Why is the intake of animal protein associated with heart disease–even independent of saturated fat—and the intake of plant protein protective?
We know that the quality and quantity of fat is tightly correlated with the risk of our number one killer, heart disease, but what about protein? Out of Harvard recently: “Dietary protein and risk of ischemic heart disease in middle-aged men. Independent of source, and independent of fat, do you think total protein intake was associated with more heart disease, less heart disease, or no difference. And the answer they found was, no difference. The quantity didn’t seem to matter, but what about the quality? The source of the protein?
“We observed no association between [total] dietary protein and risk of total IHD in this group of men. However, higher intake of animal protein may be associated with an increased risk of ischemic heart disease in “healthy” men, meaning those without hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, healthy only in quotes though given their higher risk of heart disease due to their consumption of animal protein.
They also “observed a significant inverse association between higher vegetable protein intake and risk of fatal heart disease.” Meaning the more plants and less animals one eats would appear to be better for the heart even independent of the fat issue. So the benefits of a plant-based diet may extend beyond just avoiding saturated animal fat.
But isn’t protein just protein, though? How does your body know if it’s coming from a plant or an animal? Well, proteins are made of a string of amino acids, and the there are some amino acids more common in plants than in animals, particularly glutamic acid, which a study published in the journal of the American Heart Association was found, for example, to potentially “have independent blood pressure-lowering effects, which may contribute to the inverse relation of vegetable protein to blood pressure," meaning high plants, low pressure.
Their data “generally reinforce current recommendations for a high intake of vegetable products as a part of comprehensive nutritional/lifestyle approaches to preventing and controlling major established cardiovascular risk factors and epidemic cardiovascular disease.”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.
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This is another reason plant protein is preferable. Cheaper too! See Eating Healthy on the Cheap. Beans specifically have been linked to lower blood pressure (Fill in the Blank). Other healthier sources of protein, such as nuts, also lower heart disease risk via a variety of mechanisms. See for example How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?). More landmark research for Harvard in Harvard's Meat and Mortality Studies and What Women Should Eat to Live Longer.
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