HealthDay News — Higher plant protein intake is associated with lower total mortality, according to two studies presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2020 Scientific Sessions, held from March 3 to 6 in Phoenix.

In the first study, Zhilei Shan, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues used data from 37,233 U.S. adults participating in eight cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999 to 2014) to estimate the link between plant and animal protein intake and mortality. The researchers found that a higher intake of total animal protein was not associated with total mortality in an adjusted analysis, but plant protein was associated with lower total mortality when comparing the lowest with the highest quintiles of plant protein intake (hazard ratio [HR] for total mortality, 0.73; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.61 to 0.88; P for trend < 0.001). When comparing extreme quintiles, the HRs were 0.71 (95 percent CI, 0.48 to 1.05) for heart disease mortality and 0.74 (95 percent CI, 0.53 to 1.04) for cancer mortality.

In the second study, Laila Al-Shaar, Ph.D., from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues followed 43,259 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986 to 2012). During follow-up, after multivariate adjustment, the researchers found that both total and processed red meat intake were associated with a modestly higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD; HRs for a one-serving/day increment: 1.08 for total and 1.13 for processed red meat). Substituting one serving per day of red meat with nuts, legumes, soy, whole grains, or low- and high-fat dairy was associated with a 10 to 47 percent lower CHD risk.

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“Our findings suggest that even partial replacement of red meat with healthy, plant-based sources of protein could substantially reduce rates of coronary heart disease in the United States,” Al-Shaar said in a statement.

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