Replacing red meat with high-quality plant foods such as beans, nuts, or soy may be associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, according to a study published in the BMJ. Researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires from participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and compared red and processed meat consumption and sources of plant-based proteins with heart disease events and mortality. Total red and processed meat intake was associated with an increased risk for heart disease, while one serving per day of plant-based protein options such as legumes, whole grains, and soy products was associated with a lower risk for heart disease. Possible mechanisms for the risk include increased intake of saturated fat and heme iron and increased LDL and total cholesterol levels associated with meat intake, as well as proinflammatory compounds found in meat. The authors also attribute the lower risk to the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat from plant protein sources.
Al-Shaar L, Satija A, Wang DD, et al. Red meat intake and risk of coronary heart disease among US men: Prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2020;371:m4141-m4150. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4141