Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death both nationally and worldwide.
While genetic predispositions may play a role in the development of metabolic disorders that contribute to poor heart health, diet and lifestyle are the most influential factors.
They’re also the only factors completely within our control.
According to a new study published in the Lancet EClinical Medicine journal, protein-rich foods high in sulfur amino acids (meat, nuts, beans, and diary) can dramatically increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease if consumed in excess.
“Meats and other high-protein foods are generally higher in sulfur amino acid content,” explained Zhen Dong, the study’s lead author in a media release. “People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets.”
A dietary tightrope
To expound upon their hypothesis, the researchers analyzed the diet regimens of 11,000 participants before drawing blood samples.
Once an individual locks into a dietary schedule, instructive bio-markers become observable in their bloodstream.
Over time these bio-markers signal the onset of chronic and sometimes fatal conditions.
As suspected, those who routinely consumed foods low in sulfur amino acids (grains, fruits, and leafy vegetables) evidenced healthy cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides, and insulin levels after the researchers adjusted for relevant factors like age, weight and gender.
“These biomarkers are indicative of an individual’s risk for disease, just as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” John Richie, a professor of public health sciences at Penn State’s College of Medicine said of the preliminary results of the report. “Many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test.”
It’s important to remember that, in moderation, sulfur ammo acids are integral to various biological functions; namely metabolism regulation and tissue and muscle growth.
Although there isn’t an official canonized daily recommended sulfur amino acid value, experts agree that the average American exceeds most professional recommendations by a sizable margin.
Two ounces of chicken breast, one egg, a cup of brown rice, and half of an avocado meets the estimated requirement for adults of average height and with healthy BMIS according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Medicine.
In previously conducted studies that employed animal models, sulfur amino acid-restricted diets yielded reductions to body fat, oxidative stress; the development of cancerous tumors; enhanced insulin sensitivity; and more efficient fuel-burning.
The new report conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University is too new to motion any causal relationships. Until enough time has passed to warrant a substantive follow-up study we can only rely on a series of correlates.
“Here we saw an observed association between certain dietary habits and higher levels of blood biomarkers that put a person at risk for cardiometabolic diseases,” Richie adds. “A longitudinal study would allow us to analyze whether people who eat a certain way do end up developing the diseases these biomarkers indicate a risk for.”