Animal protein consumption triggers the release of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1.
What is the mechanism by which our diet can affect our levels of this cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1? Imagine you’re a kid with some tinkertoys. Then Christmas come early and you get one of those huge sets dumped down in front of you. All excited with this new load of building raw materials you may really start scaling up. And basically it's the same thing with your liver and insulin-like growth factor 1.
When you dump a load of protein on your body, your liver’s like whoa, look at all this. What are we going to do with all? We can’t just waste it, we got to do something with it. Let’s just start growing stuff, add on a few new additions, maybe a new wing. So your liver decides to start pumping out IGF-1 to tell all the cells in the body it’s growin’ time! Be fruitful and multiple. Spare no expense, go crazy—look how much excess protein we got to work with!
The problem, of course, is that some of the new additions may be tumors. When you’re a fully grown adult, cell growth is something we want to slow down—not accelerate. So one might imagine the goal would be to maintain adequate, but nonexcessive overall protein intake, but wait a second.
Studies have found… no association between total protein intake and IGF-1 levels. Doesn't that just go against everything I just said? Ah, but these studies didn't take into account animal versus plant protein.
In this study of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, they found no significant difference in IGF levels between people eating lots of protein compared to people eating less protein. But before ditching the theory that excessive protein intake boosts the levels of the cancer promoting growth hormone IGF-1, they decided to break it down into animal protein versus plant protein. Higher IGF-1 levels were just associated with animal protein intake, in fact plant protein seemed to decrease IGF-1 levels. So no wonder there was no net effect of total protein intake. Animal protein appears to send a much different signal to our livers than most plant proteins. So even those vegans eating the same amount of protein as meateaters, still had lower levels of the IGF-1, so it's apparently not about excessive protein in general, but animal protein in particular. and I'll try to explain why, tomorrow.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.
To help out on the site please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For background on IGF-1 see IGF-1 as One-Stop Cancer Shop andCancer-Proofing Mutation. In The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle we established that the reason the blood of those eating plant-based diets appeared so much better at fighting cancer cell growth (see Developing an Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay) is likely due to the drop in IGF-1 levels, especially those following vegan diets (as per the last video-of-the-day How Plant-Based to Lower IGF-1?). Now it appears we know why—their avoidance of animal protein. Let's go one level deeper and ask why animal protein preferentially triggers IGF-1 release. Stay tuned for tomorrow's video-of-the-day Higher Quality May Mean Higher Risk.
For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Animal Protein and the Cancer Promoter IGF-1.
If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.