In a new study, researchers found that a plant-based diet may be key to lowering the risk of heart disease.
They found that diets with reduced sulfur amino acids—which occur in protein-rich foods, such as meats, dairy, nuts, and soy—were associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
They also found that the average American consumes almost two and a half times more sulfur amino acids than the estimated average requirement.
The research was conducted by a team at the Penn State College of Medicine.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. A subcategory, called sulfur amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, play various roles in metabolism and health.
For decades it has been understood that diets restricting sulfur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals.
This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulfur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.
In the study, the researchers examined the diets and blood biomarkers of more than 11,000 participants.
The team evaluated data from the Third National Examination and Nutritional Health Survey.
They compiled a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score based on the levels of certain biomarkers in participants’ blood after a 10-16 hour fast including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and insulin.
They found that participants who ate foods containing fewer sulfur amino acids tended to have a decreased risk for heart disease based on their bloodwork.
The team says many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test.
Many people in the United States consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products and the estimated average requirement is only expected to meet the needs of half of the healthy individuals.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many are surpassing the average requirement when considering these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur amino acids.
The team also found people who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids.
These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets.
One author of the study is John Richie, a professor of public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine.
The study is published in Lancet EClinical Medicine.
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