Eating more plant protein may help reduce the risk of early death and heart disease

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the body. They are made of amino acids and are found in every cell, tissue and organ in the body. It is recommended that we consume at least 0.8 g of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. This can come from animal-based products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, or plant proteins which include beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, tofu, lentils and vegetables.


Eating more plant protein may help reduce the risk of early death and heart disease


Having enough protein in our diet:

  • Is important for wound healing and immunity
  • Is important for muscle and bone mass
  • Is important for hair and skin health
  • Helps us feel full for longer and thus may reduce the risk of obesity.

Two recently published studies have shown that increasing our protein intake, particularly plant protein, may lower risk of early death and heart disease.

The first, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was a large prospective study following the dietary habits of over 416,000 adults for 16 years. The study found that the substituting animal protein for plant protein was associated with a reduced death risk, particularly from heart disease, in both men and women.

People replacing just 3% of animal protein with plant protein reduced the risk of death by 10% and the risk of heart disease by up to 12%. The greatest benefits were seen by swapping eggs for plant protein which reduced the death risk by up to 24%, and replacing red meat resulted in a 13- 15% risk reduction.

In a second study, a team of researchers looked at the relationship between the intake of both animal and plant protein and the risk of death. Published in the British medical journal (BMJ), the team conducted a large review and meta-analysis of studies. 32 studies were included, average follow up between 3.5- 32 years and involving more than 700,000 participants.

They found that high intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of premature death from all causes. Eating more protein from plant sources was associated with an 8% lower risk of death from any cause and a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease. Intake of animal protein was not significantly associated with risk of heart disease or cancer death.

Additionally, the study showed that for every 3% daily increase in plant protein intake, the risk of death was reduced by 5%. 

These studies provide further evidence that increasing our intake of plant proteins may enhance our health and longevity. 



Huang, J., Liao, L., Weinstein, S., et al. (2020). Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine.

Naghshi et al. 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 2020; 370  doi: (Published 22 July 2020)