To live longer, the study suggests getting your protein from plants, not meat.

The amount of protein you consume and where it comes from can affect your lifespan, suggests research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The new analysis, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, found that people who ate a lot of animal protein had a risk of dying higher than average in the following decades, especially if they preferred processed red meat over fish or poultry . Those who ate more plant-based protein, on the other hand, had a lower than average risk of death.

The new research included data from 2 previous long-term studies, which collectively had more than 170,000 participants in total. The people in these studies were tracked for 26 to 30 years and were asked to answer questions about their health and eating habits every few years. On average, they received approximately 14% of their daily calories from animal protein and 4% from plant-based protein. During this time, more than 36,000 of them died.

After adjusting the results for lifestyle and other risk factors, the researchers found that those who ate the highest amount of animal protein defined as any type of meat, eggs or dairy had a slightly higher risk of death. People who ate less animal protein and consumed more protein from plant sources: Breads, cereals, pasta, beans, nuts and legumes, were the least likely to die during the study.

However, the news is not all bad for meat lovers. The highest risk of death only applied to people who had at least one “unhealthy lifestyle” factor, such as being a big drinker, smoker, overweight or obese, or exercising too little. For participants who led healthy lifestyles in general, the link disappeared.

The study authors suspect that, in addition to lifestyle factors, specific types of meat consumed also played a role.

“While we hoped we could find that the associations were weaker in the healthy lifestyle group, we didn’t expect them to disappear completely,” said Mingyang Song, MD, a researcher at the Clinical Epidemiology and Translation Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and from the Gastroenterology Division, in a press release. “But when we examined the data further, we discovered that, at similar levels of animal protein intake, those in the unhealthy lifestyle group consumed more red meat, eggs and high-fat dairy, while the style group healthy life consumed more fish and poultry. ”

In fact, when they analyzed the results of the study on specific types of animal protein, they found that the link between animal protein and the highest risk of death was mainly applied to people who ate a lot of processed and unprocessed red meat (including meat of beef and pork), and not fish or poultry.

While this was by far the largest study to compare the effects of different types of proteins, their findings are not particularly surprising. Experts have long recommended plant-based proteins, poultry and fish on red meat, which tends to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. The health-contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, RD, notes that people who eat less meat tend to weigh less and have lower rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And you don’t have to be a complete vegetarian to adopt Some vegetarian habits, he explained in a post last year. Eating more legumes packed in protein (beans, peas and lentils) can also make a difference.

In that sense, this new study adds more weight to what Sass and other nutrition experts have been saying for years.

“Our findings suggest that people should consider eating more plant protein than animal protein ,” Dr. Song said,  “and when they choose between animal protein sources, fish and chicken are probably better options.”

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