High-Protein Diets May Increase Risk Of Heart Failure

Protein is the body’s building blocks, helping with tissue growth and keeping the immune system strong. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Although whole foods are the best sources of protein, a recent study has revealed the link between high-protein diets and an increased risk of heart failure amongst middle-aged men. Heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood around the body and thus tissues and organs may begin to slowly fail.

The study

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland attempted to uncover the potential health risks that high-protein diets may incur. The study is one of the first to examine the link between high-protein diets and heart failure. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2,441 Finnish men, whom they had followed over a period of 22 years. The men were aged 42 to 60 when the study started. The men were divided into four groups, based on their daily consumption of protein and they later compared the men who ate the most with those who ate the least, in order to calculate their risk for heart failure. Among the group, over 70% of protein consumed was from animal sources and the rest was plant-based. Furthermore, 334 developed heart failure over the study period.

The results

The study revealed that a higher intake of protein from most dietary sources was associated with slightly higher risk of heart failure. Specifically, the risk was a 33% higher for all protein sources. When broken down, those with a high meat intake were found to have a 43% increased risk and those with a high dairy intake, such as milk and cheese, were 49 percent more likely to be diagnosed with heart failure. Consumption of plant protein increased the risk by 17%. It is to be noted that proteins from fish and eggs were not associated with heart failure risk.

The verdict on high-protein diets.

“Our findings indicate the high-protein intake may have some adverse effects on health, especially if the protein is coming from animal sources,” said study co-author and adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland. However, it’s important to note that the study failed to distinguish whether the findings were related to the diets or to other factors such as food preparation. It’s also unknown if the same risk of heart failure applies to women. Furthermore, it’s too early in the study to recommend limiting protein intake thus more research is needed.

As no cure currently exists for heart failure, prevention is key. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is the perfect way to help prevent heart failure. Enjoying a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans and nuts while low in processed foods, refined grains and lean red meat is a sure way to lower your risk for heart failure. It’s also important to not smoke and enjoy an active lifestyle. You can read more about the study here.

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