Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking

“Crucially, the researchers found that plant-based proteins, such as those from beans, did not seem to have the same mortality effects as animal proteins. Rates of cancer and death also did not seem to be affected by controlling for carbohydrate or fat consumption, suggesting that animal protein is the main culprit.”

 

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That chicken wing you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette. In a new study that tracked a large sample of adults for nearly two decades, researchers have found that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet — a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

“There’s a misconception that because we all eat, understanding nutrition is simple. But the question is not whether a certain diet allows you to do well for three days, but can it help you survive to be 100?” said corresponding author Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Biogerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

Not only is excessive protein consumption linked to a dramatic rise in cancer mortality, but middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources — including meat, milk and cheese — are also more susceptible to early death in general, reveals the study to be published March 4 in Cell Metabolism. Protein-lovers were 74 percent more likely to die of any cause within the study period than their more low-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of DIABETES.

But how much protein we should eat has long been a controversial topic — muddled by the popularity of protein-heavy DIETS such as Paleo and Atkins. Before this study, researchers had never shown a definitive correlation between high protein consumption and mortality risk.

Rather than look at adulthood as one monolithic phase of life, as other researchers have done, the latest study considers how biology changes as we age, and how decisions in middle life may play out across the human lifespan.

In other words, what’s good for you at one age may be damaging at another. Protein controls the growth hormone IGF-I, which helps our bodies grow but has been linked to cancer susceptibility. Levels of IGF-I drop off dramatically after age 65, leading to potential frailty and muscle loss. The study shows that while high protein intake during middle age is very harmful, it is protective for older adults: those over 65 who ate a moderate- or HIGH-PROTEIN diet were less susceptible to disease.

The latest paper draws from Longo’s past research on IGF-I, including on an Ecuadorian cohort that seemed to have little cancer or DIABETES susceptibility because of a genetic mutation that lowered levels of IGF-I; the members of the cohort were all less than five-feet tall.

“The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality, through a process that involves regulating IGF-I and possibly insulin levels,” said co-author Eileen Crimmins, the AARP Chair in Gerontology at USC. “However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

Crucially, the researchers found that plant-based proteins, such as those from beans, did not seem to have the same mortality effects as animal proteins. Rates of cancer and death also did not seem to be affected by controlling for carbohydrate or fat consumption, suggesting that animal protein is the main culprit.

“The majority of Americans are eating about twice as much proteins as they should, and it seems that the best change would be to lower the daily intake of all proteins but especially animal-derived proteins,” Longo said. “But don’t get extreme in cutting out protein; you can go from protected to malnourished very quickly.”

Longo’s findings support recommendations from several leading health agencies to consume 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 45-50 grams of protein a day, with preference for those derived from plants such as legumes, Longo explains.

The researchers define a “HIGH-PROTEIN” diet as deriving at least 20 percent of CALORIES from protein, including both plant-based and animal-based protein. A “moderate” protein diet includes 10-19 percent of calories from protein, and a “low-protein” diet includes less than 10 percent protein.

Even moderate amounts of protein had detrimental effects during middle age, the researchers found. Across all 6,318 adults over the age of 50 in the study, average protein intake was about 16 percent of total daily calories with about two-thirds from animal protein — corresponding to data about national protein consumption. The study sample was representative across ethnicity, education and health background.

People who ate a moderate amount of protein were still three times more likely to die of cancer than those who ate a low-protein DIET in middle age, the study shows. Overall, even the small change of decreasing protein intake from moderate levels to low levels reduced likelihood of early death by 21 percent.

For a randomly selected smaller portion of the sample – 2,253 people – levels of the growth hormone IGF-I were recorded directly. The results show that for every 10 ng/ml increase in IGF-I, those on a HIGH-PROTEIN diet were 9 percent more likely to die from cancer than those on a low-protein diet, in line with past research associating IGF-I levels to cancer risk.

The researchers also extended their findings about HIGH-PROTEIN diets and mortality risk, looking at causality in mice and cellular models. In a study of tumor rates and progression among mice, the researchers show lower cancer incidence and 45 percent smaller average tumor size among mice on a low-protein diet than those on a high-protein diet by the end of the two-month experiment.

“Almost everyone is going to have a cancer cell or pre-cancer cell in them at some point. The question is: Does it progress?” Longo said. “Turns out one of the major factors in determining if it does is is protein intake.”

 

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304125639.htm

A Hen’s Relationship with her Eggs

Chickens, like all animals, have a language unique to their species. Each sequence of sounds that they chirp, cluck and crow has a social, emotional or personal meaning. And if you spend enough time around these feathered friends you’ll begin, as I did, to hear the stories they are telling.

