Researchers have found that diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, is associated with a lower risk of death from all causes. The study authors say that these findings should support recommendations to increase intake of plant proteins in the general population to improve public health.
Published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal on July 22, the new study finds that high intake of protein from plants such as legumes, whole grains and nuts is linked to lower risk of developing a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Meanwhile, regularly consuming red meat and other animal proteins is associated with several health problems and higher mortality rate from all causes.
Researchers from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences measured the potential dose-response relationship between consumption of total, animal and plant protein and the risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. They analysed the results of 32 studies with data on risk predictions for mortality rates in adults aged 19 and older.
These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity.British Medical Journal Study Authors
Mathematical models were then applied to the data to compare the effects of high and low intake of the categories of protein on mortality. In a follow-up period of over 30 years, over 113,000 deaths were recorded among the more than 715,000 participants involved.
Intake of plant proteins were associated with 8% lower risk of mortality from all causes, and a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease. The results also indicated that an additional 3% of energy derived from plant proteins daily can lower the risk of death from all causes by 5%.
The scientists say that some of the main reasons behind the trend is because plant proteins can positively affect blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which can in turn lower the risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as stroke.
“These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity,” said the authors of the study, adding that dietary guidelines should promote greater consumption of plant proteins.
Another study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, supports the findings of this new research. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. found an “inverse association” between higher consumption of plant-based foods and heart disease mortality rates. The most prominent inverse associations were recorded in the replacement of eggs and red meat with plant proteins.
In addition to supporting human health, plant-based proteins are also more environmentally-friendly. Last year, an Oxford University study found that healthy plant-based foods were almost always associated with a smaller carbon footprint.
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