Substituting healthy plant proteins for red meat lowers risk for heart disease

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Diets that replaced red meat with healthy plant proteins led to decreases in risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Purdue University.

The study is the first meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examining the health effects of red by substituting it for other specific types of foods.

The study was published in the journal Circulation.

"Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on have been inconsistent. But our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors," said Marta Guasch-Ferré, research scientist in the Department of Nutrition and lead author of the study.

The study included data from 36 randomized controlled trials involving 1,803 participants. The researchers compared people who ate diets with red meat with people who ate more of other types of foods (i.e. chicken, fish, carbohydrates, or plant proteins such as legumes, soy, or nuts), looking at blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and blood pressure—all risk factors for CVD.

The study found that when diets with red meat were compared with all other types of diets combined, there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or , although diets higher in red meat did lead to higher tryglyceride concentrations than the comparison diets. However, researchers found that diets higher in high-quality plant protein sources such as legumes, soy, and nuts resulted in lower levels of both total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol compared to diets with red meat.

The results are consistent with long-term epidemiologic studies showing lower risks of heart attacks when nuts and other plant sources of protein are compared to red meat, the authors said. The findings also suggest that the inconsistencies found in prior studies regarding the effects of red meat on cardiovascular risk factors may be due, in part, to the composition of the comparison . They recommended that future studies take specific comparisons into account.

"Asking 'Is red meat good or bad?' is useless," said Meir Stampfer, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and senior author of the study. "It has to be 'Compared to what?' If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don't get healthier. But if you replace with healthy plant sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit."

The authors recommended adherence to healthy vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets, both for their health benefits and to promote environmental sustainability.

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More information: Marta Guasch-Ferré et al, Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Red Meat Consumption in Comparison With Various Comparison Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Circulation (2019). DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.035225
Journal information: Circulation

Citation: Substituting healthy plant proteins for red meat lowers risk for heart disease (2019, April 9) retrieved 21 August 2019 from
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Apr 09, 2019
I agree that it would be a good idea to limit red meat and alternate with other meats, but just going vegetarian is probably a bad idea. There are many nutrients in meat that can't be replaced by vegetables. Nerve tissue, organ meat, collagens, types of fats. No one can predict all the other affects not eating some meat can have on a person, from mental health, to the health of the next generation of offspring. I would suggest it is better to go paleo-diet, if one can figure out what that is. Real meat, real fruit, real vegetable, real legumes, real mushrooms, and real insects.

Jun 05, 2019
The biggest issue with plant protein is the amino acid profiles.
There are very few plant proteins that have a complete profile.
Weight lifters eat very high levels of whey protein from milk. Why? Because whey protein breaks down to about 512 different amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of life.
There are no known (at least to me) plant proteins that come close to the amino acid profile of whey protein. Most plant proteins have at least one essential amino acid missing. There are 9 essential amino acids which have to come from the diet.

Grandpa, agree. Stick to real food not processed.

Jun 05, 2019
The burned meat in the figure with black burned dots or grooves is very dangereous giving cancer with theirs black soots, like for chimney sweeping with your gut !

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