Study after study has shown that those consuming higher amounts of animal protein are at more risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers and kidney disease. Even a study looking at nearly 40,000 men and 90,000 women has confirmed the association between high animal protein intake and cardiovascular disease/cancers – this paper concluded (1,2,3,4, 5,6).
Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.
A review paper (published in the International Research Scholarly Notices Journal) in particular took on the task to try and determine if any studies have shown that taking protein well above the RDI is safe and of any benefit and this was their word for word recommendation and conclusion (7):
32 studies (21 experimental human studies and 11 reviews) were identified. The adverse effects associated with long-term high protein/high meat intake in humans were (a) disorders of bone and calcium homeostasis, (b) disorders of renal function, (c) increased cancer risk, (d) disorders of liver function, and (e) precipitated progression of coronary artery disease. Conclusions. The findings of the present study suggest that there is currently no reasonable scientific basis in the literature to recommend protein consumption above the current RDA (high protein diet) for healthy adults due to its potential disease risks.
So no, there is no study that exists which shows over time its HEALTHY to consume excess protein. There may be studies showing you can get better muscle gain, but remember this is being done potentially at the expense of health. Many of these studies are funded or sponsored by protein companies with hidden agendas, like this one published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism – this paper recommends a whopping 3.32g of protein/KG per day yet only tracks subjects for 1 year (no where near long enough to see long term effects of high protein intake and onset of disease) AND further to that one of the key researchers, Jose Antonio Ph.D. is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, which receive FUNDING (money) from a WHEY PROTEIN company called Dymatize. See below from the paper itself (8):
Increasing red meat consumption over time is associated with an elevated subsequent risk of T2DM, and the association is partly mediated by body weight. Our results add further evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention.
Respondents aged 50-65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years
Not convinced yet? Your personal trainer or nutritionist still promoting a low carb, super high protein diet to lose weight? They are more than likely doing this because they know you need a quick result in order to keep paying them – but in reality, if they knew the science and had your best interests at heart they would set you up for a sustainable and healthy long term change to your diet, rather than one that sets you up for an increased chance of developing chronic illness. Check out this study on 42,237 swedish women who did exactly that – a low carbohydrate and high protein diet (11). The result:
A diet characterized by low carbohydrate and high protein intake was associated with increased to
tal and particularly cardiovascular mortality amongst women. Vigilance with respect to long-term adherence to such weight control regimes is advisable.
According to Garth Davis M.D, there is no study to show that these chronic illnesses can be caused by plant protein. So is it the animal protein that’s causing the diseases or is it the fact that alongside it you are consuming the saturated fats, cholesterol and hormones/antibiotics? Or perhaps that when consuming plant protein you’re also consuming fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Future studies will work to determine this, but it’s clear there is an association between animal protein source consumption and chronic disease.
If you’ve got time, watch the full video interview of Garth Davis:
I was shocked to discover that none of the elements of the Protein Gospel were even a little bit true:Protein is not the key to weight loss – in fact, animal protein is one of the biggest factors behind the obesity epidemic, and, in virtually every study, animal protein is correlated with weight gain. Animal protein is not one of the healthiest foods around rather, it is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, the primary killers of our time. Plant-based protein not only exists it’s much better for you than animal protein and all plants contain more than enough to support every one of your health needs. A lower-protein (and low-fat) diet is the most effective way to lose weight, improve your health, and prevent future disease. Carbs, far from being the enemy, are (in their natural state) the source of human health, vitality, and vigor. After years of intense research, I could come to only one conclusion: People whose diets are high in animal protein have significantly higher rates of chronic diseases: hypertension, cancer, diabetes, heart disease.
If you substitute plant protein for it your risk of dying goes down. And that was true not only for red meat…chicken…it’s true for fish, eggs, dairy products, Dr. Neal Barnard.
There is plenty of evidence to support a plant-based diet to help manage symptoms and reverse the disease:
Improvements were seen in some clinical and pain measures. This pilot study suggests the potential value of a plant-based diet intervention, including weekly support classes, for treating painful diabetic neuropathy.
This study compared the standard type 2 diabetes recommended diet to a low fat vegan diet and concluded that the low fat vegan diet resulted in greater improvement.
Both diets were associated with sustained reductionsin weight and plasma lipid concentrations. In an analysis controllingfor medication changes, a low-fat vegan diet appeared to improveglycemia and plasma lipids more than did conventional diabetes diet recommendations.
Those who sustained plant-based nutrition for a mean of 3.7 years experienced a low rate of subsequent cardiac events
It is often said that animal-based protein sources are better because they are ‘complete’ sources of amino acids in the right ratios for muscle building. This is information that has been derived by a small subset of society, body builders, and clinical research on improving muscle synthesis with little regard to overall health and chronic illness. Remember the average body builder lives to around 57 years of age…not the best group of people to be looking to for true health inspiration. Every single essential amino acid can be found via a balanced plant-based diet and some plants in particular (hemp, soy, pea, brown rice, pumpkin & quinoa) provide all 9 essential amino acids themselves, but in ratios that are less damaging to your overall health. One of the key amino acids that’s in VERY high concentration in animal protein sources is Methionine which the body uses to produce homocysteine in the liver. Homocysteine is highly reactive in the body and has been linked to increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease , blood vessel dysfunction and coronary heart disease. Let’s look at the amount of Methionine in some of the popular animal protein sources versus plant-based on average serving sizes working on an adult RDI of 13mg per KG (16,17,18).
Lean Beef & Lamb (296g): 399% RDI
Pork (200g): 230% RDI
Eggs (2 eggs): 54% RDI.
Turkey/Chicken (200g): 218% RDI
Fish (200g): 230% RDI
Cheese (56g): 74% RDI
Milk (1 cup): 57% RDI
Black/White/Kidney Beans (1 cup): 36% RDI
Soybeans (100g): 73% RDI
Chickpeas (1 cup): 18% RDI
Almonds (28g) 5% RDI
Tempeh (200g): 32% RDI
Pecans (28g): 5% RDI
Macadamias: 5% RDI
Chia Seeds (28g): 15% RDI
You can see a balanced plant-based diet is likely to see you consuming far less Methionine per day.
Fortunately, there are a few things working in your favour to help you get over your love for traditional ‘meat’.
Samantha Heller, Senior Clinical Nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City, summed it up pretty well when she recently said although high protein animal diets seem appealing for quick fat loss, the research is pretty clear.
“Overall, the research is pretty clear that more plant-based diets offer a wide array of health benefits, including lower risks of many chronic diseases, better weight management and healthier hearts and brains” said Heller.
I don’t know about you, but it seems pretty obvious what food is harming our cells or at least ‘risky’ and what is helping our cells thrive.
Now that you understand the science and rationale behind transitioning from animal to plant-based proteins, check out the Plant Proof blog How much Protein do we need and where can we find it? for practical ways to get plant protein in your balanced whole foods plant-based diet (it’s really simple).
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