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Plant protein consumption linked to increased longevity

30-year study reveals people who eat more veg live longer

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 02 August 2016

People who obtain more protein from vegetable sources than meat, have an increased life expectancy, a study* has suggested.

US researchers writing in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at 30 years of diet data from a cohort study of over 130,000 nurses and other US health professionals.

Animal and plant protein intake was assessed by regularly updated validated food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires. Data were analysed from 20 June 2014, to 18 January 2016.

They found a reduced risk of early death in people who ate more plant-based protein, and a higher risk in those who ate more animal proteins.

The analysis suggested that for every 3% increase in calories from plant protein, the risk of death from any cause during the period studied was reduced by 10%. It was also associated with a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease.

But increasing the animal protein share of calories by 10% led to a 2% higher risk of all-cause death and an 8% greater chance of dying from a heart problem.

The associations were stronger in people with another risk factor, such as obesity, smoking, drinking heavily or not exercising a lot.

Altogether, there were more than 36,000 deaths - almost 9,000 from cardiovascular disease, about 13,000 from cancer and about 14,000 from other causes.

Researcher Mingyang Song, from Massachusetts General Hospital, said: "Our findings suggest that people should consider eating more plant proteins than animal proteins, and when they do choose among sources of animal protein, fish and chicken are probably better choices.

"Future studies should examine the mechanisms underlying the different effects of plant and animal proteins - along with different sources of animal proteins - on overall health."

* Song M, et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. Published online August 01, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182

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