The dietary switch that can lower your risk of heart disease

Substituting healthy plant proteins for red meat lowers risk for heart disease.

Switch diet to drop heart attack risk

Diets that replaced red meat with healthy plant proteins led to decreases in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from Harvard University.

The study is the first meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials examining the health effects of red meat by substituting it for other specific types of foods.

“Previous findings from randomised controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent,” said lead author Marta Guasch-Ferré.

“But our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources leads to more favourable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”

The study included data from 36 randomised controlled trials involving 1803 participants.

The researchers compared people who ate diets with red meat with people who ate more of other types of foods (chicken, fish, carbohydrates, or plant proteins such as legumes, soy, or nuts), looking at blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and blood pressure – all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The study found that when diets with red meat were compared with all other types of diets combined, there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or blood pressure, although diets higher in red meat did lead to higher triglyceride concentrations than the comparison diets.

However, researchers found that diets higher in high-quality plant protein sources such as legumes, soy, and nuts resulted in lower levels of both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to diets with red meat.

The results are consistent with long-term epidemiologic studies showing lower risks of heart attacks with diets consisting of nuts and other plant sources of protein, when compared to red meat diets, the authors said.

The findings also suggest that the inconsistencies found in prior studies regarding the effects of red meat on cardiovascular risk factors may be due, in part, to the composition of the comparison diet. They recommended that future studies take specific comparisons into account.

“Asking ‘Is red meat good or bad?’ is useless,” said Professor Meir Stampfer, a senior author of the study. “It has to be ‘Compared to what?’ If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don’t get healthier. But if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit.”


    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    24th Apr 2019
    I don't know why researchers are still wasting time on studies like this one when the risk factors for heart desease ar so well known and have been since the 1960's when Nathan Pritikin launched his revolutionary diet in America. These risk factors include high saturated fats, trans fatty acids and excess salt in your food. By definition all red meats, being high in saturated fats, are to be avoided most of the time. As my grandchildren are prone to say - Duh! A balanced diet rich in leafy green vegetables and low in all foods containing saturated fats and trans fatty acids has been proven to be heart friendly. I have eaten this type of diet for some years and my cardiovascular risk factors are low, despite a family history of cardiac desease. How about LDL at 1.6 and a total Cholesterol of 3.4? Easy to achieve if you want.
    26th Apr 2019
    Good to hear another more recent study that proves too much red meat is not healthy, but as Buggsie comments you do have to eat more plant food not processed fatty foods. If your meat is the main part of your plate you are eating too much, swap them around and make plants take up most of the room on your plant, include fresh leafy raw greens as well.

    28th Apr 2019
    The reality is that too much of anything is bad for you. I am a vegetarian but only because I don't want any animal to suffer for my dinner. Lay off the trans fats, artificial sugars, artificial additives, processed foods. Cook and grow it yourself that's the best option.
    28th Apr 2019
    If you still eat eggs and dairy animals are still suffering. More information about it can be found on Animal Australia website.

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