New Study Shows High Animal Protein Consumption Increases Risk For Premature Death - Save Our Bones

Today we bring you a recently-published meta-analysis (a statistical procedure used to assess previous research studies) that has laid to rest a long-standing argument on the value of low-carbohydrate diets. In fact, this study confirms a desirable outcome from moderate protein consumption and ample complex carbohydrate intake.

This is especially relevant, since diets that profoundly reduce carbohydrates and replace them with animal proteins and a variety of fats, such as the Atkins diet or paleo diets, have become popular in recent years.

The Save Institute has advocated a pH-balanced diet from the get-go, which requires consuming moderate amounts of protein and plenty of healthful carbohydrates. We’ll analyze this fascinating study and its positive implications on life extension and more.

Moderation In All Things… Including Carbohydrates

For this groundbreaking study, researchers in the United States examined 15,428 participants aged 45-64 years in four US communities to investigate the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality. Their primary question was simple: Does carbohydrate consumption impact longevity?

To answer this question, the researchers asked about the dietary habits of the study’s participants via detailed questionnaires to learn about the percentage of carbohydrates in their typical diet. Twenty-five years later, 6,283 of those participants had died. Researchers then charted the relationship between the deceased participants' carbohydrate intake and their lifespan.

The researchers also examined other studies from around globe comparing the lifespan and carbohydrate consumption of an additional 135,335 people. The conclusion was overwhelmingly clear:

“Both high and low percentages of carbohydrate diets were associated with increased mortality, with minimal risk observed at 50–55% carbohydrate intake.”1

This outcome is a strong reinforcement of The Save Institute’s long-held dietary guidelines, which emphasize a well-rounded diet that maintains an alkaline pH.


By learning the dietary habits of 15,428 participants then comparing the occurrences of mortality 25 years later, researchers found that people who eat a low or high carbohydrate diet don’t live as long as people who eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates.

The Detriments Of Replacing Complex Carbohydrates With Animal Protein And Fat

While the researchers connected low-carb diets with earlier death, not all low-carb diets were the same. Participants who replaced carbohydrates with animal fats and proteins died younger than those who replaced carbs with plant sources of those nutrients.

As explained in the study:

“Low carbohydrate dietary patterns favouring animal-derived protein and fat sources, from sources such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken, were associated with higher mortality, whereas those that favoured plant-derived protein and fat intake, from sources such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads, were associated with lower mortality, suggesting that the source of food notably modifies the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality.”1

While this study didn’t examine the causes of death, all animal proteins are acidifying, which would have had an impact on the health of people consuming large amounts of those foods.


Of the participants who ate a low-carb diet, those who replaced carbs with animal fats and proteins died younger than those who replaced them with plant sources of those nutrients.

Not All Carbs Are Created Equal

The message is clear- a diet that comprises ample carbohydrate consumption is associated with the longest lifespan, but the type of carbohydrate makes a big difference.

Simple carbohydrates refer to sugars like fructose, glucose or sucrose, starches, and polyols like sorbitol and mannitol. With such a range of sugars, it should come as no surprise that they have different effects on the body.

Your body quickly breaks down simple sugars like monosaccharides and disaccharides, causing an insulin spike. They make you feel satisfied, but their energy is short lived. You find these simple carbs in sweets, foods baked with white flour, and fruit juice concentrate.

Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) take longer for your body to break down since they contain starches and fiber. These foods cause a more gradual increase in insulin, controlling the release of insulin. Complex carbs include legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Spikes in blood sugar have been linked to cardiovascular problems and even cognitive decline.2 Fortunately, it’s possible to find out which foods cause this unwanted physical response by checking their glycemic load.

Glycemic load describes how much a single serving of a type of food will increase your blood sugar level. Nutritionists based glycemic load on an older model for describing the impact of foods on blood sugar- glycemic index. Glycemic load is a more practical measurement because it describes the effect of a typical serving of food. Whereas, glycemic index describes the impact of whatever amount of that food would contain 50 grams of carbohydrates- no matter how much or little of the food that may be.

Raisins, for example, have a high glycemic load. So even though they’re a fruit, they aren’t as healthy as the carbohydrates contained in a portion of food with a lower glycemic load. Strawberries, on the other hand, have a low glycemic load (and many health benefits!)


A moderate-carbohydrate diet is the healthiest choice, but simple carbohydrates put a strain on your body- spiking your blood sugar, and causing other detrimental health issues. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in legumes, grains, vegetables, and certain fruits provide more benefits without spiking your insulin.

Intentional Eating Can Fortify Your Future

The meta-analysis we reviewed in this article further confirms the many health benefits of a pH-balanced diet, including an increase in life expectancy.

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1 Sara B Seidelmann, MD, et al. “Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis.” Lancet Public Health. 2018. Web.

2 Nobuyuki, Sasaki, et al. “Advanced Glycation End Products in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases.” The American Journal of Pathology. 1998 October; 153(4): 1149–1155. Web.

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Jan

    Just a side note-I have breast cancer and it was highly suggested by my Dr. at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas to eat a very low carb/20 carbs or less daily ketogenic diet. Testing with the urine test strips to make sure they turn & stay purple. Then as long as my weight is with in a good range & my body can handle the adding of very healthly carbs at 5 carbs more per day & if the strips still are turning purple daily then that is good. If the strips stop turning purple, then its too much carb for your body to handle and cut back on carbs again to 20 till purple again-then add 1-2 carbs more each day till you find your bodys max allowable tolerance for carbs. This way you have no extra carbs to gain weight on (If over weight, you will lose weight if you stay on this plan) and no extra carbs to feed a cancer tumour. This will help to shrink tumour and starve any other cancer cells circulating in your body. It is definitely working/ it is a strict way to eat-but it is worth it if it kills cancer cells!

