A new large-scale study suggests that getting protein intake from nuts and seeds rather than animal sources could be beneficial for heart health.
Researchers from Loma Linda University School of Public Health in California and AgroParisTech and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris, France together looked at data from more than 81,337 participants, assessing their diets and protein consumption.
The team looked at five different dietary patterns and sources of protein, including meat, nuts and seeds, grains, processed foods, and legumes, fruits and vegetables, and their effect on cardiovascular disease (CVD).
After following participants for an average of 9.4 years, the team found that participants who had a high intake of meat protein showed a 60-percent increased risk of CVD, while those who consumed large amounts of protein from nuts and seeds experienced a 40-percent reduction in CVD.
No association was found between CVD risk and grains, processed foods, or legumes, fruits and vegetables, suggesting that the association found could not be ascribed to any other source of nutrients included in the study.
Although previous research has suggested that it is the "bad fats" in meat and the "good fats" in nuts and seeds which can affect CVD risk, the new study now suggests protein could also play a role.
"While dietary fats are part of the story in affecting risk of cardiovascular disease, proteins may also have important and largely overlooked independent effects on risk," added Gary Fraser, one of the study's co-principal investigators.
Fraser said further investigation could help answer other questions about how meat proteins may contribute to CVD, and which protein sources in particular could affect cardiac risk factors such as blood lipids, blood pressure and obesity.
The study can be found published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology.