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Too Much Protein In Your Diet Could Lead To An Increased Risk Of Heart Failure

May 29, 2018 11:32 PM EDT
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Protein is an essential part of the diet, but new research says too much of it increases the risk of heart failure in middle-aged men.

While there are many benefits to a high-protein meal plan, it may also work against the health, especially protein coming from animal sources.

Study Tackles Protein Sources, Effects

The study, published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, included 2,441 males who are from 42 to 60 years old, then followed their progress for 20 years. In that stretch, 334 heart failure cases were diagnosed with 70 percent of the protein consumed from animal sources and 27.7 percent from plant sources.

Study author Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D. says in a statement that because there are so many people who take the benefits of a high-protein diet for granted, it's crucial that potential risks and benefits that come with the various types of diets are explored and made clear.

"Earlier studies had linked diets high in protein — especially from animal sources — with increased risks of Type 2 diabetes and even death," he explains.

Virtanen is an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, Finland.

Generally, there is higher risk of heart failure associated with almost all protein dietary sources other than proteins from eggs and fish.

When the scientists broke down the numbers, the risk of eventual heart failure was an increased 49 percent for dairy protein, 43 percent for animal protein, 33 percent for all sources of protein, and then 17 percent for plant protein.

Is It Time To Moderate Protein?

While the study shows that there are risks to consuming high amounts of protein, it might not be time to write off protein from the diet just yet.

First author of the study Heli E.K. Virtanen, M.Sc., who is a researcher at the university, says that additional research is necessary before being certain that moderating or decreasing protein intake will actually help prevent heart failure.

"Long-term interventions comparing diets with differential protein compositions and emphasizing differential protein sources would be important to reveal possible effects of protein intake on risk factors of heart failure," Vertinan continues, adding that studies on other populations are also important.

A balanced diet is best, according to the American Heart Association, who recommends a diet consisting of different fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, beans, fish, and then non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts. Limiting sweets, sugary beverages, and various red meat can also be beneficial.

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