Could vegetables be the fountain of youth?

  • Plant protein has been proven to have a positive effect on longevity
  • Diets high in animal protein, on the other hand, are linked to numerous health problems
  • Benefits of plant proteins include lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels


If you want to live longer, you should choose beans over beef for your protein, a new analysis suggests.

"These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity," the researchers reported.

Diets high in protein from plants– such as legumes (peas, beans and lentils), whole grains and nuts – have been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, while diets high in animal protein have been linked with a number of health problems.

However, there have been conflicting findings on the association between different types of proteins and the risk of early death, so a group of researchers analysed 32 studies that examined the risk of death from heart disease, cancer and any cause in adults aged 19 and older.

Lower risk of lifestyle diseases

During a follow-up of up to 32 years, just over 113 000 deaths occurred among more than 715 000 participants in the studies. A high intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all-cause death.

Consumption of plant protein was associated with an 8% lower risk of death from any cause and a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease. Consumption of animal protein was not significantly associated with risk of death from heart disease or cancer.

Data from 31 of the studies also showed that an additional 3% of energy from plant proteins a day was associated with a 5% lower risk of death from any cause, according to the findings published n 22 July in the BMJ.

Possible reasons for the beneficial effects of plant proteins include lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which might help reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, said Ahmad Esmaillzadeh, a professor of nutrition at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, and colleagues.

Further research is required, but the study results "strongly support the existing dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population", the researchers said in a journal news release.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
32% - 9432 votes
No
68% - 19939 votes
Vote