12 January - 20 June 2016

Nut and seed sources of protein prove best for a healthy heart

A study, conducted by Loma Linda University in collaboration with The National Institute of Agronomic Research and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, has found that those with the highest meat protein consumption had a 61% increased risk of CVD mortality than those with the lowest meat consumption. In comparison, high consumption of nuts and seed protein was associated with a 40% reduced risk of CVD mortality compared to the lowest consumption.

A study, conducted by Loma Linda University in collaboration with The National Institute of Agronomic Research and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, has found that those with the highest meat protein consumption had a 61% increased risk of CVD mortality than those with the lowest meat consumption. In comparison, high consumption of nuts and seed protein was associated with a 40% reduced risk of CVD mortality compared to the lowest consumption.

The sustainability of diets containing high levels of animal protein have recently been questioned and there is rising awareness for the eco-friendly benefits of plant-based eating. Many previous studies have investigated how different protein sources may affect CVD risk factors but in the current study, Tharrey et al. note that “evidence for the beneficial effects of plant proteins is mixed” which they attribute, in part, to the “role of confounding by non-protein dietary components”. They also state that as dietary proteins are not “consumed in isolation”, factor analysis – using the correlations between foods and nutrient intake to derive factors that describe general patterns of consumption – has proven to be a useful tool with which to study diet.

Tharrey et al. used data on 81,337 men and women from the 9-year Adventist Health Study 2 which collected dietary data using a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). As this study was focusing on the role of protein specifically, food items from the FFQ were identified and classified into 18 specific animal and plant protein sources categories such as egg, red meat, cheese, and grains, tree nuts and seeds, and vegetables respectively.   Protein of food items with a single source were directly assigned to the appropriate protein group while items with multiple protein sources were developed into “representative recipes”. The amount of protein from each constituent ingredient was then assigned appropriate group. Statistical analysis was then used to determine associations between protein intake and CVD mortality with appropriate adjustments for confounding factors.

When the protein sources were more simply divided only into animal and plant categories, no associations were found between CVD mortality risk and plant sources, whilst only weak positive associations were found with meat sources. Tharrey et al however discovered that participants in the highest “Meat” consumption quintile showed a 61% higher risk of CVD death when compared to those in the lowest quintile. They note that by contracts, those in the highest “Nuts and Seeds” consumption group showed a 40% lower risk than those consuming the lowest amounts. No significant results were found for protein from grains, process foods or ‘legumes, fruits and vegetables’ collectively.

The researchers note that when age was considered, the strongest associations were found amongst those ages 24-44 where there was a 2-fold higher risk in the highest meat ‘Meat consumption group and a nearly a 3-fold lower risk in the highest “Nus and Seeds “consumption group compared to the lowest consumption groups. The study notes that the associations ceased above age 80 and note that this highlights the impact of proteins from specific sources on the onset of premature CVDs.

In discussion, Tharrey et al. state that with regards to the dietary risk factors for CVDs, these findings move the spotlight “from primarily fat to now include protein content of these foods” and that focusing on plant protein diets with high nuts and seeds “may improve the ability of dietary recommendations to prevent CVD”. They reiterate the key findings and state that their results “strengthen the idea that protein sources may be key components of diet quality” and conclude by stating that “healthy choices can be advocated based on protein sources, specifically preferring diets low in meat intake and with a higher intake of plant proteins from nuts and seeds”.

RSSL's team of experienced product developers and food scientists can assist your with your protein food and drink development needs. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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