By Amy Morris

New Research Finds Cheeseburgers As Bad For You As Smoking


People who are considered ‘middle aged’, which is between the ages of 50-65 years old, that consume a high protein diet are four times more likely to die from cancer compared to those who do not according to researchers at University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology that was published in the journal Cell Metabolism[1].

Almost 20 Years of Research Concludes High Protein Diet a Serious Risk to Health

Those participants who fell into the ‘high protein’ bracket were getting 20 percent or more of their daily calories from animal protein, whereas those in the ‘lower protein’ consumption group were getting 10 percent of their daily calories from animal protein.

The research team concluded these findings after spending almost 20 years tracking the diets of more than 6,300 people that were middle aged.

The culprits in the diet that led to this four times increased risk of diet came from diets heavy in milk, meat and cheese. The researchers also found that if you ate a high protein diet full of these foods specifically then you were twice as likely to die early compared to those with a lower animal protein consumption.

Health Risk Comparable to Smoking

The press release accompanying the published study labelled this as a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

The risk of early death from all causes soared by 74 percent among the high-protein consumers, researchers found.

They also found that among all the age groups studied, a diet high in animal protein increases insulin production and the risk of dying from diabetes-related causes.

The higher risk of cancer and overall death among the middle aged and the increase in diabetes deaths were “either abolished or attenuated if the proteins were plant derived,” according to the study researchers.

This is not the first time a research study has concluded that high protein diets may cause health problems, as a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology came to similar conclusions when a study within this publication was carried out on postmenopausal women[2].

High Protein Diet Good For Over 65’s

Interestingly, researchers found if you are over 65 then eating a moderate to high protein diet can actually reduce cancer and overall mortality rates. Plus they noticed that it is helpful in preventing age-dependent weight loss and nourishment.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Current recommendations are that an adult should have approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. So this means that a 130 pound adult should be eating between 45 and 50 grams of animal protein a day.

Use the following as a guide to how much protein you are consuming from the most common protein foods[3]:

  • 1 oz. of cheddar cheese: 7 grams
  • 1 egg: 6 grams
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast: 31 grams
  • 1 Burger King® Whopper: 22 grams
  • 1 Burger King® Triple Whopper: 49 grams


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About the Author

Amy Morris