Too Much Red Meat
Bad for Long-Term Health
When it comes to high protein diets
and health, the source of the protein really does matter, new
After following nearly 30,000 women
for 15 years, investigators found that women were more likely
to die from heart disease if they often substituted red meat for
carbohydrates. In contrast, swapping vegetable sources of protein
for carbs appeared to protect women from heart disease.
"Our main finding was that animal
compared to vegetable sources of protein seem to have a different
effect on dying from heart disease," study author Dr. Linda E.
Kelemen from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester,
For this reason, she recommended
that people who want to follow high protein diets should stick
with vegetable proteins such as tofu, nuts and peanut butter,
or healthier meats like chicken or fish.
With high protein diets a now-popular
eating style, few studies have examined their long-term health
effects, and whether different sources of protein make a difference,
Kelemen and her team write in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
To investigate, the researchers
interviewed 29,017 postmenopausal women about their eating and
lifestyle habits, then followed them for 15 years, noting who
died and of what cause. All of the women were free of cancer,
heart disease and diabetes at the beginning of the study.
The investigators found that women
who most often ate vegetable protein in place of carbohydrates
and animal protein were 30 percent less likely to die of heart
But the more red meat and dairy
products women substituted for carbohydrates, the more their risk
of heart disease increased.
Overall, opting for protein over
carbs had no significant influence on the risk of dying from any
Kelemen explained that it's still
unclear why our hearts like vegetable proteins better than animal
proteins. It's possible that vegetable proteins contain different
building blocks, minerals or antioxidants that are good for our
bodies, Kelemen said. Vegetable proteins could also contain substances
that affect hormones in healthier ways, she added.
"Protein from different sources
seems to have different health effects," she noted. "Long-term
adherence to higher protein intakes without distinguishing between
the source of the protein may increase the risk of dying from
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology,
Reference Source 89
February 24, 2005