A new study argues that eating meat in ‘old age’ may be as deadly as smoking cigarettes — only animal protein also seems to protect people from heart disease. Confusing? In a word, yes.
That’s because in our world of multimedia, 24-7 news cycles churning in an ocean of “infoglut” — the irrelevant, useless factoids in which we’re daily immersed — most of us never get past them.
We scan the websites, blog posts and, if you’re a real dinosaur, the newspaper, and absorb a few quick items without a whole lot of time or effort devoted to digging any deeper. That’s not a criticism of anyone’s intellectual curiosity, but rather a recognition of the sheer volume of information that confronts us each day.
Here’s a great example of how headlines can be misleading, this from CBS News online yesterday: “Meat, dairy may be as detrimental to your health as smoking cigarettes, study says.”
If you stopped right there, the implication is that bacon and eggs for breakfast, or a burger for lunch, is no different from firing up a pack of smokes. Indulge in either one, and you’re as good as dead.
The study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism earlier this week, claimed that middle-aged people who eat a diet high in animal proteins from milk, meat and cheese are more likely to die of cancer than someone eating a low-protein diet. The researchers further contended that people who ate lots of meat and dairy were more likely to die at an earlier age.
“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?” the study’s co-author, Valter Longo, Edna M. Jones professor of bio-gerontology at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute, stated in a news release.
Of course, there’s more, much more, to the story.
Confusion and complications
Prof. Longo researches a protein that controls a growth hormone called IGF-I, which supports physiological anabolism—what we call “growth.” Highly elevated levels of IGF-I have been associated with an increased cancer risk, which makes sense, since cancer basically involves cells growing out of control.
Fine. But now here’s where it gets complicated. Allow me to quote from the study’s actual abstract to illustrate the complexity the news story’s headline utterly failed to capture: