More Plant Foods, Less Red Meat May Cut Heart Disease Risk

More Plant Foods, Less Red Meat May Cut Heart Disease Risk

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9, 2020 — Substituting high-quality plant foods such as legumes, nuts, or soy for red meat might reduce the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a study published online Dec. 2 in The BMJ.

Laila Al-Shaar, M.P.H., Ph.D., from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986 to 2016; 43,272 men without cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline) to estimate the association between processed and unprocessed red meat and risk for CHD.

The researchers found that during 1,023,872 person-years of follow-up, there were 4,456 incident CHD events, of which 1,860 were fatal. Total, unprocessed, and processed red meat intake were each associated with a modestly higher risk for CHD (hazard ratio [HR] for one serving per day increment: 1.12 for total red meat; 1.11 for unprocessed red meat; and 1.15 for processed red meat) when adjusting for dietary and nondietary risk factors. The intake of one serving per day of combined plant protein sources (nuts, legumes, and soy) was associated with a lower risk for CHD (HR, 0.86 versus total red meat; HR, 0.87 versus unprocessed red meat; HR, 0.83 versus processed red meat). Substituting whole grains and dairy products for total red meat and substituting eggs for processed red meat were both associated with lower CHD risk.

“These findings are consistent with the effects of these foods on low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and support a health benefit of limiting red meat consumption and replacement with plant protein sources,” the authors write.

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