy discrediting diets that actually work with their junk science. And why all the protein-bashing, you might wonder?
Well, people like you and me who prefer this kind of approach generally eat less and use fewer pharmaceuticals. And, well, no matter how good it is for you–that’s just bad for business.
“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, Volume 19, Issue 3, 407-417, 4 March 2014.