Less Animal Protein And More Plant-Based For Life Extension?

We all want to maximize the length of our years and get the most enjoyment out of the one life we have. The question is, how do we do that? There are many approaches, but they all center around taking good care of our bodies and minds. Helpful tips are always popping up in the news, including a good one from a new study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. Based on their data, you may want to start subbing a plant protein shake for your eggs at breakfast or opting for vegetarian chili instead of a traditional meat-based version in an effort to help you live longer. 

In analyzing dietary data from over 400,000 men and women collected from 1995 to 2011 as part of a long-term study on eating patterns and health, researchers concluded that getting your daily protein from plants instead of animals appears to reduce your overall risk of early death.

Many animal proteins tend to have higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients that many people may need to avoid or limit in order to maintain good health. Plant foods, on the other hand, do not contain any cholesterol and many of them such as oatmeal and fibrous fruits and vegetables have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels as part of an overall healthy diet. Plant foods also contain many anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants that contribute to healing and protection.

Eliminating some or all of the animal proteins from the diet has been shown to be beneficial to health in numerous studies. Sometimes the benefits come when the animal sources eliminated have been more highly processed, for others it may be that they were just not digesting them well and needed different sources of protein. The study did show some interesting trends across the board though, and even with some specific proteins.

  • For every 3% of a person’s calorie intake coming from plant protein instead of animal protein, it reduced their risk of premature death by 10%
  • Substituting plant protein for eggs gave 24% lower risk in men and 21% lower risk in women
  • For red meat substitutions, there was 13% lower risk in men, 15% in women.

In total, the findings showed a pattern during the 16 years of follow-up where increasing plant protein intake appeared to decrease risk of early death. For every 10 grams of plant-for-animal protein swapping per 1,000 calories, there was a 12% lower risk of death for men and 14% decrease for women!

So, while it may not be necessary to go vegetarian or vegan in most cases, there does appear to be even more benefit from incorporating more plant-based foods in the diet in place of some animal-based choices. Anything we can do to help promote our longevity and quality of life should be something worth considering.