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Consuming less protein could improve cardiovascular health

Researchers say the dietary change can help reduce the risk of disease

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Recent studies have already shown how changes to consumers’ diets can reduce their risk of heart disease. Now, researchers from Penn State say that reducing protein consumption can also lower the risk of certain cardiovascular issues. 

“Meats and other high-protein foods are generally higher in sulfur amino acid content,” said researcher Zhen Dong. “People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets.” 

Improving heart health

The researchers had over 11,000 participants involved in the study. They looked at two primary components to understand the relationship between protein and heart disease: a record of the participants’ diets and their blood biomarkers, which assess their risk of disease. 

According to researcher John Richie, these two factors were the perfect pair for the study, as the participants’ eating habits could affect the reading on their blood work. The researchers found that the participants who consumed foods that were higher in sulfur amino acids had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease while those with fewer sulfur amino acids had a lower risk.

The researchers credit high sulfur amino acid prevalence with many staples of the standard American diet.

“Many people in the United States consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products and the estimated average requirement is only expected to meet the needs of half of healthy individuals,” said researcher Xiang Gao. “Therefore, it is not surprising that many are surpassing the average requirement when considering these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur amino acids.” 

Eat more fruits and vegetables

In analyzing the participants’ diets, fruits and vegetables were the only foods that didn’t receive high sulfur amino acid rankings, further emphasizing how important it is for consumers to prioritize healthy choices. 

While the researchers want to continue this work to get a better understanding of how these risks pan out for the participants, they are pleased with these initial findings. 

“For decades it has been understood that diets restricting sulfur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals,” said Richie. “This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulfur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.” 

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