A plant-based diet may be the key to lowering the risk of developing heart disease.
Researchers from Penn State University (PSU) determined that diets with reduced sulphur amino acids – which occur in protein-rich foods such as meats, dairy, nuts and soy – were associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. A subcategory, called sulphur amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, play various roles in metabolism and health.
“For decades it has been understood that diets restricting sulphur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals,” said PSU’s Professor John Richie.
“This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulphur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.”
The research team examined the diets and blood biomarkers of more than 11,000 participants in a study and found that participants who ate foods containing fewer sulphur amino acids tended to have a decreased risk for cardiometabolic disease based on their bloodwork.
The team compiled a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score based on the levels of certain biomarkers in participants’ blood after a 10-16 hour fast, including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin.
“These biomarkers are indicative of an individual’s risk for disease, just as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Prof. Richie said. “Many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test.”
The researchers found that higher sulphur amino acid intake was associated with a higher composite cardiometabolic risk score after accounting for potential confounding issues such as age, sex and history of diabetes and hypertension.
They also found that high sulphur amino acid intake was associated with every type of food except grains, vegetables and fruit.
“Meats and other high-protein foods are generally higher in sulphur amino acid content,” said Zhen Dong, lead author on the study.
“People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulphur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets.”
While this study only evaluated dietary intake and cardiometabolic disease risk factors at one point in time, the association between increased sulphur amino acid intake and risk for cardiometabolic disease was strong.
“Here we saw an observed association between certain dietary habits and higher levels of blood biomarkers that put a person at risk for cardiometabolic diseases,” Prof. Richie said.
“A longitudinal study would allow us to analyse whether people who eat a certain way do end up developing the diseases these biomarkers indicate a risk for.”
Will this research encourage you to eat a more plant-based diet?
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