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Plant protein diet can reduce mortality risk

Thursday July 23rd 2020

People should consume more protein – particularly plant protein – to help reduce mortality risk for a number of diseases, says a new study published today.

Research by scientists in Iran and the USA reviewed 32 studies, which reported risk estimates for all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in adults aged 19 and over, to examine the data on the association between different types of protein and death.

All studies were assessed for bias and mathematical models were used to compare the effects of the highest versus lowest categories of protein intake before an analysis of the dose-response relations between protein intake and mortality was carried out.

A follow-up period of up to 32 years found that there were 113,039 deaths – 16,429 from cardiovascular disease and 22,303 from cancer – among the 715,128 participants.

The results, which are published in the latest edition of The BMJ, showed that a high intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality compared with a low intake.

The team established that consumption of plant protein was associated with an 8% lower risk of all cause mortality and a 12% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. However, intake of animal protein was not significantly associated with risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.

A dose-response analysis of data from 31 studies also showed that an additional 3% of energy from plant proteins a day was associated with a 5% lower risk of death from all causes.

Despite the limitations of the review, including differences in the way the studies assessed diet and most being from Western nations, the researchers say the large number of participants and deaths provide a detailed insight into the association between intake of dietary protein and risk of mortality based on the current evidence.

The project was led by Professor Ahmad Esmaillzadeh, of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

The authors say it is possible that plant proteins are beneficial because of their association with favourable changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and their findings “strongly support the existing dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population”.

Naghshi S, Sadeghi O, Willett W et al. Dietary intake of total, animal, and plant proteins and risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ 23 July 2020

Tags: Asia | Cancer | Diet & Food | Heart Health | North America

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