Replacing red meat with plant foods may reduce your heart disease risk

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study, researchers found that replacing red meat with high-quality plant foods such as beans, nuts, or soy may be linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Substituting whole grains and dairy products for total red meat, and eggs for processed red meat might also reduce this risk.

The research was conducted by a team of US scientists.

Previous evidence suggests that high consumption of red meat, especially processed red meat, such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages and salami, is linked to an increased risk of death and major chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease.

But studies that show inconsistent results often fail to compare red meat with similar protein and energy sources.

In the study, the team examined the link between total, processed, and unprocessed red meat and risk of heart disease and estimate the effects of substituting other protein sources for red meat with heart disease risk.

They used data from 43,272 US men (average age 53) who were free from heart disease and cancer when they enrolled.

Participants filled in a detailed diet questionnaire in 1986 and every four years thereafter, up to 2016, and provided information on their medical history and lifestyle.

Medical records were used to track heart disease events over this 30-year period. During this time, 4,456 events were documented of which 1,860 were fatal.

The researchers found that for each one serving per day, total red meat was linked to a modest (12%) higher risk of heart disease.

Similar associations were seen for unprocessed (11% higher risk) and processed red meat (15% higher risk).

However, compared with red meat, intake of one serving per day of combined plant protein sources, including nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), and soy was linked to a 14% lower risk of heart disease.

This risk was lower still (18%) among men over the age of 65, and when compared with processed red meat (17%).

Substituting whole grains and dairy products (such as milk, cheese and yogurt) for total red meat and eggs for processed red meat was also associated with lower heart disease risk.

This association was particularly strong among younger men, in whom the replacement of red meat with egg was associated with a 20% lower risk of heart disease.

Replacing red meat with total fish was not associated with heart disease risk.

But the researchers say this could be due to the cooking method (ie. deep frying) and the fact that this food group also included processed fish products.

The findings suggest that greater intakes of red meat were linked to a higher risk of heart disease, independent of other risk factors.

Substituting whole grains or dairy products for total red meat and substituting eggs for processed red meat was also associated with a lower heart disease risk.

The study is published in The BMJ.

Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.