In a new study, researchers found that older women who ate high levels of plant protein had lower risks of premature death, heart disease and dementia-related death.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Iowa.
Previous research has shown a link between diets high in red meat and heart disease risk, yet the data is sparse and inconclusive about specific types of proteins.
In this study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 older women (ages 50 to 79).
The team found that women with the highest amount of plant protein intake had a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of dementia-related death.
Higher consumption of processed red meat was linked to a 20% higher risk of dying from dementia.
Higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs and dairy products was linked to a 12%, 24% and 11% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respectively.
Higher consumption of eggs was linked to a 10% higher risk of death due to cancer and a 14% lower risk of dying from dementia, while higher poultry consumption was linked to a 15% lower risk.
The team says it is unclear why eggs were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and cancer death.
It might be related to the way people cook and eat eggs. Eggs can be boiled, scrambled, poached, baked, basted, fried, shirred, coddled or pickled or in combinations with other foods.
In the United States, people usually eat eggs in the form of fried eggs and often with other foods such as bacon.
Researchers also found that substitution of total red meat, eggs or dairy products with nuts was linked to a 12% to 47% lower risk of death from all causes depending on the type of protein replaced with nuts.
These findings support the need to consider dietary protein sources in future dietary guidelines.
2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), recommend eating a variety of protein foods: low-fat meat, low-fat poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week.
One author of the study is Wei Bao, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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