Shock Headline - high protein diets as dangerous as smoking!

As usual, the Daily Mail is out to shock with the headline claiming:

‘Eating lots of meat and cheese in middle age is ‘as deadly as SMOKING’

We know that smoking is a prime cause of lung cancer and we shouldn’t do it, but let’s look behind the headline and see what the researchers found.

The study was reviewed data for 6,381 adults aged 50 and over (average age 65) using American public health data (NHANES III). The participants were followed for up to 18 years, giving 83,308 person years worth of data.

It is notoriously difficult to analyse dietary habits, as people tend to under report, lose interest, drop, out and make changes – we are human after all. It is also near impossible to take one component out of a diet and assume that is the risk factor. Hence we hear such conflicting advice on diet and nutrition like – eat eggs, don’t eat eggs; choose butter, no – eat margarine… No wonder we are confused!

The gist of the Daily Mail’s shocking headline goes a little something like this:

When researchers analysed the overall data, they found it was all a bit boring and nothing we don’t know. They said (direct quote) ‘Using Cox Proportional Hazard models, we found that high and moderate protein consumption were positively associated with diabetes-related mortality, but not associated with all-cause, CVD [cardiovascular], or cancer mortality when subjects at all the ages above 50 were considered.” In other words, a high protein diet was found to increase risk of diabetes a little (one person in one group – was there other reasons for this?!), but there was no link found between risk of death from other causes.

So how did they manage to grab the headline that they did? Well, with some careful manipulation of data, they started to find a link between different age groups, protein intake and risk of death.

So the fact that they chose to report the link between high protein diets and death, just goes to show that you shouldn’t believe everything you read!

Oh, by the way, one of the researchers, Dr Longo if the founder of) L-Nutra – a company that makes a plant based meal replacement product. Interesting!