Plant-based protein diet may help lower the risk of death, study shows

Diets that are high in protein, particularly plant protein, are tied to a lower risk of death from any cause, a new study has found.

Plant Based Diet

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A team of researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has revealed that diets high in protein, including plants such as legumes, nuts, and whole grains, are associated with lower risks of developing chronic and potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. On the other hand, regular intake of red meat and high intake of animal proteins are tied to many health problems.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the researchers aimed to examine and quantify the potential dose-response relation between the intake of total, animal and plant protein, and the risk of death from all causes such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous studies that tackled a high protein diet and how it affects overall health.

The study

To arrive at the findings of the study, the researchers reviewed the results of 32 studies that showed risk estimates for all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality in adults who are 19 years and older. The studies were carried out carefully and extensively to remove biases, which are common problems that can influence results.

The team used mathematical models to compare the effects of the highest and lowest categories of protein intake. They analyzed the dose-response links between the consumption of protein and the risk of death.

A total of 715,128 participants were included in the study. During the follow-up period of around 32 years, there were 113,039 deaths, wherein 16,429 were related to cardiovascular disease, and 22,303 were linked to cancer.

What are the study results?

The team has found that protein intake was tied to a lower risk of death when comparing to the highest and lowest levels of protein intake. They also determined that even though there was no significant correlation between animal protein intake and cardiovascular mortality, there was an association between plant protein and CV mortality.

They also found that a high intake of total proteins was tied to a lower risk of mortality from all causes. In comparison, the consumption of plant protein was also linked to a lower risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular diseases.

The study findings have important implications since people can increase their intake of plant-based proteins by replacing animal protein. This could have a significant impact on longevity and promoting health among adults.

Our findings therefore strongly support the existing dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population. Extrapolation of these findings to the worldwide population should be done cautiously because most studies included in the meta-analysis are from Western nations and few studies have been reported from other countries,” the researchers concluded in the study.

“Therefore, further studies are required. Additional studies should also focus on the mechanisms through which dietary protein affects mortality,” they added.

In a separate study, a team of researchers found that eating a plant-heavy diet can significantly delay the aging process, disease and death. Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study highlights the benefits of shifting to a plant-based diet to promote overall health.

The team has found that a higher plant protein intake was associated with small declines in the risk of overall and cardiovascular disease mortality. The findings provide evidence that dietary changes or modifications in the choice of protein sources may impact health and life span.

In conclusion, this large cohort investigation showed small but significant associations between higher intake of plant protein and lower overall and CVD mortality, with prominent inverse associations observed for replacement of egg protein and red meat protein with plant protein, particularly for plant protein derived from bread, cereal, and pasta,”

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

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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