  2. K.Gopal Rao

    What u hv to say abt fruits sounds confusing. On the one hand fructose u say ia simple carb, and on the other u include fruits in the list of complex carbs. Is there something in fruits which makes the fructose into a complex carb?

  3. Irina Pucic

    The study you cite is misleading in more ways than one. No single diet fits everyone. A minority of people tolerate carbs and they are generally thin. Most people, particularly those prone to weight gain should avoid carbs, particularly grains and choose only low-starch vegetables. Legumes are also problematic because of their anti-nutritive effects.
    Since caloric content is used to define diet type, and non-starch vegetables and berries contain few calories any healthy non-vegetarian plant based diet like paleo appears to be low carb. If a study does not take into account food types and puts together Atkins and paelo diets it should be an indicator that the study is highly if not intentinally flawed.

  4. Malcolm Achtman

    I mentioned the survey was faulty.

    First, it was flawed because it was done using food questionnaires. People cannot reliably recall what they ate, and some would even lie, thinking that’s the best answer (versus the actual truth of what they ate).

    Second, it is misleading because of how they defined a low-carb diet. I believe they said it applied to those who ate less than 40% of their calories as carbs. That is laughable. In the low-carb community in general, keto eaters and such, many would be eating fewer than 10% of their calories as carbs. Show me a survey where they evaluated truly low-carb eaters and then I might pay attention.

    You mentioned that one must be careful to identify complex carbs such as legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables because they produce a more gradual release of insulin. This again (as per Dr. Davis) is misguided advice. Yes, the insulin response may be slower than with simple carbs, but it can still be dangerously way off the chart with complex carbs. How can you tell? Eat a couple of slices of whole-grain toast, or a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of brown rice or a ripe banana and test your blood sugar 30 – 45 minutes later. Chances are it will have skyrocketed. Don’t let the safe “complex carb” advice fool you. Do your own testing with a finger-prick glucose device to get to the truth.

  5. Malcolm Achtman


    I agree with Robert’s comment. People who use glycemic index and glycemic load can easily fall into the trap of continuing to consume too many carbs. I like the advice of Dr. Davis (the Wheat Belly guy). He says do not look at glycemic index and load. Instead, track your net carbohydrate consumption at each meal instead, and keep it under 15 net grams. Ideally, space your eating periods 6 hours apart and don’t snack between meals. This will prevent sugar and insulin spikes that could indeed still occur if people follow your “glycemic” approach. Dr. Davis says anyone can monitor his or her glucose response after eating by using a finger-prick device (like diabetics do). Simply measure your blood glucose before eating and then retest about 30 – 60 minutes after you started eating. If the number remains the same, that’s great. If it rises, then you have eaten something that was too high-carb for you, and/or you have probably consumed too many carbs at that meal. Maintaining supreme blood sugar control will reduce/prevent the common chronic diseases of today. Unfortunately, reading headlines from studies that appear to be valid (but are actually terribly faulty) will not help people achieve health. And I’m sorry you shared this story with your readers because it can be very misleading.

  6. Christine Cener

    What amount of animal protein is considered “moderate” or “low” in this study? What was the threshold of animal protein that appeared to induce risk of premature death?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      The study focused on carbohydrate consumption, and as quoted above, the ideal consumption was determined at 50 to 55% percent.

      • Cathy W

        I don’t think that answers Christine’s question. You mentioned 50-55% carbs, but there is no breakdown of the remaking percentage of how much of that is fat versus how much is protein.

        Also, I find the headline of this article very misleading. The study was about high vs low carbs not protein amounts.

  7. robert

    Your statement may be confusing:
    GI = 100gram serving of a food or drink is subject to a blood glucose test whose resultant GI number is then related to consuming 100grams of glucose which is a GI of 100. EG An Avocado is Approx 30.

    The human body on a plant based diet would not normally consume foods lower than a GI of 30. Eating foods with a much higher level of GI causes Glycation which leads to advanced glycation end products, AGEs (at the point of eating). This is made worse when grilling or roasting the foods before consuming and much worse if consumed with meat proteins. If you consume a mixture of foods one with a GI of 40 and one with a GI of 10 the resultant GI is the average.

    GL is a confusing system using the average of the day to allow people to eat high GI foods. EG it allows a person to eat 50% of the meals in the day with a GI of 100 and the other 50 with a GI of 10 and then claim this is OK as the GL is only 55. This is crazy as the Glycation damage is done after each meal and it does not even mean mixing two foods on the same plate. Email me if you want me to clarify the above as this box was not made for so much text.
    Robert Redfern

    Your statement
    Glycemic load describes how much a single serving of a type of food will increase your blood sugar level. Nutritionists based glycemic load on an older model for describing the impact of foods on blood sugar- glycemic index. Glycemic load is a more practical measurement because it describes the effect of a typical serving of food. Whereas, glycemic index describes the impact of whatever amount of that food would contain 50 grams of carbohydrates- no matter how much or little of the food that may be.

  8. Penny Mortimer

    For the last 3 years I have been sort of following the Banting Diet here in RSA. Low carb and sugar. I have not gone for high fat. I eat berries, occasional banana and citrus, tomato, avocado ,broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin and butternut/squash, chicken, minimal beef and mutton, fish, almonds, and I add a slice of either rye bread or wholegrain bread. I also have the occasional small slice of cake. I have 1 glass of red wine/day and 1 square of dark chocolate. no sweet , fizzy drinks and coffee/tea with sugar replacement. I lost 7 kgs and am maintaining my weight. occasionally I get palpatations after a meal (?serving too large) I am 74 yrs old, weigh 67kgs and go to gym at least 5 times a week. should I make any changes or is this satisfactory.
    Thank you for all the information.

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