There are so many different types of diets out there that it’s hard to know what’s best for your health.
Many people recommend a protein-rich diet. And while it’s true that some people successfully lose weight with this way of eating, it raises an important question:
Is a high-protein diet really the healthiest option?
Of course, we need protein—or, more accurately, we need amino acids that our body uses to build proteins—because protein is essential to build and repair tissues, muscles, bones, blood, skin, and cartilage, as well as to produce hormones and enzymes.
So, then why do numerous scientific studies show that high-protein diets can harm your cardiovascular health?
This is where the source becomes the focus.
Whether it’s plant-based or animal-based protein creates a vital distinction between healthy or harmful...
Including the increased risk of heart attack, which could literally mean the difference between life or death.
What The Research Says
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently published a study in the journal, Nature Metabolism, that once again demonstrates the dangers of diets high in animal-based protein.
Because animal-based proteins lead to increased plaque buildup in the arteries—called atherosclerosis—which is comprised of cholesterol, fat, calcium deposits, and dead cells.
As well, animal-based proteins are known to cause “unstable plaque”—which is likely to rupture and cause blocked arteries.
And this greatly increases the risk of a heart attack, as Dr. Babak Razani, MD, Ph.D., study author and associate professor of medicine explains:
“As blood flows past the plaque, that force—especially in the context of high blood pressure—puts a lot of stress on it. This situation is a recipe for a heart attack.”
Dr. Razani’s research team studied the effect that too many amino acids have on macrophages—large white blood cells that are an important part of our immune system.
“Excess amino acids from a high-protein diet activate a protein in macrophages called mTOR, which tells the cell to grow rather than go about its housecleaning tasks. The signals from mTOR shut down the cells' ability to clean up the toxic waste of the plaque, and this sets off a chain of events that results in macrophage death.
“Certain amino acids, especially leucine and arginine, were more potent in activating mTOR—and derailing macrophages from their cleanup duties, leading to cell death—than other amino acids.
“Leucine is particularly high in red meat, compared with, say, fish or plant sources of protein," Dr. Razani said.
Dr. Razani’s study is only the latest to conclude health risks from animal-based protein.
Another highly-regarded scientific study was published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016.
This comprehensive research study included 131,342 participants: 85,013 women and 46,329 men from the Nurses’ Health Study (1980–2012) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2012).
They came to similar conclusions.
“After adjusting for other dietary and lifestyle factors, animal protein intake was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular mortality, whereas higher plant protein intake was associated with lower all-cause mortality.”
“Moreover, we observed that substitution of plant protein for animal protein from a variety of food sources, particularly processed red meat, was associated with a lower risk of mortality, suggesting that protein source is important for long-term health.”
Bottom line: Not all protein is created equal. And now you know just some of the reasons why we encourage a plant-based diet!