In a new study, researchers found that women who ate slightly more than the recommended daily amount of protein were significantly less likely to develop atrial fibrillation (AFib), a dangerous heart rhythm disorder that can lead to stroke and heart failure.
This is the first study to examine protein as a possible nutritional driver for AFib, which is more common with age.
The research was conducted by a team at Stanford University.
Protein is an important part of women’s diets, especially as they age because it can help prevent frailty and loss of bone mass and lean muscle mass.
This is important, as older women can lose a half-pound of lean body mass per year.
Current U.S. guidelines recommend consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which for a 140-pound person is about 51 grams per day.
In the U.K., the recommendation is even lower at 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram daily.
The analysis of over 99,000 postmenopausal women (median age of 64 years) found that those who ate 58-74 grams of protein a day were 5-8% less likely to develop AFib.
But there seemed to be a ceiling effect after eating more than 74 grams, at which point the benefit was no longer significant.
The team says that eating more protein may not only help strengthen women physically, but it may also have cardiovascular benefits in terms of reducing AFib and related death, strokes and heart failure.
So how much more protein does this translate to? Not much, the team says.
Eating 10-20 more grams of protein per day is enough. that’s only four ounces of healthy protein such as chicken breast or salmon, a cup of Greek yogurt or two eggs.
When increasing protein intake, women need to eat heart-healthy foods and lean proteins, not just cheeseburgers and other foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar.
The lead author of the study is Daniel Gerber, MD, a cardiovascular medicine fellow at Stanford University.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with the World Congress of Cardiology.
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