Getting your protein from plants: A recipe for longevity?

Question: Does plant or animal protein affect mortality and/or longevity?

A study found that for every 3% of a persons daily energy intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces a person’s risk of premature death by 10%.

For this study the researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 237, 000 men and 179, 000 women gathered between 1995 and 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health. During 16 years of follow-up, a pattern emerged where plant protein intake appeared to reduce risk of early death. Every 10 grams of plant for animal protein swapping per 1000 calories resulted in a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% for women, the finding showed.

Bottom Line: The findings provide evidence that dietary modification in choice of protein sources may influence cardiovascular health and longevity.

Taking red meat out of your diet can be beneficial, but only if you swap for a healthy substitute, said a lead researcher from the US National Cancer Institute. For example, replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red made protein with plant protein such as whole grains or cereals resulted in a protective Association for overall mortality, the researcher said on the other hand replacement of 3% energy from egg protein or red meat protein with other foods such as sugar sweetened beverages may or may not result in a reduction in mortality.

There are many reasons why choosing plant protein over animal protein could help extend your life; meat protein tends to come with higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that aren’t very good for your health. For example, one ounce of red meat mixed with whole wheat pasta and veggies would provide much less saturated fat than a 9 ounce steak

On the other hand, plant proteins come with loads of fiber , antioxidants, and other compounds like vitamins and minerals that add to the nutrient density along with lesser calories as fat than in some meat products (processed meat in particular).

The researchers also added that there might be something specific about the products formed from the breakdown of animal-based protein that could cause arteries to grow harder or inflammation to occur. In 2011, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic demonstrated that meat eaters produced a metabolite that promotes heart disease called Trimethylamine-N-Oxide or TMAO. Of great interest, TMAO was not elevated in vegans who were asked to meet eat a meat meal for the purposes of the study. .

Huang, Jiaqu, et al. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 13, 2020.


Where’s the Protein?

Ever since¬† the advent of plant-based diets, one of the first questions that may come to mind is “how do I get enough protein in my diet?” The following post discusses some protein basics and provides an interesting article on some sources you may not have thought of.

Nearly all people in the United States get enough protein in a balanced macro-nutrient diet each day.  The average intake of protein by adults is 98 grams/day, about twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) which is for men (56 grams) and for women (46 grams).

The ability of proteins to support tissue construction in the body varies depending on their content of essential amino acids (must be provided by the diet, we cannot make them). Proteins of high quality contain all nine of the essential amino acids and are called complete proteins and include all animal proteins (meat, milk, eggs, and milk products (dairy) and soy (for adults). Incomplete proteins are deficient in one or more amino acids and include plant sources such as seeds, beans, nuts, grains. Fruits do not contain any significant amounts of protein.

You can obtain all the essential amino acids by practicing protein complementation which is the process of combining proteins from different sources so that collectively they provide the proportions of amino acids required to meet the body’s needs. For example, beans combined with rice become together a complete protein by providing all nine of the amino acids.