Heart disease: A low-protein diet can protect

Heart disease: A low-protein diet can protect

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How can we protect heart health through our diet?

Plant-based nutrition seems to be the key to lowering the risk of heart disease. A diet low in sulfur amino acids, which is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy products, nuts and soy, is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

A recent study by the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) found that a diet low in protein appeared to protect against cardiovascular disease. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Lancet EClinical Medicine".

What are sulfur amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. A subcategory called sulfur amino acids (including methionine and cysteine) plays different roles in metabolism and health. Sulfur amino acids are particularly found in protein-rich foods. Eating a low sulfur amino acid diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Less sulfur amino acids support the longevity of animals

It has been known for decades that a diet that contains little sulfur amino acids is beneficial for the longevity of animals. The current study provides the first epidemiological evidence that excessive consumption of sulfur amino acids in food could be related to the consequences of chronic human diseases.

Reduced risk of cardiometabolic diseases through diet

The blood biomarkers of more than 11,000 participants in a national study were examined. It was found that people who consumed foods with less sulfur amino acids tended to have a lower risk of cardiometabolic diseases due to their blood values.

Biomarkers indicate an increased risk

The data from the Third National Examination and the Nutritional Health Survey were evaluated. In this way, a composite risk assessment for cardiometabolic diseases could be created, which was based on the content of certain biomarkers in the blood of the participants after a 10- to 16-hour fasting cure, including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin.

Healthy eating habits can reduce the risk

"These biomarkers are an indicator of the individual risk of disease, just as high cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Many of these values ​​can be affected by a person's longer-term eating habits before the test, ”study author Professor John Richie of Pennsylvania State University said in a press release.

Many people ingested too many sulfur amino acids

After taking into account the participants' body weight and eating habits, the researchers found that the average intake of sulfur amino acids was almost two and a half times the estimated average requirement. This could possibly be due to trends in the average diet of a person living in the United States.

Diet in the U.S. includes many meat and dairy products

Many people in the United States consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people exceed average needs when you consider that these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids.

Effects of increased absorption of sulfur amino acids

The researchers found that higher sulfur amino acid intake was associated with a higher cardiometabolic risk, even after taking into account potential factors such as age, gender, existing diabetes and hypertension. They also found that high sulfur amino acid intake was associated with all types of food except cereals, vegetables, and fruits.

How can we consume very little sulfur amino acids?

"Meat and other protein-rich foods generally have higher levels of sulfur-containing amino acids," said study author Zhen Dong from Pennsylvania State University. People who eat a lot of plant-based products such as fruits and vegetables will therefore eat smaller amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids.

More research is needed

Although the study only evaluated food intake and risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases at a given time, the results show that the relationship between increased sulfur amino acid intake and the risk of cardiometabolic diseases is strong. Further research should now assess the intake of sulfur amino acids and the health consequences over time. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Zhen Dong, Xiang Gao, Vernon M. Chinchilli, Raghu Sinha, Joshua Muscat, Renate M. Winkels, John P. Richie Jr .: Association of sulfur amino acid consumption with cardiometabolic risk factors: Cross-sectional findings from NHANES III, in Lancet EClinical Medicine (published: Jan 3, 2020), Lancet EClinical Medicine
  • Lower protein diet may lessen risk for cardiovascular disease, Pennsylvania State University (Published: Jan 3, 2020), Pennsylvania State University

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