Replacement of 3% animal protein with plant-based protein extends life by 10%

Scientists from the U.S. National Cancer Institute found that even partially replacing animal protein with plant-based protein in the diet can increase life expectancy. For 16 years, experts have observed a group of more than 416 thousand people. The experts collected information about the amount of vegetable and animal fats in the diet of the subjects. It was found that on average the share of protein in the diet of participants was 15% (40% of vegetable origin and 60% of animal origin). About 78 thousand participants died from various causes during the observation period. 

Comparing the data on the ratio of animal to plant proteins with the information on mortality, the experts found: by replacing even 3% of protein derived from animals with plant protein, the risk of premature death could be reduced by 10%. In addition, it also matters which foods containing animal protein are replaced by vegetable protein sources. Thus, replacing eggs with tofu reduced the risk of death by 24% in men and 21% in women, while replacing red meat with vegetable protein (e.g. beans) reduced the risk of death by 13% and 15%, respectively. 

The authors emphasize that it is not the abandonment of animal protein that helps to prolong life, but its replacement with vegetable protein. 

- If a person begins to receive 3% of the daily energy not from animal proteins (eggs, red meat), but from plant proteins (tofu, whole grains, cereals), it will reduce the risk of premature death, - explains one of the authors of the work Jiayatsi Huang. - However, if we consider sweet drinks for instance as an energy source instead of animal protein, there will be no positive effect. 

According to scientists, the benefits of replacing animal protein with vegetable is associated with many aspects. Thus, animal protein contains more saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and other substances that have a negative impact on health. For example, if you eat a 30 g piece of red meat instead of a 270 g steak, replacing the rest with wholemeal pasta and vegetables, the body will receive much less saturated fatty acids. At the same time, plant proteins come together with healthy fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Another argument for replacing some animal proteins with vegetable ones is the state of the intestinal microbiome: increasing the content of fiber in the diet improves the microbial landscape in the intestine. 

July 14, 2020, 11:09 a.m.

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