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Is it dangerous to eat meat if you’re between 55 and 65? Will eating lots of meat then suddenly become healthful after you turn 65?
This is the somewhat confusing conclusion that some researchers drew from a new American questionnaire study:
- The Telegraph: High-protein diet “as bad for health as smoking”
- Science Magazine: Low-Protein Diet May Extend Lifespan
- MailOnline: Eating lots of meat and cheese in middle age is “as deadly as SMOKING”
- Scientific American: Diet High in Meat-Proteins Raises Cancer Risk for Middle-Aged People
- Science Daily: Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking
As usual, we have to take sensational headlines with a substantial pinch of salt. This was just a food questionnaire that was sent to some thousand Americans, and the researchers then looked at statistical associations with diseases.
As regular readers know, one can’t prove causation by correlating statistics from questionnaire studies. Only ignorant or sensationalism-driven journalists believe so. Unfortunately these two groups seem to constitute the vast majority of all journalists.
On subsequent examination, it turns out that at least 80% of similar findings in uncertain questionnaires are incorrect – see table 4 in the excellent review Why Most Published Research Findings are False.
So a more scientifically correct headline would be “There is a 20 percent chance that meat quadruples the risk of cancer for people under the age of 65 and reduces the risk for older people.” Not as enticing.
The statistical correlation between meat-eating and disease in people under 65 in the U.S. may just as well be due to the fact that meat consumption there is associated with eating junk food, smoking, lack of exercise, less vegetables and in principal any unhealthful lifestyle you can think of.
What, in all of these unhealthful lifestyles, is the cause of disease ? Statistics cannot prove this.
IGF-1 and cancer
Therefore, there are good reasons to ignore the study. But I guess that there’s still some truth behind it. Scientists report that protein (high-quality animal protein in particular) may raise levels of the hormone IGF-1, which stimulates cell division. High levels of IGF-1 may in the long run increase the risk of cancer.
What they don’t mention is that carbohydrates also increase levels of IGF-1, at least as much. Particularly bad carbohydrates in greater quantities radically raise IGF-1 levels. The only thing you can eat that doesn’t significantly increase levels of IGF-1 is fat.
The logical conclusion is that any variation of a low-carbohydrate diet with moderate amounts of protein (and enough fat) is the healthiest in the long run – at least to keep IGF-1 low while still feeling great. How much protein? The amount you need to feel good, feel full and stay strong and healthy. What is this concept called? LCHF.
The paradigm shift continues. More and more experts stop being unnecessarily afraid of fat. More and more people blame the obesity epidemic on junk food, with added sugar and other refined carbohydrates as culprit number one.
Now there are also new rules proposed for nutrition labels in the US. They’ll make it easier to watch out for added sugar:
Some people take a detour and blame the obesity epidemic on the fuzzy concept of calories. They are right in theory, but wrong in practice. The quality of the calories determines how many calories one wants to eat.
In the past, before the obesity epidemic, nobody knew what a calorie was. They still kept their weight. Requiring calorie counting to maintain weight falls on its own absurdity. It’s as silly as demanding that you count your breaths.
Could giving up grains cause heart disease and cancer? This is what Colin Campbell claims in his new book The Low-Carb Fraud:
Biochemist T Colin Campbell is the author behind the well-known vegan book The China Study and according to him, we should eat a low-fat vegan diet to keep us healthy.
There is a lack of evidence to support Campbell’s ideas. The book The China Study rests on an observational study – uncertain statistics – that doesn’t prove anything. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that the statistical data in the book were cherry-picked to fit the author’s preconceptions. Statistics that pointed strongly in the other direction were not included.
A new review of all relevant similar studies shows that Asians who eat more red meat on the contrary are healthier. They suffer less heart disease and less cancer. Not quite what Campbell managed to cherry pick from his one China study.
There may be good ethical reasons to be a vegan – it’s open for discussion. But those who fear animal foods for health reasons are afraid for no good reason. Continue Reading →
Why is nutrition so confusing? Why do some say “eat more bread and less butter”, while others say the exact opposite? Why does a third group say that it doesn’t matter, as long as you eat less of everything?
Here are two good answers. Which one do you believe?
According to science writer Gary Taubes’s new opinion piece in The New York Times there’s a simple explanation. We don’t know because we’ve been too lazy and cheap to do what is needed to find out the truth. We just pretend that we know.
Go ahead and read the opinion piece, which is unusually short and concise coming from Gary “640 pages” Taubes, but well worth reading as always.
Taubes’s opinion piece sent another profile in the nutrition field ballistic (again). Continue Reading →
Next: A million?
More and more people are combining LCHF with some version of intermittent fasting. This often works great.
I recently got an e-mail from Lina Hassinen. Here’s her story: Continue Reading →
Journalist Carina Glenning at Swedish paper Corren wrote a new sugar-critical opinion piece about the ongoing diet debate. More and more articles critical of sugar appear in the mainstream media.
Here’s the full article, translated into English. Continue Reading →
Are you looking to quit smoking now that the new year is here? Then the statistics below – from a new article in The Lancet - may make you go for it.
The graphs below illustrate how big the chance is for a 30-year-old to survive until a certain age, depending on wether they smoke or not:
What do the graphs show us? That non-smokers live on average a decade longer than smokers. The chance of reaching your 80th birthday is now good in the western world… unless you’re a smoker. Then you’ll probably die earlier.
Previous smokers who quit, according to the same article, dramatically improve their odds. They will live almost as long as people who never smoked.
Do you want to see your grandchildren grow up? Then dump the cigarettes.
The Taxation Route
The article also includes intriguing figures on what happens in countries applying a hefty penalty tax on cigarettes. Presumably, a similar tax on sugar would yield similar results: Continue Reading →
Is it bad for your health to skip breakfast? In the midst of the intermittent fasting hype, many were no doubt unnecessarily scared away by media alerts some time ago.
As usual this was just based on inconclusive statistics from a survey. There’s no evidence of any causation, as several news reports made it sound like:
- USA Today: Skipping breakfast may increase heart attack risk
- The Huffington Post: Skipping Breakfast Tied To Heart Attack, Coronary Heart Disease Risk
- The Telegraph: Skipping breakfast linked to heart disease?
To eat or not to eat
No wonder people stop listening to health alerts in the media. This is an excellent example of the bizarre reasoning that such statistical reports may lead to.
How can it, according to the study, be harmful not to eat, but yet more harmful to eat? Continue Reading →
Is it a good idea to eat breakfast every morning if you want to lose weight? This is an extremely common claim when it comes to dieting. The idea is that you’ll get so much hungrier if you skip breakfast that you’ll eat more throughout the day. But this claim lacks reasonable scientific support, and is at best based on inconclusive questionnaire studies.
Skipping a meal generally means you’ll eat less food. Hardly surprising, or what do you think?
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- 5Questions and answers about LCHF
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