Protein Confusion: How Much Should Your Diet Include?

Protein rich foods

(DGIwire) — A new article in the journal Cell Metabolism, cited research around protein consumption by adults aged 50 years and older which was specifically designed to determine how different levels of protein intake might affect health.

So, do we now finally know how much protein we need?  Absolutely not!  In fact, the results appear more confusing than ever.

Adults in the study aged 50-65 whose protein intake was 20% or more of total calories were four times more likely to die of cancer or diabetes and 74% more likely to die of any cause when compared to those with the lowest protein consumption (less than 10% of calories) during the study period.  It sounds like we finally have a definitive answer.  But, guess what?

Adults over 66 years old whose protein intake was 20% or more of calories were 60% less likely to die of cancer and 28% less likely to die from any cause than those whose protein intake was lowest.  Really?

The authors of the study concluded that your stage of life makes a difference.  After adjusting for various factors, they found that the amount of protein was the key and that the fat and carbohydrate component of the diet made no difference in the outcome.  Although they didn’t look at children or adults under 50 years old, you can’t help but wonder what surprises those statistics might reveal.

What’s a person who is interested in good health supposed to do?

Body composition is a major factor when it comes to good health.  Maintaining adequate lean body mass at any age while at the same time keeping body fat levels and BMI at the lower end of the healthy range is very important.  “The ideal amount of dietary protein is the minimum amount needed to maintain a healthy level of lean body mass.  The amount will vary by age and activity levels and is therefore a very individual factor”, according to health expert Dian Griesel, Ph.D., co-author of TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (BSH 2011).

The researcher also found that plant-based proteins did not have the same mortality effect as animal proteins, suggesting that animal protein or more accurately, an excess of animal protein might be the main factor.  Animal protein in general is more readily absorbed and utilized by our bodies and so less is required to get the job done.

Griesel adds, “Most people eat almost twice as much protein than they need.  They also often neglect the amount of plant-based protein that they consume believing that it doesn’t count.  The current guideline to consume about .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight from all sources is a good guideline, if your body composition is in the ideal range.  However, if you are overweight or obese, as 70% of the American population currently is, even this number will be too high for optimal health. “

The best sources of plant based protein include:  any kind of bean, avocados, peas, nuts, oats, quinoa or other sprouted grain products.

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