Researchers with the Women’s Health Initiative assessed the types of protein 102,521 postmenopausal women consumed and how this correlated with death over nearly two decades. During this period, 6,993 women died from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, 7,516 women died from cancer, and 2,734 died from dementia. They authors found different sources of protein – including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans – overlapped with different types of death. For example, women who consumed more plant proteins, such as nuts, beans, and peas, had a lower associated risk of premature death and from dying of cardiovascular disease and dementia. The authors controlled for multiple variables, including age, family history of disease, and lifestyle factors, including exercise and smoking. They also evaluated the impact substitutions, such as swapping nuts for red meat, had on overall risk of death.
The authors shared how a variety of factors, including nutrients, could explain associations they found in the study. They also shared study limitations, noting areas for expansion. The researchers conclude the study supports consideration for focusing on protein types in addition to quantities in future dietary guidelines. The study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and was supported by the NHLBI.