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High protein diet as bad as smoking for middle-aged people

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You should avoid high protein diets if you're in your middle age. Findings of a new study suggest that consuming high levels of protein won't be a good idea if you are in your 50's and you want to live longer.

In a study published in the March 4 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers examined more than 6,000 adults in the United States who were more than 50 years old using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The researchers split the study subjects into three groups. Those in the first group got 20 percent of their calories from protein while those in the second group got 10 to 19 percent of their calories from protein. The subjects on the third group, on the other hand, had a diet made of up of less than 10 percent protein.

The researchers found that the subjects who had high protein diet were four times more at risk of death from cancer than those who consumed less protein. They were also 74 percent more at risk of dying from any cause during the study period than those who had low protein diet. Protein lovers were also found to have more risk of dying from diabetes.

"Almost everyone is going to have a cancer cell or pre-cancer cell in them at some point," said study author Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California (USC) Longevity Institute. "The question is: Does it progress? Turns out one of the major factors in determining if it does is protein intake."

The researchers, however found, that while protein is not good for middle aged people, it is good for older adults. They found that adults who were over 65 years old and consumed high amounts of protein had 60 percent lesser risk of dying from cancer.

"The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality, through a process that involves regulating IGF-I and possibly insulin levels," said study co-author Eileen Crimmins, holder of the AARP Chair in Gerontology at the University of Southern California (USC). "However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty."

Longo said the benefits and disadvantages of protein consumption depend on different individuals. "Your stage in life matters," he said "Some have said for years that proteins are bad. That's half right and half wrong."

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