Plant vs. Animal Protein Intake in CV Mortality Risk

Animal protein intake may be associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular mortality, as compared to plant protein intake in patients with at least one lifestyle risk factor, according to a study published Aug. 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The prospective cohort study, by Mingyang Song, MD, ScD, et al., looked at 131,342 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The median protein intake was 14 percent for animal protein and 4 percent for plant protein.

After adjusting for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, results showed that animal protein intake was “weakly associated” with higher mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality since “every 10 percent increment of animal protein from total calories was associated with a 2 percent higher risk” for all-cause mortality, and an 8 percent increased risk for cardiovascular mortality. In comparison, plant protein intake “was associated with a 10 percent lower risk” of all-cause mortality “for every 3 percent increment of total calories and a 12 percent lower risk” for cardiovascular mortality.

The authors add that these associations “were confined to participants with at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor based on smoking, heavy alcohol intake, overweight or obesity, and physical inactivity,” but not seen in patients without any of these risk factors. 

“Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially from processed red meat, may confer substantial health benefit. Therefore, public health recommendations should focus on improvement of protein sources,” the authors conclude.

“The findings are very consistent with prior research, but with some new statistically significant elements that further support the benefits of substituting plant protein for animal protein,” said Kim Allan Williams Sr., MD, MACC, immediate past president of the ACC. “Consider the lives that could be saved by changing dietary protein intake from animals to vegetables!”

Clinical Topics: Prevention, Diet, Smoking

Keywords: Alcohols, Animals, Cohort Studies, Diet, Dietary Proteins, Epidemiologic Studies, Follow-Up Studies, Life Style, Obesity, Overweight, Plant Proteins, Prospective Studies, Public Health, Risk Factors, Smoking, Vegetables, Secondary Prevention

< Back to Listings