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Meaty diet linked to heart failure risk

Small rise in heart failure risk seen in middle-aged men who follow high protein diet

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Middle-aged men who ate higher amounts of protein, particularly from animal sources, were found to have a slightly elevated risk of heart failure compared with men who ate less protein, in a study* published in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

High-protein diets including lots of lean meats are generally considered relatively healthy and a good way to build muscle and lose fat, but this study suggests that they may not be good for the heart.

The study included 2,441 men, age 42 to 60 at the study's start, who had their diet analysed and who were followed for an average of 22 years. A total of 334 cases of heart failure were diagnosed during the study, and around 70% of the protein consumed was from animal sources and 27.7% from plant sources.

The researchers divided the men into four groups based on their daily protein consumption and when they compared men who ate the most protein to those who ate the least, they found their risk of heart failure was 33% higher for all sources of protein, 43% higher for animal protein, 49% higher for dairy protein, and 17% higher for plant protein. Only proteins from fish and eggs were not associated with increased heart failure risk in this study.

One of the researchers Jyrki Virtanen, an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, said: "As many people seem to take the health benefits of high-protein diets for granted, it is important to make clear the possible risks and benefits of these diets. Earlier studies had linked diets high in protein - especially from animal sources -- with increased risks of type 2 diabetes and even death."

Heli E.K. Virtanen, first author of the study, and based at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, said: "As this is one of the first studies reporting on the association between dietary protein and heart failure risk, more research is needed before we know whether moderating protein intake may be beneficial in the prevention of heart failure. Long-term interventions comparing diets with differential protein compositions and emphasizing differential protein sources would be important to reveal possible effects of protein intake on risk factors of heart failure.”

*Virtanen H E.K., Voutilainen S, Koskinen Timo T., et al. Intake of Different Dietary Proteins and Risk of Heart Failure in Men. The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Circulation: Heart Failure, 2018; 11:e004531

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