Nav: Home

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

April 09, 2019

Boston, MA - 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 meat 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 cardiovascular disease risk factors 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 blood pressure, 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 diet. 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 red meat with healthy plant protein 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.
-end-
Other Harvard Chan authors of the study included Ambika Satija, Stacy Blondin, Frank Hu, and Walter Willett.

Guasch-Ferré is supported by American Diabetes Association grant #1-18-PMF-029. Satija is supported by American Heart Association Grant #16POST29660000.

"Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Red Meat Consumption in Comparison With Various Comparison Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors," Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ambika Satija, Stacy Blondin, Marie Janiszewski, Ester Emlen, Lauren O'Connor, Wayne Campbell, Frank Hu, Walter Willett, Meir Stampfer, Circulation, online April 8, 2019, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.035225

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Related Cardiovascular Disease Articles:

Premature death from cardiovascular disease
National data were used to examine changes from 2000 to 2015 in premature death (ages 25 to 64) from cardiovascular disease in the United States.
Ultrasound: The potential power for cardiovascular disease therapy
In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications volume 4, issue 2, pp.
Despite the ACA, millions of Americans with cardiovascular disease still can't get care
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for Americans, yet millions with CVD or cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) still can't access the care they need, even years after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Excess weight and body fat cause cardiovascular disease
In the first Mendelian randomization study to look at this, researchers have found evidence that excess weight and body fat cause a range of heart and blood vessel diseases (rather than just being associated with it).
Disease remission associated with 80% reduction in risk of cardiovascular outcomes
The results of a study presented today at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2019) demonstrate that remission in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is associated with an 80% reduction in risk of cardiovascular outcomes.
Enzyme may indicate predisposition to cardiovascular disease
Study suggests that people with low levels of PDIA1 in blood plasma may be at high risk of thrombosis; this group also investigated PDIA1's specific interactions in cancer.
Cardiovascular disease in China
This study analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to look at the rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in China along with death and disability from CVD from 1990 to 2016.
Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease in women
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease in Women In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications (Special Issue on Women's Cardiovascular Health, Volume 3, Number 4, 2019, Guest Editor Gladys P.
Nearly half of all adult Americans have cardiovascular disease
At least 48 percent of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the latest statistics provided by the American Heart Association.
Analyzing aspirin use in patients without cardiovascular disease
This study analyzed combined results from 13 randomized clinical trials with more than 164,000 participants to assess aspirin use with the prevention of cardiovascular events and bleeding in people without cardiovascular disease.
More Cardiovascular Disease News and Cardiovascular Disease Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab