People who eat more plant-based protein may live longer than those who get more protein from meat, a Japanese study from the National Cancer Center in Tokyo suggests.
Researchers followed almost 71,000 middle-aged Japanese adults for an average of almost two decades. Compared to people who consumed the smallest amount of plant protein, participants who consumed the largest amount were 13% less likely to die during the study and 16% less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.
Previous studies have found that higher consumption of animal protein is associated with increased chronic diseases and mortality, whereas higher intakes of plant protein is associated with lower risk. But most of these studies were conducted in Western populations, in which consumption of animal protein is much higher than plant protein.
In this Japanese study, consumption of plant protein is quite high, whereas the consumption of animal protein is quite low compared to that in Western populations.
People who replaced just 3% of red meat intake with plant-based protein were 34% less likely to die of any cause, 39% less likely to die of cancer, and 42% less likely to die of heart disease during the study.
And, people who replaced just 4% of processed meat in their diet with plant protein were 46% less likely to die of any cause and 50% less likely to die of cancer.
Research has shown that when individuals eat more plant protein foods such as nuts, soy, beans and lentils, cardiovascular risk factors such as blood lipids, blood pressure, and body weight improve significantly.
Plant foods provide not only protein, but also other beneficial nutrients such as healthy fats, antioxidant nutrients and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.
On the other hand, diets high in red and processed meats have been associated with a wide range of health consequences such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
The current study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how the amount or type of protein people consume might directly impact their longevity.
One limitation of the research is that participants’ diets were only assessed once, at the start of the study, and it’s possible their eating habits changed over time.
Even so, mounting evidence suggest that to live longer, you should swap red and processed meat with healthy, plant proteins like nuts, beans, lentils and whole grains.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.