The rooster’s trumpeting call summoning his hens to dinner,
The rapid peeps of chicks as they search for their mother,
The oscillating clucks of a hen as she gives birth to an egg…

Of all the chicken calls I learned during the year I spent volunteering on different organic farms, I think it was the hen’s egg-laying song that shocked me the most. Somehow I had thought it would be a quiet process, that the hens would sneak away to their favorite hiding spot and peacefully begin their nest. While hens do try to find solitude, as the laying process begins, they also start to emit an unmistakable pattern of rapid and rolling clucks accentuated by a noticeably louder “Bwak!” at the end of each sequence. They sing this song with such intensity, wide-eyed and agitated, until the egg has finally been pushed out. It is enough to make anyone grateful that they weren’t born an egg-laying hen.

Although today’s egg-laying hens are the descendants of the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) which laid around 60 small eggs a year, most modern domestic hens have been bred to lay over 300 large eggs a year.

If free to behave “naturally,” most chickens will lay the number of eggs they desire for a proper nest and then stop producing more eggs until her chicks are old enough to fend for themselves. The time before her eggs hatch, while she sits on her nest warming and protecting her eggs, is called the “brooding” stage.

If a chicken’s eggs are removed on a regular basis, she will continue to lay, in a futile attempt to follow her instincts and form a proper brood. In fact, a chicken’s nesting instincts are so strong that they will continue to try to build a brood whether or not there is a rooster present to fertilize their eggs.*

* It is believed that chickens cannot tell which eggs have been successfully fertilized.

By now my empathy for these little feathered females must be evident, but regretfully it was not always so present. During my time working around chickens, there were a number of experiences that changed my perspective on eggs and opened my heart to the hens that laid them. The first started with making a homemade “farm fresh” omelet out of eggs a friend had collected. I cracked open a couple of eggs with no problem. But on the third, instead of a yolk and egg whites, a small, partially formed chick flowed into the skillet. My stomach lurched into my throat. Somehow seeing the beginning of a body in one of the eggs I was about to eat seemed so different to me than simply ingesting an unfertilized ovum. Suddenly eggs were no longer something you simply picked up at the grocery store. Instead I saw them as the beginning of a chicken.

The second experience that changed my perspective was the day I was faced with taking eggs from directly under a nesting hen. On this particular morning I was helping trim back some lavender on a farm I was volunteering at. My host and I were well into chopping back the lavender when we suddenly heard an agitated clucking below us. As we moved back one of the bushes we discovered a large black hen who had started a nest. She was attempting to shield her brood from the intruders hovering above her, but this hen was not a rescue. She had been brought onto the farm to produce eggs, and even though she had been clever enough to attempt a nest away from the chicken cage, her eggs were not considered her own.

How we got her to move off her nest is a bit foggy in my memory, but I believe I distracted her while my partner in crime quickly picked her up. And then I snatched her eggs out from under her. I quickly placed the eggs in the fridge for the farm staff to take home, as we didn’t think she had been sitting on the nest long enough for chicks to form.

When I went back outside I found the black hen frantically weaving in and out of the lavender, calling to her fellow chickens, some of whom ran over to her aid as she continued searching for her missing eggs. I tried to push my guilt aside and continue on my day. But when we returned for lunch, hours later, she was still there moving slowly in and out of the lavender and muttering to herself as she searched in vain.

I voiced my guilt to my host and we debated about whether we should put the eggs back. Finally it was decided it was too late, the eggs had been cold too long and we had to let it be.

Each egg laid had in some way drained her body of calcium and other essential nutrients*, unnecessarily shortening her life to feed her captors. And now, no matter how long her small sad eyes searched, all her work was lost.

Some chickens (if they have not been de-beaked) will eat their own unfertilized eggs if the egg is broken, if they are under stress, to replenish nutrients lost from laying (if they are lacking nutrients), or if there is not enough nest space.

What is an egg to a chicken?

Every chicken, like every person, is different. Some are absentminded, nesting in the middle of the yard. Others are aggressive and secretive, attempting to peck at the heels of any passersby. And still others are like the lavender mother hen, bonding to each egg they lay.

No matter the personality, no matter where or how the egg is laid, no matter if it is fertilized or not, each egg is the beginning of a chicken. And with each minute that I watched that large black hen search and call, hours after her nest had been robbed, I knew that no matter how we defined her relationship to her eggs, they were not ours to take…

Source: http://gentleworld.org/a-chickens-relationship-with-her-eggs/