The People's Perspective on Medicine

High Protein Diet Is Linked to Heart Failure Risk

Finnish men who ate a lot of animal protein had a slightly higher heart failure risk than those who followed low-protein diets.

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.

The Results:

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.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I like my KETO diet. Lotsa meat, veggies, & fats – animal & vegetable.

This appears to be a very weak study with no conclusive evidence of anything, and yet the “scientist” made a general statement that went way beyond what the study showed. They even admit that there is not a strong link and that the association is not statistically evident, so why do they conclude that a higher intake of protein is associated with a higher risk of heart failure? VERY misleading!

I agree, completely!

Perhaps it is not the protein in the meat but the saturated fat and cooking methods used that are the causes of increased heart failure.

Older people are often advised to consume at least 30 grams of protein at each meal to avoid muscle wasting. What IS a reasonable amount of protein for an older person to consume?

A gobbledygook study. All the current recommendations for protein intake are at 1gm per pound of body weight. Without at least 1/2 that much protein, you cannot produce testosterone.

If you’re 72, like I am and wonder why you loose muscle, even though you do resistance training, then consider your protein intake. I did and now I’m building muscle again.

I’m always disappointed when The Peoples Pharmacy cites results without giving actual numbers (which you have occasionally criticized others for in the past). Telling me that, out of 2,441 men, those eating the most animal protein had a “slightly higher heart failure risk.” tells me nothing without knowing the actual numbers. How many of those men were in the highest protein vs. lowest protein groups? How many in each group actually had heart failure over the 20 year period? Without knowing those numbers, I can’t reach a conclusion.

Bruce, your critique is on target. Unfortunately, this report only offers the relative risks (eg 33% higher risk of heart failure in the top vs the bottom quartile of protein intake, and that it is of borderline significance). Did you notice that we have linked to the report, as we usually try to do, so you can check the details yourself if you wish?

I dropped 40 pounds after my doctor told me of the implications of being over weight and diabetes. I did this by dropping as many carbs as possible. Seemingly the stats are not that strong for the animal/vegetable high protein issue, so I see not having diabetes vs. a long shot of heart trouble will keep me off the carbs for now.

Based on four days of food diaries 20 years old? And you publish this with a recommendation to limit animal protiein? I think I am going to unsubscribe.

We think it is important for us to include those details so you can make the decision that you do or don’t credit the results.

I am surprised that the headline for this article seems to indicate a direct link of protein to heart problems, yet when reading it, the link was ‘not very strong’ and the scientist states “may be” and the results are only in men. This headline seems way out of proportion and tending towards sensationalism which is so out of character for the usual information.

All meat diet is going to be pushed by the meat industry which is nearly a trillion-dollar-a-year industry in USA so their lobbying power will even skew research — anything in excess is bad for you including protein. Think of all the nitrates one consumes. Okay, maybe not the meat entirely but how it is made by factory farms.

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