MAP responds to controversial protein study
Published:  05 March, 2014

The Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) has spoken out about the results of a controversial US study linking high intake of animal protein with increased risk of cancer, diabetes and overall mortality.

The US study, carried out at University of Southern California, looked at two age groups – 50- to 65-year-olds and over 66-year-olds – and monitored their diet over a 24-hour period. It analysed the link between levels of insulin-growth factor (IGF-1) and age-related diseases, with protein levels a key factor in influencing IGF-1.

The results, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that while lower protein intake was associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer and overall mortality in 50- to 65-year-olds, this was not the case for those over the age of 65.

Respondents aged 50-65 with a high protein intake were said to have a 75% increase in overall mortality and a four-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years. While high protein intake was associated with reduced cancer and overall mortality risk for the older age group.

The study also claimed that animal-derived proteins were linked to higher mortality than those derived from plants.

Responding to the findings, the MAP said that while some studies have linked high levels of meat consumption with health issues, the evidence was inconsistent and the research often of very poor quality.

Doctor Carrie Ruxton, independent dietitian and advisor to the MAP, said: "This research has many limitations and even the researchers themselves admit the study is flawed in terms of research methods used, classification of respondents, small sample sizes for analysis, especially when looking at health issues like diabetes. People should not cut down their red meat consumption or stop eating meat as a result of this flawed study.

"Diabetes and cancer are complex conditions that are not caused by single foods or nutrients. The result of one observational study, like this latest publication, does not changes dietary advice or recommendations. Scientists need to be much more cautious in interpreting the results from these types of studies and act responsibly when communicating them to the general public."

The study included 6,381 adults aged 50 and over who took part in The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a nationally representative cross-sectional study in the US.