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Diet heavy on plant-based protein reduces heart disease death risk, study says

A diet with more plant-based sources of protein may reduce risk for death from heart disease, a new study has found. Photo by cattalin/Pixabay
A diet with more plant-based sources of protein may reduce risk for death from heart disease, a new study has found. Photo by cattalin/Pixabay

July 13 (UPI) -- A high-protein diet that relies heavily on plant-based sources can reduce a person's risk for death from heart disease by 10 percent, a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.

Substituting plant-based protein sources for eggs was found to reduce risk for death from heart disease by more than 20 percent, researchers at the National Cancer Institute said.

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Replacing red meat with plant-based proteins also reduced the risk for heart disease death by up to 15 percent, they added.

"Our data provide evidence supporting a favorable role for plant-based diets in the prevention of [heart] disease mortality, and that modifications in choices of protein sources may influence health outcomes," study co-author Jiaqi Huang, a post-doctoral fellow in the NCI's Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, told UPI.

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Primary dietary sources for plant protein include bread, cereal and pasta, nuts, beans, and green vegetables, NCI researchers said. These foods generally are lower in "bad cholesterol" and fat than animal-based food sources like red meat and poultry, they said.

For this study, the NCI researchers analyzed data on 416,104 adults from the U.S. National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, a collaboration between the federal agency and the American Association of Retired Persons. Participants were tracked for up to 16 years, from 1995 through 2011.

Among participants, the median percentage of daily energy intake from total protein was 15.3 percent, the study said. Roughly 40 percent of protein intake was from plant sources, with the remainder from animal sources, including nearly 20 percent from dairy foods.

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U.S. dietary guidelines recommend consumption of "a variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, green vegetables -- like beans and peas -- and nuts, seeds and soy products," Huang said.

However, the new findings "could be taken into account" in the development of future dietary guidelines, with more of a focus on plant-based protein sources, she said.

"Our study shows that replacing animal protein intake with plant protein intake is associated with lower risk of overall mortality, which suggests that plant protein sources such as whole grains, legumes, nuts and cereals constitute one aspect of a healthy diet that promotes longevity," study co-author Dr. Demetrius Albane, a senior investigator at NCI, told UPI.

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