Protein, the macronutrient epicentral to muscle and energy production, is most commonly associated with animal products. It is widely believed that sources found in poultry and eggs are of higher quality than those obtained from plant-based products.
Although the validity of this outlook depends on one’s personal objectives and health background, a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal presents a strong case for the contrary view.
In the cohort analysis, researchers determined that plant protein found in tofu or beans may actually help people live longer.
“This prospective cohort study analyzed data from 416 104 men and women in the US National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study from 1995 to 2011. Data were analyzed from October 2018 through April 2020,” the team at the National Cancer Institute wrote in the new paper. “In this large prospective cohort, higher plant protein intake was associated with small reductions in risk of overall and cardiovascular disease mortality. Our findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence health and longevity.”
Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality
Of the 416, 104 participants observed, protein accounted for roughly 15% of the cohort’s daily diet. Forty-percent of this value was derived from plants while 60% came from animals.
After a 16 year follow-up, participants who received the majority of their protein from plants concurrently reduced various risk factors linked with early death.
In fact, every ten grams of plant-for-animal protein per 1,000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women.
Every 3% of a person’s daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduced a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.
This outcome was even more pronounced among participants who swapped plant protein for eggs (24% lower risk in men and 21% lower risk in women) or red meat (13% lower risk in men, 15% in women).
The principle changes regard cardiovascular health. Meats can be dense in protein but a lot of sources additionally come with higher levels of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol-saying nothing of the robust association shared between different forms of cancer and possessed meats.
Just this year The National Cancer Institute updated its dietary risk assessment to call for further limitations of red meat for this very reason. Ladders recently reported on the adverse ways meat interacts with a healthy gut community.
Conversely, plant proteins offer rich sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Additional contributors have yet to be determined but the authors behind the new paper suspect amino acids formed as a result of breakdown s of animal-based protein could cause arteries to grow harder which in turn causes inflammation to occur.
“The association between plant protein intake and overall mortality was similar across the subgroups of smoking status, diabetes, fruit consumption, vitamin supplement use, and self-reported health status. Replacement of 3% energy from animal protein with plant protein was inversely associated with overall mortality (risk decreased 10% in both men and women) and cardiovascular disease mortality (11% lower risk in men and 12% lower risk in women),” the authors conclude. “In particular, the lower overall mortality was attributable primarily to substitution of plant protein for egg protein (24% lower risk in men and 21% lower risk in women) and red meat protein (13% lower risk in men and 15% lower risk in women).”