Really? Is a high protein diet bad for you?

raw meat
 So, I’m sure everyone has seen the tabloids and news reports stating that “Animal protein-rich diets could be as harmful to health as smoking”.
Really?! Actually as bad as smoking?! So next time you’re at the gym with some friends, drop that post workout shake and slap on one of Nicorettes’ finest to your chest and all will be fine! Right? Wrong.

It is difficult to believe that somebody has made a comparison between these two things, and to say that protein is as bad as smoking is quite frankly absurd.

As such, before explaining the many flaws in this pseudo-science fuelled nonsense I thought it best to read some of the articles fully myself and have a dig around on certain sources.

Having looked through each news company’s unique representation of this ludicrous propaganda, I have noticed the lack of actual science being even somewhat mentioned. Instead, what we see from Valter D. Longo (the man behind the claims) is an array of mere observations and wild comparisons.

Towards the end of the article, there is a small hint of some actual evidence of what Longo is trying to say, he states that due to protein intake being directly proportional to a growth hormone called IGF-1, this will lead to a slight cancer risk increase. To see how obtuse this statement is, we must first take a look at what IGF-1 actually is. IGF-1 stands for Insulin-like growth factor and it is naturally occurring and believe me, it is a good thing. IGF-1 is a hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. It plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults. A synthetic analog of IGF-1, mecasermin, is used for the treatment of growth failure.

So, in Layman’s’ terms, IGF-1 helps us to grow when we are young, helps us build muscle when we train as adults and also helps us regenerate and heal when injured. What Longo has failed to mention to us is that there is no causal link between protein intake and cancer. He has made an observation on a sample of people, for which there has been very little in terms of controlling factors. Nowhere in the article do I see talk of other habits such as smoking, drinking, lifestyle, work and training. Factors that are known to cause variation in the levels of growth hormone (GH) and IGF-1 in the circulation include: genetic make-up, the time of day, age, sex, exercise status, stress levels, nutrition level and body mass index (BMI), disease state and race. So by separating sample studies into two groups of “high protein” and “low protein”, without taking into account all factors affecting IGF-1, we prove basically nothing.

On top of all this, the article itself even states “nutrition experts” have cautioned that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions from the research.”

Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at Reading University, said it was wrong “and potentially even dangerous” to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese as the study does.

It even says that Longo skips lunch in an attempt to watch his calories and protein intake. He skips lunch!? I can’t remember any nutrition article I have ever read that said skipping meals was a good idea and consequently, I find it hard to believe any of the claims this man is making about nutrition.

To conclude, I think what is really going on here is the tabloids didn’t have much to talk about today and so, in keeping with their default, went with the “X gives you cancer” headline. Here are some of the things that, according to the Daily Mail, will cause cancer:

1. Sausages – Drop the Wiener fellas

2. A cold – Not just a snotty nose?

3. Oral Sex -Are you kidding me?

4. Facebook – Twitter is still cool, right?

5. Sun Cream  – I’m pretty sure this was meant to help?

6. Deodorant – looks like BO is the way to go

7. Hair dye – let those greys come through…

For those of you who can’t tell, I think all these factors are just as ridiculous as protein causing cancer.

I can safely say that the guys up at predator HQ are not convinced by the constant cancer causing myths the media likes to shove in our faces, and we won’t be swapping our protein shakes for a pack of Benson and Hedges anytime soon.

To all of you readers out there, stick to the stuff that works, being active is a vital part of being healthy, and protein plays a big part in a diet for someone who exercises and trains, perhaps Longo gave his participants lots of protein and had them sit around doing nothing all day? Which of course isn’t going to be healthy? Either way, to actively say protein is as bad for you as cigarettes are is both bold and stupid, and I hope everyone out their can realise the difference between good nutritional advice, and a tabloid looking for publicity.

For an article closely related to this topic, see here:

By Adam Darnbrough

© 2014, Adam Darnbrough. All rights reserved.

About Adam Darnbrough

I'm a 19 year old chemistry student with a passion for supplements, training and nutrition. I'm particularly interested in the science behind supplements and hope to one day be involved in creating my own innovative formulas.

2 thoughts on “Really? Is a high protein diet bad for you?

  1. Please also note how these global food company sponsored morons fail to mention the monumental amount of pesticides, heavy metals,estrogen mimicking chemicals, residual hormones and GM grains that have leeched into our food and water supply, and their link to cancer (despite the number of research studies they have tried to bury, the truth is out there and yet they deny it), protein? Really? To be fair if you are the type of person that believes this…just know that watching tv sitting on your arse, not educating yourself in regards to the realities of keeping healthy will more likely end in a miserable death than a fat juicy steak after working out. Peace and love to you all.

  2. I don’t think the research actually points out that ageing is a factor on cancer. The older you are increases the chances of having cancer; the body destroys thousands of cancerous cells over a life time, cancer is a natural response to some degree but people can have gene’s that increase the chances of developing cancer (Angelina Jolie and breast cancer).

    Did the researchers take into account each individuals genetic variants when assessing the chances of developing cancer?
    Could they have compared this type of dieting to say a pre-world war diet when meat consumption wasn’t as high? (or when cancer research was minimal)

    Did it give any suggestions for how to avoid this aside from swerving protein?
    Can it explain why not everyone is developing cancer (I know Cancer rates are high but I don’t think its 75% of the populous; we also have an aging populous many of whom have never had cancer).

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