Benefits of High Protein Diets Key Points
- The analyzed study analyzed 14 studies with over 656,490 participants consuming a high protein (HP) diet compared to a normal protein (NP) diet on heart health.
- A diet was considered a HP diet with a mean energy from protein of not less than 18% of the total dietary energy intake. It represents a daily protein consumption of at least 1.4 g/kg BW for an average adult or .6 grams per pound of body weight with an average calorie intake of 1800–2300 calories.
- The study’s findings showed that HP intake is not associated with an increased risk of stroke, cardiovascular death, and the composite endpoint of all cardiovascular outcomes, including non-fatal stroke, non-fatal myocardial infarction, and cardiovascular death.
The Tale of Nutrition: High Protein Diets and Heart Health
Protein is a key nutrient crucial in various health aspects, including weight management, muscle mass maintenance, and overall wellness. Incorporating enough protein-rich foods into our daily diet can provide numerous benefits, such as weight loss, muscle gain, satiety, and metabolic parameters. (Ge et al., 2020) But are these diets key to cardiovascular health, or are they a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Will a HP diet increase the risk of heart disease? Let’s delve into the heart of the matter.
The Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease and the Role of High-Protein Foods
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) wears the infamous crown as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. (“Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015,” 2016)
Among the myriad of risk factors, an unhealthy diet is a significant player, casting long shadows on our health by influencing risk factors and metabolic parameters. The interplay between various dietary patterns and CVD has been investigated to discover potential links with hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, obesity, chronic inflammation, and oxidative stress.
High Protein Diet and Health
Could a simple change in our dietary guidelines of protein intake, specifically a shift towards HP diets, turn the tide in this global health crisis? While some studies suggest that HP intake may increase the risk of all-cause mortality (Akter et al., 2021; Chen et al., 2020; Noto et al., 2013; Zhou, 2014), others have found no significant association or even a reduced risk. (Mantzouranis et al., 2023; Wabo et al., 2022).
The discrepancies between studies may be due to differences in study design, population characteristics (i.e., were sick or healthy subject studies), protein intake levels (i.e., was the diet truly high protein), and the sources of protein consumed (i.e., plant vs animal-based protein). Also, the types of fats consumed with the HP diets can have an effect (i.e., saturated vs unsaturated fats). Additionally, the definition of an HP diet varies across studies, making it difficult to compare results.
The Benefits of High Protein Diets: Whey Protein and High Protein Vegan Foods
HP diets have gained popularity as an alternative to energy restriction for weight loss, increased satiety, and boosted calories burned. (Hu, 2005) Many fitness competitors will add a protein powder such as whey or casein to boost protein needs. The popularity of HP diets has surged in recent years, particularly in developed nations where obesity rates are increasing.
The increased dietary protein intake, including from animal and plant sources, has been observed in various populations (Fredriksson et al., 2015). HP diets are also being studied for their potential effects on bone health, glucose homeostasis, and metabolic function.
How Many Grams of Protein Does the ISSN Recommend to Build Muscle?
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) provides guidelines for protein intake for those looking to build muscle. According to the ISSN, individuals engaging in regular exercise training, particularly those undertaking resistance exercise, should consume protein of 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This converts to approximately 0.64 to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight daily. This is significantly higher than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for those who are not active.
For vegans, the protein needs might be slightly higher due to the lower digestibility of plant-based proteins and their amino acid profiles. Some sources suggest that vegans need about 10% more protein than meat-eaters, which puts the recommendation at approximately 0.9 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This converts to about 0.41 to 1.0 grams per pound of body weight daily. Individual needs can vary, and it’s always a good idea to consult a dietitian or healthcare provider for personalized advice.
It’s also important to note that vegans should aim to consume a variety of plant-based protein sources, such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products, to ensure they get all the essential amino acids their bodies need.
The Investigation into the Effects of High Protein Diets
Given the research discrepancies, researchers compare the impact of high protein (HP) diets with normal protein (NP) consumption on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in adult populations without established cardiovascular disease. A diet was considered a HP diet with a mean energy from protein of not less than 18% of the total dietary energy intake.
The study included both men and women of a wide range of ages. The population included individuals with various cardiovascular risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, smoking, and a family history of cardiovascular disease.
The study population had a moderate prevalence of type 2 diabetes and a higher prevalence of family history of cardiovascular death. The subjects’ dietary protein intake varied, with some following a HP diet and others following a normal protein diet.
The study aimed to address the conflicting research background on the association between HP intake and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality by synthesizing the results of 14 prospective cohort studies. The main outcomes under investigation were coronary artery disease, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes.
Results of High Protein Diets and CVD
The investigation spanned across multiple databases, leaving no stone unturned. The study included fourteen prospective cohort studies, with 6 studies, including 221,583 participants, reporting data about cardiovascular death. The result? The study found no significant associations between HP intake and coronary artery disease or stroke. The results shows that HP consumption does not affect cardiovascular prognosis.
The results suggests that the discrepancies in the research on HP diets may be due to differences in the definition of HP intake and the heterogeneity of protein intake values among the included studies. For example, some studies have not separated processed foods such as deli meats, hot dogs, etc and whole food protein sources such as seafood, lean red meat, etc.
The author of the study also suggested that the source of protein may be an important factor to consider, as evidence from large cohort studies and meta-analyses has shown a significant superiority of vegetable protein consumption regarding the improvement of cardiometabolic parameters and the reduced risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
A recent meta-analysis, including 715,128 participants from 32 prospective cohort studies, found that increased protein consumption was related to a lower risk of all-cause mortality. In contrast, a higher plant protein intake was related to a reduced risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. (Naghshi et al., 2020)
The Verdict on High Protein Diets
The evidence was clear. High protein diets did not significantly impact cardiovascular death, stroke, or other cardiovascular outcomes. The verdict was in favor of high-protein diets. Furthermore, adopting a high-protein diet alongside a generally healthier lifestyle warrants the avoidance of excess fat, sugar, and salt, all of which are related to negative effects on cardiometabolic status. In general, a combination of animal and plant proteins can be used as a part of a healthy diet.
