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This Is The *One* Animal Protein That Doesn't Affect The Longevity Gene As You Age

Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
Expert review by
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's degree in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia.
Image by mbg Creative / iStock
September 9, 2021

How much protein do I really need? Not only is the answer entirely up to your personal nutrition needs, but it apparently fluctuates with age: According to functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D., protein affects the body differently as you grow older, and you might not need as much as you thought—in fact, he notes animal protein can affect longevity genes once you hit your mid-40s (or so). 

But wait! A caveat: One source of animal protein actually doesn't have that same effect on longevity. Below, we break down the protein source that spans all ages. 

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First, how does animal protein affect longevity?

Allow Lipman to explain: "When you're in your 20s and 30s, you want to be strong," he says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "You want a lot of animal protein, which is good for growing and reproduction." 

"Once you get to 45, you don't need to grow anymore," Lipman continues, and too much animal protein will become "preserved" in the body. "We know from research that animal protein has a type of branch-chain amino acid (BCAA), called leucine, that actually stimulates mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin)." This gene blocks autophagy, which we know is an important process for supporting longevity. "You don't want to stimulate [mTOR] if you want to age well," Lipman adds, which is why he recommends adding more plant-based sources of protein to your plate. 

The one type that doesn't. 

"Collagen is the one animal protein that does not have [much BCAA] amino acids," says Lipman. (The main amino acids in collagen are glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine, among others, if you're curious; but the BCAAs are quite low.) "It's a great source of protein that doesn't have a negative effect on longevity genes." 

Let's make one thing clear: Collagen is not vegan, and it never will be (it's sourced from cows, chicken, or fish). But if you're trying to reduce your meat consumption for longevity reasons, know that grass-fed bovine collagen, while technically an "animal protein," won't particularly stimulate mTOR according to Lipman.

In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. "It's a pure concentrated source of critical building block amino acids," says mbg's director of scientific affairs and in-house nutritionist Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D., on the mindbodygreen podcast, and it can help support healthy bones, muscles, joints, and blood vessels.* 

mindbodygreen's formula comes with a few beauty-centric ingredients, too, like vitamins C and E for enhanced collagen production and antioxidant support, hyaluronic acid for skin hydration, and biotin for strong hair and nails.* It also includes curcumin from turmeric extract and sulforaphane from broccoli seed extract for supporting detoxification and combating oxidative stress.* Plus, the powder is free of GMOs, dairy, soy, and gluten—a stellar source of protein, wouldn't you say?  

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The takeaway. 

Everyone has varying protein needs, but according to Lipman, you might want to opt for less animal-based products as you grow older—save for grass-fed collagen, as it's a wonderful protein source that does not seem to affect longevity genes the same way.* 

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
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Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.