Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vegan Diets in the News

New Scientist looks at the latest science regarding the possibility of life extension via dietary modification. Some evidence indicates the variable isn't (only) calories, but IGF-1, as triggered by protein:

The protein theory is bad news for people on low-carbohydrate weight-loss plans like the Atkins diet. "I'd be wary of diets that put a heavy emphasis on protein," says Piper. "It's hard to see how that could be healthy." 

Fontana goes one step further, saying that high-protein diets could risk accelerated ageing and cancer.  It's good news, however, for people already on low-protein diets, like vegans, who avoid eating meat, eggs and dairy products. In 2007, Fontana showed that vegans have lower levels of IGF-1 than meat-eaters.  

There may be another reason for vegans to celebrate. Studies on flies and rodents suggest that cutting intake of one particular amino acid, called methionine, lengthens life to a similar degree as calorie restriction. Proteins in meat and other animal products have high levels of methionine, so a vegan diet would score well by that measure, too.

Obviously, this is not an argument for veganism per se; one can have follow a high-protein vegan diet (Tofurky Beer Brat, anyone?, and one can follow a lower-protein omnivorous diet. But it is an interesting counter to those who think protein is the main concern.