You might want to drop those chicken wings and dump that glass of milk — they could be as bad for you as a cigarette.
According to a new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism Tuesday, middle-aged people who regularly consume a diet high in animal proteins from meat and dairy products are more likely to die of cancer than someone who doesn't.
The Telegraph reports researchers also found that people in the age group who ate large amounts of meat and dairy were more likely to die sooner.
Previous studies have shown people produce less of a growth hormone called IGF-I after the age of 65, which can cause muscle loss and fragility. (Via YouTube / Rochester Well)
And some studies have recommended that older adults eat more meat and cheese to counteract those effects. But research like this says that might not be such a great idea.
One of the study's authors said in a press release, "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?"
To get these results, researchers studied 6,318 adults over the age of 50 over the course of 20 years. They found, on average, about 16 percent of their total daily calories came from protein. And two-thirds of that was animal protein. (Via Cell Metabolism)
CBS says researchers then tested the IGF-I levels of 2,253 in the sample group. Those who consumed the highest levels of animal proteins in their diets were four times more likely to die of cancer than low-protein eaters.
According to the study, that rate is similar to the cancer risk between smokers and non-smokers. (Via Wikimedia Commons / © 2005 by Tomasz Sienicki)
Medical experts agree this new study is significant, but some say it could be dangerous to compare eating meat and dairy to smoking cigarettes.
A food nutrition scientist at the University of Reading in the U.K. told The Guardian, "Sending out statements such as this can damage the effectiveness of important public health messages... The smoker thinks: 'why bother quitting smoking if my cheese and ham sandwich is just as bad for me?'"
Health experts say more research into this topic should be conducted to gather more information. In the meantime, though, the majority say that eating a balanced diet is the best way to stay healthy.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / Alpha, Wikimedia Commons / Stefan Kühn