LOS ANGELES (CBS Atlanta) – Bad news for meat eaters: people who eat a high protein diet in middle age are more likely to die of cancer, reports Live Science.

The finding comes from a study at the University of Southern California.

Researchers followed 6,000 people age 50 and over for 18 years. They found that for those between 50 and 65 years of age, their risk of dying from cancer was four times greater if they ate a diet rich in animal proteins, such as meat, milk and cheese.

They also found those people were 75 percent more likely to die of any cause than those who ate a low protein diet during the same period.

The cancer risk from a high protein diet were similar to the risk from smoking; smokers are 4 times more likely to die of cancer than non-smokers.

The researchers warn fad diets take much of the blame. “Popular diets in many cases have high proteins and low sugars. They may make you lose some weight, but that’s not a good diet to increase life span,” said study researcher Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute.

But the news is not all bad. Those who got most of their protein from plant products, like beans, found their cancer risk not increased at all. This may be because they don’t stimulate growth hormones as much as meat proteins

And while animal proteins may be bad for the middle aged, the results were almost the opposite for people older than 65, for whom a moderate intake may be beneficial because they fight frailty.

The researchers recommend eating about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day in middle age. For example, a 130-pound person should eat about 45 to 50 grams of protein a day, with a preference for plant proteins.

The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism,

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