- Excessive meat intake, especially processed red meats, does not promote overall wellness and may slightly elevate the risk of heart failure, as per studies by Dr. Jyrki Virtanen.
- The American Heart Association’s recommendations for reducing cardiovascular risks include a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, fish, nuts, beans and non-tropical vegetable oils, while limiting intake of red and processed meats, sweets and sugary beverages.
- A high-protein diet can help lose weight, but maintaining the lost weight might lead to potential health issues because it may decrease consumption of antioxidant and fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Aging usually increases protein requirements but regardless of their age, individuals should seek expert advice regarding their protein intake. Registered dietitians can provide useful insights on maintaining a balanced diet, focusing on protein quality over quantity.
In today’s health-conscious world, high-protein diets occupy a significant place. However, it’s crucial to understand that not all proteins are created equal, particularly concerning heart health. The watchwords here are moderation and intelligent selection.
Dr. Jyrki Virtanen, renowned for his work on protein consumption, says, “Extreme meat intake, especially processed red meats, does not promote overall wellness.” Those accustomed to consuming large quantities of meat should consider adjusting their intake.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that adults consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, translating to roughly 0.36 grams per pound. For a person weighing 155 pounds, this amounts to approximately 56 grams, while for a 190-pound person, it’s 68 grams.
The Connection between Protein Intake and Heart Health
Virtanen’s research discovered a correlation between high protein consumption and a slightly elevated risk of heart failure in middle-aged and older men. The study, based on two decades’ worth of data from 2441 Finnish men, found 334 instances of heart failure. Men with the highest protein intake had a 33% higher risk of heart failure in comparison to those who consumed the least protein.
“Further research is certainly called for,” Virtanen, an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland, said. “However, our studies suggest that a high-protein diet, especially from animal sources, may pose health risks.”
Optimal Protein for Heart Health
The debate on the type of protein best suited for heart health has seen several opinions over the years. Recent studies advocate a largely plant-based diet, which has been linked with a 42% decreased chance of heart failure for those without a prior history of heart disease.
The American Heart Association’s recommendations for reducing cardiovascular risks consist of a healthy eating pattern:
- Consumption of a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, fish, nuts, beans and non-tropical vegetable oils.
- Limiting the intake of red and processed meats, sweets, and sugary beverages.
Despite this, many remain fixated on the idea of consuming abundant meat and protein, largely due to the enduring popularity of low-carb, high-protein diets. Jo Ann Carson, dietitian and professor at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said, “Following a high protein diet can help lose weight, but maintaining that lost weight often requires continuing the same dietary pattern which can lead to potential health issues.”
Too much protein, she said, can leave little room for antioxidant and fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which may prove detrimental.
How to Increase Good Quality Protein Intake
In May, AHA advised increasing omega-3 fatty acids consumption by eating one or two servings of non-fried fish or shellfish per week. Carson pointed out that people should aim for good quality proteins, including lower-fat dairy and plant-based options like soy and quinoa.
Aging usually increases protein requirements, but people irrespective of their age should seek expert advice if confused about their protein intake. Working with registered dietitians, especially for those with a history of heart disease, is suggested. They can provide useful insights on maintaining a balanced diet, with a focus on protein quality over quantity.