Research which tracked thousands of adults for two decades has found that those who ate a diet high in animal protein had a much higher chance of developing cancer – similar to people who smoked 20 cigarettes a day.

Historically, there have been few health warnings about eating too much protein, but that could be set to change – nutritional advice has traditionally advised people to cut back on fat, sugar and salt.

According to The Telegraph, the new research, conducted by the University of Southern California, suggests that people who undertake a high-protein diet will harm themselves in the future.

“We provide convincing evidence that a high-protein diet – particularly if the proteins are derived from animals – is nearly as bad as smoking for your health,” said Dr Valter Longo, of the university.

However, if you love your protein, don’t panic – chicken, nuts, pulses and fish are still excellent sources. However, remember that although they’re healthier, they still count – check out this guide on The Telegraph’s website to see which amounts are safe for your weight.

Image credit: Thinkstock