Health: Replacing Meat With Pulses & Grains Cuts Risk Of Heart Disease Death by 30%

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A new study has found that swapping red meat out for whole food plant proteins such as pulses and grains can reduce the risk of dying heart disease by 30%. Researchers also found that slight decreases in red meat intake can make a huge difference to lower the chances of premature death by heart disease. 

Conducted by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), the new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that plant proteins are healthier than animal proteins. Analysing data from over 400,000 participants over the last 16 years, the study found that replacing red meat with nuts, seeds, legumes and grains is associated with a 30% reduction in the risk of dying of coronary heart diseases. 

Even if people don’t cut out meat intake entirely, shifting 3% of one’s overall diet from animal sources to plant-based sources – including bread, cereal and pasta – can reduce the chances of dying from heart disease by as much as 10%. 

This study provides evidence for public health recommendations regarding dietary modifications in choice of protein sources that may promote health and longevity.”

U.S. National Cancer Institute Study Team

These results are what researchers dubbed as 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. 

“This large cohort investigation showed small but significant associations between higher intake of plant protein and lower overall and cardiovascular disease mortality,” said Dr. Demetrius Albanes, an author of the study. 

“Findings from this and previous studies provide evidence that dietary modifications in choice of protein sources may promote health and longevity.”

Among the participants in the study who ate more plant-based foods, the researchers found an overall higher level of education, lower body mass index (BMI), lower total energy consumption and higher intake of fruits and vegetables in their diet. This group were also more likely to be physically active and non-smokers. 

In light of these findings, the researchers say that health guidelines should update their recommendations to include higher intake of plant proteins.

“This study provides evidence for public health recommendations regarding dietary modifications in choice of protein sources that may promote health and longevity,” said the NCI team. 

Plant-based diets aren’t just good for our health, but the planet’s too. Last year, an Oxford University study found that healthy plant-based foods were almost always associated with a smaller carbon footprint.

To calculate these results, researchers used data from previous scientific studies on the correlation between dietary choices and health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer, while the environmental footprint of foods were measured according to carbon emissions, water use and pollution. 

Lead image courtesy of iStock. 


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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