Break Out the Steak

by Matilda Charles


For years we’ve been told to focus on plant-based proteins (beans, for

example) rather than meats and cheeses from animal-based proteins.

Now all that may change — depending on our age. Two studies, released

within a week of each other, concur: In middle age, a high-protein diet

makes us four times more likely to die of cancer, especially animal

proteins like cheese, meat and milk, which increases overall deaths. Yet

after age 65, an increase in protein is healthy.


One study, reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,

suggests that as we age, we don’t absorb protein like we used to. This

lack of protein can lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, as well as

how we function in activities of daily living. Researchers studied the

diets of over 1,000 seniors with an average age of 67, looking at their

intake of plant versus animal protein, and queried them again seven years



Men with the highest animal protein had a 39 percent lower chance of

functional decline. Scientists didn’t see similar results in those who

had a majority of plant-based protein in their diets.


The other study, in the journal Cell Metabolism, took a closer look at

the physics of why protein goes from being bad for us to being good. The

growth hormone IGF-I drops off after age 65, and we can become frail with

muscle loss without an increase in protein to offset what we’re not



Your best bet: Go to your doctor and ask for a referral to a

nutritionist. In the week before you go to your appointment, write down

everything you eat to give the nutritionist a baseline of your current

food choices. Ask whether, given the two studies, you should make any

adjustments in your diet.


Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader

questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible.


Send email to

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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