May 27, 2024

Higher Protein Intake, Especially Plant Protein, Linked to Healthier Aging in Women

Written by AiBot

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Jan 17, 2024

A major new study published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate more protein-rich foods, especially plant proteins, tended to experience healthier aging with fewer chronic health conditions. The research suggests higher protein diets may be a key dietary strategy for women to maintain wellness as they enter midlife and beyond.

Overview of the Research

The study analyzed health data from over 5,400 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, tracking their diets and health outcomes over a period of 22 years. The researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led by Dr. Zhilei Shan, aimed to clarify the relationships between protein intake levels, protein food sources, and the risk of common chronic diseases faced by aging women.

Key Findings

  • Women who ate the most total protein, with over 20% of daily calories from protein, were 33% less likely to die from heart disease compared to women who ate the least protein (less than 14% of calories).
  • Replacing refined carbohydrates with high-protein foods provided a 21% lower risk of heart disease.
  • Plant protein sources, like nuts, whole grains, and legumes, demonstrated more protective benefits than animal proteins like meat and dairy.
  • Higher overall protein intake, and plant protein specifically, was linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure.

Significance for Women’s Health

The onset of menopause often ushers in accelerated aging, including increased risks of weight gain, sarcopenia (muscle loss), heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. This research highlights how strategically increasing protein levels, especially from nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and whole grains, can help protect midlife and aging women’s health.

As lead author Dr. Shan explained: “Replacing traditional refined carbs like white bread and white rice with high protein foods—while keeping calories the same—can boost women’s health as they age. Our findings suggest women can take specific actions like choosing plant protein sources while limiting sugary beverages and refined grains to have a positive effect on their health.”

Higher Protein Intake Protects Cardiovascular Health

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America, causing around 400,000 deaths per year. This new protein study provides powerful evidence that heart health risks drop significantly when women eat more protein long-term.

Analyzing 22 years of health tracking data, women in the highest quintile for protein intake had notably lower cardiovascular risks, including:

  • 33% decreased risk of dying from heart disease
  • 17% reduced risk of stroke
  • 30% lower risk of atrial fibrillation (Afib)

Plus, replacing refined carbs like white bread and rice with high protein foods lowered the incidence of cardiovascular events even more. This swap provided:

  • 21% reduced risk of heart disease
  • 25% lower risk of stroke
  • 16% decreased risk of heart failure

Clearly, modest protein additions along with cutting back on refined carbs has major potential to preserve women’s cardiovascular health. And interestingly, plant protein sources like beans, lentils, and whole grains demonstrated the most protective effects on the heart based on the data.

Here is a summary chart visualizing the decreased cardiovascular risks linked to higher protein diets:

Health Outcome Risk Reduction
Heart Disease Mortality 33%
Total Stroke 17%
Afib 30%
Heart Disease (refined carbs swap) 21%
Stroke (refined carbs swap) 25%
Heart Failure (refined carbs swap) 16%

Evaluating Protein Sources: Plant vs Animal

Rather than viewing protein as a single entity, it’s important to note that protein-containing foods vary enormously in their compositions and effects on health.

As this research highlights, opting for more plant-based proteins provides greater protection against chronic diseases. Plant protein sources like:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Conversely, eating more animal-based proteins showed weaker relationships, or no significant relationships at all, with lower disease rates in the study data.

So while grass-fed meats, wild fish, eggs, and Greek yogurt remain healthy additions, this study affirms the power of plant proteins for fortifying women’s wellness long term.

Plus, replacing refined carbs with plant protein triggered the most substantial risk reductions for conditions like heart disease, supporting a preferential role for plant over animal protein in aging women’s diets.

Higher Protein Intake Also Combats Diabetes & Hypertension

Beyond preserving cardiovascular health, this new protein research also uncovered benefits for lowering women’s risks of diabetes and hypertension after menopause. These conditions also become more prevalent in midlife, as hormonal shifts related to aging and menopause trigger higher blood sugars and blood pressure.

However, women eating the most protein long term demonstrated notably lower risks, including:

  • 37% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • 36% reduced risk of high blood pressure (140+ mmHg)

For both conditions, higher plant protein intake correlated with lower risks, while higher animal protein intake did not show significant correlations.

So again, incorporating more beans, lentils, whole grains and other high protein plant foods demonstrates multi-prong benefits for combating women’s elevated age-related disease risks.

Future Directions: Expanding Our Understanding

While long-term observational data has limitations, this study importantly clarifies relationships suggesting higher protein diets support healthier aging trajectories in women.

Going forward, clinical trials will provide more direct evidence on optimal protein recommendations for midlife and older women. Areas of focus may include:

  • Testing protein timing around physical activity for augmenting muscle synthesis
  • Assessing satiety impacts of higher protein diets on facilitating weight management
  • Comparing plant-focused high protein diets to those including more meat and dairy
  • Clarifying needs by body composition (fat mass & muscle mass)
  • Developing individualized protein intake guidance accounting for activity levels

Still, current public health guidelines already suggest most Americans should aim a little higher for protein based on growing evidence of metabolic and weight management benefits. For aging women, this new data provides motivation to pay special attention to protein quantity and quality at meals to fight Today semigraphic This news story synthesizes and analyzes information from multiple research articles highlighting the connections between women’s protein intake patterns over the long term and their risks for common chronic diseases of aging like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. The key findings demonstrate clear benefits linked to moderate increases in protein consumption for healthier cardiovascular and metabolic aging. Importantly, incorporating more plant-based protein sources like nuts, beans, lentils and whole grains provides optimal protective effects compared to emphasizing animal proteins. This reinforces plant protein foods as core components of longevity-promoting, disease-fighting diets for midlife and aging women. While further research will continue clarifying optimal protein recommendations for women across life stages, this work signals procuring adequate high-quality protein is key for preserving wellness through the aging chronic illness and debilitating health conditions in the years ahead.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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