The American Heart Association has recently published in its journal the results of a study on diets high in plant proteins and their effects on dementia, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
In postmenopausal women who consumed more plant protein than animal protein, the researchers found that the incidence of heart disease and premature death was lower than in women who consumed a diet with more animal protein. In particular, women who replaced red meat, eggs, and dairy products with nuts had a longer life expectancy. The researchers noted that many previous studies have focused on the total amount of protein consumed, without distinguishing between plant and animal proteins.
This study examined data from more than 100,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Study. At the time of inclusion, they were between the ages of 50 and 79, and the data covered long periods of up to 25 years. Notably, women who consumed a diet with plant-based proteins were 21% less likely to die from dementia, 12% less likely to die from heart disease, and 9% less likely to die from any other causes.
The risk of dying from dementia was reduced by 15% in women who ate more poultry compared to those who ate more processed red meats. Consumption of unprocessed meat and dairy products also increased the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Those who ate the most meat had a 12% higher risk and those who ate the most dairy products had an 11% higher risk.
High egg consumption showed mixed results for long-term health. Those who ate the most eggs were 24% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease and 10% more likely to die of cancer. On the other hand, they were 14% less likely to die of dementia.
Another factor to take into account is that the animal proteins were not eaten separately, but together with other foods. Most importantly, Eggs consumption should take into consideration the method of preparation (hard-boiled, scrambled, fried, poached, or combined with other foods). The way eggs are cooked (in bacon grease for example) may be the reason why some consumers of eggs have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Another recently published study from 2019 reached similar conclusions. It included data from 12 168 middle-aged adults analyzed in the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study between 1987 and 2016. Subjects in the most restrictive plant-based diet quartet had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a 31-32% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and an 18-25% lower risk of death from all causes, compared to subjects in the quartet with the lowest intake of plant-based protein.
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