For a long time, there have been arguments that protein from meats was better for the human body than protein from vegetables. However, recent research has found that people who get a large amount of protein requirements from plants as opposed to meats may live longer and healthier lives.
The research was conducted by Dr Mingyang Song, a researcher at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a team of researchers. They followed two groups of health professionals over a period of several years aged between 30-75 monitoring their diet patterns. They collected data through food frequency questionnaires which regularly asked participants how often they consumed a portion of foods over the last year. In total, over 130000 participants’ data was analysed.
Using the data, the intake of animal versus plant protein was assessed. Researchers also looked at the National Death Index and monitored the causes of death of participants from death certificates and medical records. Then, the researchers looked at links between the causes of death (cardiovascular, cancer and so on) and the type of protein the participant had chiefly consumed.
In the research report, the researchers said that “High animal protein intake was positively associated with mortality, and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with mortality, especially among individuals with at least one lifestyle risk factor.
The report added that “substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.”
jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjHowever, the researchers also stated that the higher mortality rates among animal protein eaters were only true when participants had at least one other unhealthy lifestyle factor like smoking, a heavy alcohol intake, obesity or an inactive lifestyle.
Therefore, a high protein intake from meat sources combined with unhealthy lifestyle factors can increase mortality risks.
Plant Protein Vs Animal Protein
In the study, plant protein included bread, cereals, pasta, nuts, beans and legumes.
Meanwhile, animal proteins included processed and unprocessed red meats, poultry, dairy products, fish and eggs. However, the researchers also found that different types of animal protein affected mortality rate; while red and processed meats correlated with a higher mortality rate, proteins like chicken and eggs correlated with a lower mortality rate.
Commenting on the conclusion of the study, Song said “if you have a choice between animal and plant protein, we would say plant protein is preferred and a better source,” he says. “But if people have to choose between different animal protein sources, then fish and chicken are probably better sources compared to processed red meat.”