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Plant proteins linked to longer, healthier life

High protein diets, especially those containing plant protein, have been linked to a longer and healthier life. After reviewing 32 relevant studies, researchers determined that higher protein intake is associated with a lower risk of death from any cause.

According to the study authors, the findings support current dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population.

A team of researchers based in Iran and the United States set out to investigate the dose-dependent health effects of animal, plant, and total protein.

The analysis was focused on data from 32 published studies that reported risk estimates for death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer among adults over the age of 19.

The team used mathematical models to compare the effects of the highest versus lowest categories of protein intake, and evaluated the dose-response relations between protein intake and mortality.

During a follow-up period of up to 32 years, 16,429 participants died from cardiovascular disease and 22,303 died from cancer. The experts found that high intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality.

Plant protein intake was linked with an 8 percent lower risk of all cause mortality and a 12 percent lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, while animal protein intake had no significant effect on its own.

Previous research has shown that 

plant proteins improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. This may explain the lower the risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study authors acknowledge that the research has some limitations, such as differences in the way the studies assessed diet and the possibility that some effects may have been due to unmeasured factors. In addition, the majority of the participants were in Western nations.

However, strengths include the large number of participants and deaths, providing a detailed insight into the association between intake of dietary protein and risk of mortality based on the current evidence, noted the researchers.

“These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity.”

The study is published in the journal The BMJ.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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