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 linked to 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 Penn State University.
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 team examined the diets and blood biomarkers of more than 11,000 participants from a national study.
They evaluated data from the Third National Examination and Nutritional Health Survey.
They compiled a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score based on biomarkers in participants’ blood including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and insulin.
The researchers found that participants who ate foods containing fewer sulfur amino acids tended to have a decreased risk for cardiometabolic disease based on their bloodwork.
On the other hand, higher sulfur amino acid intake was associated with a higher composite cardiometabolic risk score.
The team says for a person weighing 132 pounds, food choices for a day that meet the requirement might include a medium slice of bread, a half an avocado, an egg, a half cup of raw cabbage, six cherry tomatoes, two ounces of chicken breast, a cup of brown rice, three-quarters of a cup of zucchini, three tablespoons of butter, a cup of spinach, a medium apple, an eight-inch diameter pizza and a tablespoon of almonds.
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 Penn State College of Medicine.
The study is published in Lancet EClinical Medicine.
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