If you want to live a long, healthy life, it’s time to put down the burger. Results are in from a new University of Southern California study, and they say that eating proteins from meat and dairy may be as harmful to your health as smoking.
Researchers found that people who ate high-protein diets were 74-percent more likely to die from any cause than those on low-protein diets. Even people with moderate protein intake had triple the risk of dying from cancer in middle age.
The study, which involved 6,318 adults over age 50, calls into question the safety of high-protein, low-carb plans like Atkins and the Paleo Diet. Paleo advocates claim that the low-carb lifestyle helps prevent diabetes, heart disease and cancer — not so, according to USC researchers. In fact, study participants on high-protein diets were several times more likely to die from diabetes.
Animal proteins, in particular, appear to pose the highest risk. People who got their protein from beans, nuts, soy and other plant foods didn’t experience the same jump in mortality rate.
All of this means that America’s meat addiction may be among the most dire health risks facing the nation. The average American eats twice the protein her body needs, usually from beef, chicken, cheese, milk and other animal sources. With mantras like “everything’s better with bacon,” a life of meat consumption is more than just the norm — it’s viewed as something to aspire to.
Judging by the science, however, trading the bacon for a vegan lifestyle may be one of the best ways to protect your life. Considering livestock production is among the most devastating man-made environmental threats — not to mention the cruelty of factory farming — quitting meat is an ethical move even without the health risks.
If you aren’t ready to go all the way, cutting down on animal foods is better than nothing. Most grocery stores now have a broad assortment of vegetable-protein products that mimic the taste of meat, such as veggie burgers, corn dogs and “chicken” wings. With the ever-improving quality of meatless options, you may not miss the beef at all.