Many people striving to lose weight turn to a low-carb diet to try to jump-start the process. Instead, they try to get most of their energy from fat or protein sources. But does this increase their heart failure risk?
A Finnish Study Offers Some Answers:
For years, dietitians have been worrying that a high-protein diet might put too much strain on the kidneys or the heart. Now there is research from a long-running Finnish study demonstrating that eating a lot of protein from animal sources may indeed increase heart failure risk.
Findings from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study were published in Circulation: Heart Failure. This epidemiological study followed 2,441 middle-aged men for 20 plus years (Virtanen et al, Circulation: Heart Failure, May 29, 2018).
At the start of the study, the men filled out dietary diaries for four days. The investigators analyzed these reports to classify the men’s diets as high- or low-protein. They also looked at whether the protein came mainly from animal or plant sources.
Those who reported eating the most animal protein appeared more likely to develop heart failure during follow-up. The link was not very strong, however.
People who got most of their protein from plants had only a small increase in risk of heart failure. This association was not statistically significant.
We’ll need more research to understand this connection better, but in the meantime, it seems a prudent man will limit his intake of meat and milk. In this study, fish and eggs were not associated with an increased heart failure risk.
The scientists conclude:
“Our results suggest that higher protein intake may be associated with a higher risk of HF [heart failure] in middle-aged and older men.”