Can too much protein lead to cancer?

Proteins are essential for a person’s diet because they provide amino acids that are used throughout the body. Most people associate high protein diets with muscle build and weight loss. But is too much protein bad for you? Scientists and medical professionals say yes. In a study published in Cell Metabolism, researchers have shown a link between increased Insulin-like Growth Factor Receptor 1 (IGF-1) expression and high protein intake. They observed raised cancer and diabetes mortality rates in younger individuals who consumed more protein in their diet. The same researchers also showed increased tumor progression in mice with high protein diets and high IGF-1 expression.

Nutritionists advise an average adult woman should consume about 46 grams of protein per day and the average adult male should consume about 56 grams. However, with the availability of protein powders, supplements, products, etc., most people are consuming more protein than their bodies can process. Experts have shown that the body can only absorb and utilize a certain amount of protein per day and robbing the body of other essential macronutrients (such as whole grains, fats, fruits, and vegetables) can be detrimental. Large population studies have shown an association between high protein diets with an increased incidence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, increased kidney disease, and other illnesses. Some nutritionists and skeptics dismiss these concerns stating there is not adequate evidence to support these claims. Nutritionists have seen people lose weight on high protein diets and say there is a distinction between minimally required and optimal intake level when it comes to protein. Either way, nutritionists do advise that the source of protein is important, and advise individuals to avoid artificially produced proteins. Since the New Year ushers in a number of New Year resolution diets, we thought it would be pertinent to refresh this topic in hopes of providing helpful information.

Reference: Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population (March 2014).


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