Eating meat on a regular basis is associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of heart disease, says a new study. Conversely, plant-based proteins can improve heart health.
The study - Patterns of plant and animal protein intake are strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality - by researchers at Loma Linda University in California and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers discovered that people who consumed substantial quantites of meat saw a rise in their risk of heart disease. They also found that consuming protein from nuts and seeds was linked to a reduced risk (by 40 percent).
Other plant protein sources - including legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables - were not shown to have any notable association with heart disease.
In order to reach their conclusion, the scientists analyzed data from questionnaires about eating habits, filled in by more than 81,000 participants between 2002 and 2007.
According to the authors, the link between heart disease and diet was most apparent in younger people - which led the scientists to believe that choosing healthy protein sources can help prevent avoidable deaths.
The authors said: "Our results suggest 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."
Co-author Dr. Gary Fraser, of Loma Linda University, added: "While dietary fats are part of the story in affecting risk of cardiovascular disease, proteins may also have important and largely overlooked independent effects on risk.
Fraser explained that the study confirmed his and his colleague’s suspicion that nuts and seeds protect the heart, while red meat carries a risk of heart disease.
The report said: "Healthy diets can be advocated based on protein sources, preferring low contributions of protein from meat and higher intakes of plant protein from nuts and seeds."