A new study by nutrition researchers confirm that people who get more of their protein from plant sources have an overall lower risk of dying early than those who consume a lot of animal protein.
The researchers also point out that not all animal proteins carry the same level of risk. "We found protein from red meat, particularly processed red meat, is strongly associated with mortality. The protein from fish or chicken is not really associated with mortality,” said the authors of the study.
The study found that for every three percent increase in plant protein in their daily diet, participants experienced a 10 percent lower risk of death from all causes, and a 12 percent lower risk of heart-related death.
Meanwhile, for every 10 percent increase of animal protein in their total daily calories participants experienced a two percent increased risk of death from all causes and an eight percent increased risk of heart-related death.
Swapping just three percent of calories from animal protein with plant protein lowered overall risk of premature death, based on the type of animal protein being substituted.
Risk of early death dropped 34 percent if people ate less processed red meat, 12 percent for less unprocessed red meat, and 19 percent for fewer eggs, the findings showed. Processed red meats include items like bacon, sausage and deli meats.
Processed meats contain loads of sodium and nitrates, which have been linked to heart disease and cancer. Fatty cuts of meat, particularly red meat, also contain loads of saturated fat, cholesterol and extra calories.
Plant proteins tend to be healthier, containing lots of fiber, antioxidants, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and other good nutrients, but few calories and little to no saturated fat.
The study suggests that if someone is eating three servings of red meat a week, switching to fish or chicken, or some form of plant-based protein, would be better for their overall health.
The studies involved more than 131,000 participants whose daily calorie intake averaged 14 percent animal protein and 4 percent plant protein. Interestingly, the increased risk of death linked to animal protein was also linked to people with other unhealthy lifestyle traits, such as obesity, heavy drinking, smoking or lack of exercise. It is just that people who led a healthy lifestyle often tend to make better food choices.