“Current dietary guidelines mainly focus on the total amount of protein, and our findings show that there may be different health influences associated with different types of protein foods.”
A plant-based diet can reduce the risk of deaths arising from dementia and heart disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).
The clinical trial studied over 100,000 post-menopausal women (ages 50 to 79), who participated in the National Women’s Health Initiative study between 1993 and 1998 for nearly 20 years.
The researchers from the University of Iowa College of Public Health investigators found that women who ate the highest amount of plant-based protein had a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and a 21% lower risk of death from dementia-related causes.
While participants who ate more processed red meat had a 20% higher risk of dying from dementia, higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs, and dairy was associated with a 12%, 24%, and 11% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular complications respectively.
The study also indicated that replacing total red meat, eggs, or dairy products with nuts lowered risk of death from all causes by 12% to 47 % depending on the type of protein replaced with nuts.
Discussing the findings of the study, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent, and a board-certified OB-GYN said that two main working theories in medical and nutritional science literature could explain the benefits seen in this study.
“One of them has to do with inflammatory metabolites, so these are by-products of animal protein that can then affect the heart and the brain and our blood vessels,” Dr Ashton said in the interview.
“Another [theory] has to do with the gut microbiome, that good bacteria, and obviously what we eat is related to that.”
Dietary protein sources influence health parameters
“Our findings support the need to consider dietary protein sources in future dietary guidelines,” said lead study author and assistant professor of epidemiology, Wei Bao.
“Current dietary guidelines mainly focus on the total amount of protein, and our findings show that there may be different health influences associated with different types of protein foods,” Bao added.
Data collected at the beginning of the study was observational, which means it was based on self-reported data.
In addition, there was no data on how the proteins were cooked.
Also, all the study participants were postmenopausal women, and therefore it is unclear whether the findings apply to younger women or men.
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