Protein from plants leads to longer life than protein from meat

Research has suggested that life expectancy can be boosted when eating protein from vegetable sources rather than meat sources.
In the largest study analysing the effects different sources of protein have on mortality rates, US researchers looked at diet data for 130,000 people, collated over 30 years.
Animal proteins include meat, eggs, fish and dairy foods. People who ate more of these were found to have a higher risk of premature death than those who ate more plant-based protein, such as beans, lentils, nuts and soya.
During the time period covered by the research, more than 36,000 participants died. Nearly 9,000 of these deaths were from cardiovascular disease, approximately 13,000 were from cancer, and the remaining 14,000 were from other causes.
Adjusting suitably for lifestyle and other dietary risk factors, the researchers found an association – albeit a weak one – between a high consumption of animal protein and an increased mortality rate. Meanwhile, an association was found between a high consumption of plant proteins and a lower rate of death.
Further analysis found that this higher risk of death due to eating animal protein was only applicable to participants who had at least one factor commonly associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. This meant any of: being underweight or obese, having a history of smoking, being physically inactive or being a heavy consumer of alcohol.
The association between animal protein consumption and a higher mortality risk disappeared in those participants with a healthy lifestyle, interestingly.
“While we expected we might find the associations to be weaker in the healthy lifestyle group, we did not expect them to completely disappear,” said Mingyang Song, of Massachusetts General Hospital, who was involved in the research.
“Our findings suggest that people should consider eating more plant proteins than animal proteins, and when they do choose among sources of animal protein, fish and chicken are probably better choices.
“Future studies should examine the mechanisms underlying the different effects of plant and animal proteins – along with different sources of animal proteins – on overall health.”
The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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