My dad sent me a link to this recent study and asked me what my opinion was, as it seemed to be causing quite an uproar in those enthusiastic about the Paleo diet. The study, according to headlines this past week, links overall mortality and increased cancer incidence with protein consumption in the middle-aged.
Here is the first portion of my initial response to the study:
“I think that, as with all research, it’s demonstrating the correlation (not causation) of one macronutrient with broad effects like mortality, diabetes, and cancer. The study says nothing about other macronutrient intake, sugar intake, saturated or trans fat intake. It is likely that grass fed organic beef (and other high-quality meat or fish) was not the primary non-veggie protein consumed by those partaking in the study; if it was there may have been different outcomes. In other words, in our society it is very likely that high protein intake also means low vegetable and fruit intake, and/or eating low quality meat and sugar and processed junk food with minimal color and variety in the diet. So it doesn’t surprise me that the association between higher protein intake and mortality exists in people less than 65. It also doesn’t surprise me that when these people consumed most of their protein from vegetable sources there was no correlation with increased mortality or cancer.”
Later in the week, I received this far more in-depth and eloquent response to the study from the manufacturers of Thorne supplements* (one of the leading supplement brands of the purest quality and highest standards available only to physicians and their patients). The author expands on my initial opinion, disclosing more about the details of the study, and ending with a very reasonable interpretation and recommendations to help readers wade through the media hype surround the study.
In summary, the conclusion of my email to my dad:
“So, as with all research, we are isolating one component and therefore have willingly prevented ourselves from being able to extrapolate or generalize the data to the entire population or overall dietary recommendations. I am still (as always) recommending people eat variety, whole foods, and minimal junk. The end.”
*I have no affiliation with this company except for using their products with even the most sensitive of individuals and seeing great benefit in patients.