Long life has long been attributed to eating a healthy diet. Experts say this should comprise of five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, plenty of fibre, some dairy or dairy alternatives, some protein, and small amounts of unsaturated oils and spreads. But a recent study suggested more specifically switching to a high-protein vegetarian diet could help people live longer. Researchers at Japan’s Center for Public Health Science followed 70,696 Japanese adults for nearly 20 years and discovered those who got most of their protein from plant foods had lower risk of dying of any cause. Western diets tend to contain more red meat and processed foods, and in the UK, there are high rates of heart disease and diseases linked to obesity.
Following the findings of the study, the study’s authors suggest swapping steak for high-protein plant foods could cut a person’s risk of death.
High protein plant foods include tofu, beans, tempeh, edamame and quinoa.
As part of the study, the researchers kept tabs on what diseases the participants developed.
Those who ate diets high in animal protein were not found to be at greater than average risk of dying, but people who ate more plant protein were at a substantially lower than average risk of death.
The researchers then analysed how people’s death risk changed when they switched from animal to plant proteins.
Switching from either red or processed meats to vegetable, fruit and grain proteins was linked to lower risks of dying from cancer, as well as death from any cause.
The link between eating large amounts of red or processed meat and certain diseases is well known, but studies have been suggested consuming small amounts can come with a risk.
Researchers at Loma Linda University Health in California found eating small amounts of red and processed meat could increase a person’s risk of death.
The researchers used data from people who took part in the Adventist Health Study-2 – a study that recruited close to 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists living in the US and Canada between 2002 and 2007.
About half of Adventists are vegetarian, and those who do choose to eat meat consume very little of it.
The results, which were published in the journal Nutrients, showed there was an associated between the consumption of a combination of red and processed meats and a higher risk of both total and cardiovascular disease deaths.
The study was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal and undertaken by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital.
More than 130,000 participants’ health and diet records were monitored over a course of thirty years.
The findings demonstrated every three per cent increase in calories from plant protein reduced the risk of death by 10 per cent.
There was also a reduced risk of 12 per cent of dying from heart disease found.
In contrast, eating 10 per cent more animal protein was found to increase the risk of death from all causes by 2 per cent.
Those who substituted eggs for plant protein showed a 19 per cent reduction in death risk, and eliminating unprocessed red meat saw a drop of 12 per cent.
The risk of dying was found to be most prognoses in participants who also engaged in unhealthy activities, such as smoking, drinking heavily or being obese.