On August 1, 2016 the journal JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that suggests trading animal proteins for plant-based proteins may help you live longer. The study followed 131,342 health professionals as part of the Nurses’ Health Study (from 1980-2012) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (from 1986-2012).
Men and women who ate a diet high in animal protein had a greater risk of dying than did men and women who ate a diet high in plant proteins, particularly those with at least one lifestyle risk factor such as smoking, heavy alcohol drinking, obesity, or lack of physical activity. Researchers explained, “Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.”
This is just the latest study to confirm the link between animal proteins and shortened lifespan. Two other groundbreaking studies also confirm the life extension qualities of eating a plant-based diet.
Animal Protein and Its Cancer-Causing Connection
In 1993, researchers discovered that eliminating just one genetic mutation could double the lifespan of the roundworm from 30 days to more than 60 days…the equivalent of a human living 200 years or more! The gene implicated in accelerated aging is called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and researchers believe if we can decrease the amount of IGF-1 that runs through our bloodstreams, we can decrease our disease risk and extend our lifespan.
Research indicates that IGF-1 promotes cancer, making you more susceptible to both tumors and cancer cell proliferation. What does this have to do with meat? Studies show that people who eat a lot of meat and animal by-products, such as egg whites and dairy proteins, have much higher levels of IGF-1 than do people who eat plant-based proteins such as legumes.
Reduce IGF-1 Levels in 11 Days
Replacing a diet full of animal proteins with one rich in plant proteins can decrease your IGF-1 levels in just 11 days. Lower levels of IGF-1 in the bloodstream may help your body fight cancer growth and eradicate cancer cells. For example, the blood serum of men eating plant-based proteins inhibited prostate cancer cell growth 8 times better than when the men were eating animal proteins. However, switching back to a diet high in animal proteins caused IGF-1 levels to once again soar.
Until recently, scientists weren’t certain if it was just the animal protein increasing IGF-1, or if the saturated fat in animal sources was contributing to the problem. A recent study points the finger directly at animal protein. Researchers followed 6000 adult Americans for 18 years. Men and women between 50 and 60 years old who followed diets high in animal protein had a 75% greater risk of dying and a 4-fold risk of dying from cancer compared to those who ate a diet rich in plant-based proteins.
Curious About Switching to a Plant-Based Diet?
Contrary to popular belief, plants are actually high in protein. If you are new to plant-based eating, you can start with the following proteins:
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Black beans
- Lima beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brussels sprouts