Do you have another reason to try to eat more plant-based foods? Replacing animal proteins with plant-based options like nuts and beans (also called legumes) is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and early death, a new study suggests. BMC Medicine.
For the study, researchers looked at data collected over nearly two decades on the dietary habits and health outcomes of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, Europe and Asia who participated in 37 different small studies. Specifically, the scientists wanted to see what types of dietary changes might have the greatest impact on health and longevity.
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“A diet high in animal products is problematic because of the saturated fat content that affects cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health, the way these foods are processed and prepared, and the lifestyles that often accompany this typical Western diet,” says Samantha Heller. RD, a clinical dietitian in New York who was not involved in the new study.
“In addition, compounds in red and processed meat increase the risk of certain cancers, disrupt the gut microbiome, increase internal inflammation, and have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, and death.” Heller said. adds:
Swapping out red and processed meats has the biggest impact
In the study, the researchers looked at the benefits of replacing different animal proteins with different plant-based options, taking into account other factors that may affect the risk of certain diseases or early death, such as smoking, drinking, eating or getting too many calories. too little exercise.
Red and processed meat substitutions appeared to make the biggest difference, the study found.
For example, replacing processed meat with nuts was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of premature death from all causes.
Similarly, replacing red or processed meat with nuts, legumes, or whole grains was associated with a 23-36 percent lower risk of heart disease. Eating nuts instead of red or processed meat was also associated with an 8 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
One limitation of the analysis is that dosages varied among the smaller studies examined, making it difficult to offer guidelines on specific dosages to use when making dietary changes.
Benefits of a plant-based diet
The new study also wasn’t designed to prove whether replacing animal proteins with plant-based versions could directly prevent disease or help people live longer.
However, eating more plant-based foods may have positive health effects because these foods are high in fiber, fatty acids, and so-called phytochemicals that can help reduce inflammation, improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and slow weight gain. , says Yang Hu, ScD, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston. There’s also good reason that red meat in particular can provide a good substitute for animal protein.
Red meat is known to be very bad for cardiovascular health due to its high content of saturated fat, cholesterol, heme iron, sodium, and nitrate/nitrite, so reduce red meat intake while increasing the same amount of healthy plant foods. will definitely have greater cardiovascular health benefits,” said Dr. Hu, who was not involved in the new research.
If a major diet overhaul is too difficult to attempt, it might be a good start to try replacing red and processed meat with healthier sources of animal protein, such as poultry and seafood, Hu recommends. “Poultry consumption is less associated with chronic disease, and fish is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are widely known to have cardioprotective effects,” says Hu.
Even limiting cold foods and hearty meats can help, says Maya Vadivelu, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, who was not involved in the new study. “I believe the most beneficial meat substitute is processed meat (including deli meat) because there is strong evidence that processed meat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.”
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