People who consume more plant protein are more likely to live longer than those who consume more animal protein.

The researchers followed nearly 71,000 middle-aged Japanese for two decades. Compared to people who consumed the least amount of vegetable protein, participants who consumed the most protein were 13 percent less likely to die during the study and 16 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular causes.

– Previous research has found that higher consumption of animal protein is associated with increased chronic disease and mortality, while higher consumption of plant protein is associated with lower risk. But most of this research has been conducted on the Western population, where the consumption of animal protein is far greater than the consumption of vegetable – said Dr. Frank Hugh, head of the Harvard Department of Nutrition.

“In this Japanese study the consumption of vegetable protein is quite high, while the consumption of animal protein is quite low compared to that of Western populations,” added Hugh.

In total, 12,381 people died in the study, including 5,055 cancer deaths, 3,025 cardiovascular deaths, 1,528 heart disease and 1,198 cerebrovascular diseases.

In the study, people who replaced only 3 percent of the red meat with plant protein were 34 percent less likely to die of any cause, 39 percent less likely to die from cancer and 42 percent less likely to die of some form of heart disease.

People who replaced only 4 percent of processed meat in their diet with plant protein were 46 percent less likely to die for any reason and 50 percent less likely to die of cancer.

– When people eat more plant protein, such as nuts, soybeans and lentils, there is a significant improvement in cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood lipids, blood pressure and body weight. It is worth noting that these plant products not only contain protein but also other useful nutrients such as healthy fats, minerals and phytochemicals. On the other hand, a diet rich in red and processed meat is linked to a wide range of health consequences, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

– To live longer, replace red and processed meat with healthy, plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans, lentils and whole grains. Such a diet is not only beneficial to human health but also more environmentally sustainable – Hugh concludes.