The Final Word on the Side Effects of High Protein Diets
While a HP diet can benefit many people, especially those looking to lose weight or gain muscle, it may not be suitable for everyone. Here are some groups of people who should be cautious about consuming a HP diet:
People with kidney disease: HP diets can be harmful to people with pre-existing kidney disease. There is no evidence that HP diets will damage kidneys if you are healthy. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood, and a HP diet can increase the amount of waste products the kidneys need to deal with pre-existing kidney issues.
People with liver disease: Like kidney disease, those with liver disease need to be cautious about HP diets. The liver plays a role in metabolizing proteins, and a HPdiet could potentially exacerbate liver problems.
People with certain metabolic disorders: Some metabolic disorders, such as phenylketonuria (PKU) and maple syrup urine disease, interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize certain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. People with these conditions must limit their protein intake.
It’s important to note that everyone’s nutritional needs are different, and what works well for one person may work better for another.
Akter, S., Mizoue, T., Nanri, A., Goto, A., Noda, M., Sawada, N., Yamaji, T., Iwasaki, M., Inoue, M., Tsugane, S., Tsugane, S., Sawada, N., Iwasaki, M., Ninue, M., Yamaji, T., Goto, A., Shimazu, T. T., Charvat, H., Budhathoki, S., . . . Sakata, K. (2021). Low carbohydrate diet and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Clinical Nutrition, 40(4), 2016-2024. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.09.022
Chen, Z., Glisic, M., Song, M., Aliahmad, H. A., Zhang, X., Moumdjian, A. C., Gonzalez-Jaramillo, V., van der Schaft, N., Bramer, W. M., Ikram, M. A., & Voortman, T. (2020). Dietary protein intake and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: results from the Rotterdam Study and a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Eur J Epidemiol, 35(5), 411-429. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-020-00607-6
Ge, L., Sadeghirad, B., Ball, G. D. C., da Costa, B. R., Hitchcock, C. L., Svendrovski, A., Kiflen, R., Quadri, K., Kwon, H. Y., Karamouzian, M., Adams-Webber, T., Ahmed, W., Damanhoury, S., Zeraatkar, D., Nikolakopoulou, A., Tsuyuki, R. T., Tian, J., Yang, K., Guyatt, G. H., & Johnston, B. C. (2020). Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ, 369, m696. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m696
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Hu, F. B. (2005). Protein, Body Weight, and Cardiovascular Health. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn.82.1.242s
Mantzouranis, E., Kakargia, E., Kakargias, F., Lazaros, G., & Tsioufis, K. (2023). The Impact of High Protein Diets on Cardiovascular Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Nutrients, 15(6), 1372. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/6/1372
Naghshi, S., Sadeghi, O., Willett, W. C., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2020). Dietary intake of total, animal, and plant proteins and risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ, 370, m2412. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2412
Noto, H., Goto, A., Tsujimoto, T., & Noda, M. (2013). Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS One, 8(1), e55030. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055030
Wabo, T. M. C., Wang, Y., Nyamao, R. M., Wang, W., & Zhu, S. (2022). Protein-to-Carbohydrate Ratio Is Informative of Diet Quality and Associates With All-Cause Mortality: Findings From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007–2014). Frontiers in Public Health. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.1043035
Zhou, J. (2014). Low Carbohydrate and High Protein Diets and Al-Cause, Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortalities: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis From 7 Cohort Studies. Acta Endocrinologica (Bucharest). https://doi.org/10.4183/aeb.2014.259
What are the benefits of a high-protein diet?
A HP diet can help with weight loss, as it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps to reduce cravings. It also aids in muscle growth and repair, improves bone health, boosts metabolism, and even lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In the realm of nutrition, protein holds a place of honor. It’s not just about muscle building or weight loss – protein is vital to every cell in our body. But how much protein is enough, and where should it come from? Let’s explore.
The Protein Puzzle: How Much is Enough?
Determining the right amount of protein depends on several factors, including age, sex, activity level, and overall health. However, those who are more active or aiming for specific health goals may require more.
The Protein Pantry: High Protein Foods Healthy Diet
Here are some protein-rich foods to consider:
Low Fat, Animal-Based Protein Sources:
- Poultry: Chicken breast is a lean source of protein, with about 26 grams in a 3-ounce serving.
- Dairy Products: Low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are excellent protein sources. An ounce of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can provide up to 10 grams of protein.
- Lean Beef: Lean cuts of beef are packed with protein and provide essential nutrients like iron and vitamin B12.
Plant-Based Protein Sources: Legumes, Lentils, Soy, Ect
- Legumes: Foods like lentils, peas, and other legumes are protein-rich and packed with fiber and other nutrients.
- Soy: Tofu, edamame, and other soy products are excellent vegan protein sources. They also provide essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
- Whole Grains: Foods like quinoa and other whole grains provide protein and nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The Protein Perspective: Potential Health Implications
A HP diet can have various health implications. On the positive side, it can support weight loss, muscle gain, and even heart health. However, choosing protein sources low in saturated fat is important to avoid raising your cholesterol levels.
Conclusion: The Protein Path to Health
Whether you’re a fan of chicken breast, Greek yogurt, or tofu, there’s a protein source to suit every palate. So next time you plan a snack or meal, remember to power it with protein!