Bad protein, good protein

The type of protein we eat matters more than we thought

The biggest study to date – with over 130,000 participants - of the effects of both plant and animal protein on human health produced surprisingly clear results.

Animal protein was associated with higher mortality, especially from heart disease, whilst plant protein was associated with lower mortality. Animal foods that gave the highest risk of premature death were processed and unprocessed red meat and eggs. Plant protein offered protection against a range of diseases, promoting a longer, healthier life.

The paper didn’t elaborate on the exact mechanisms by which animal protein does harm but previous studies discovered that it encourages the body’s production of IGF-1 in - a dangerous growth factor - results in harmful acid production and encourages toxic gut bacteria. All these are detrimental to health but they can also increase levels of inflammation and undermine blood vessel health, especially if there’s already damage such as arterial plaques.

Song et al., 2016. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine. 176 (10) 1453-1463.