High protein diet slightly increases heart failure risk in middle-aged men

Intake of different dietary proteins and risk of heart failure in men.

healthy eating and diet concept - natural rich in protein food on table
healthy eating and diet concept - natural rich in protein food on table Image: Shutterstock

A new study by the University of Eastern Finland suggests that intaking higher amounts of protein was associated with a slightly elevated risk for heart failure in middle-aged men. In spite of the prevalence of high protein diet, there is little research about how less intake of carbs with high protein may affect men’s heart failure chance.

The study involved data of for an average 22 years where scientists studied 2,441 men, age 42 to 60. Almost 334 cases of heart failure were diagnosed during the study. 70 percent of the protein consumed was from animal sources and 27.7 percent from plant sources.

Scientists discovered that higher intake of protein from most dietary sources was associated with slightly higher risk. Only proteins from fish and eggs were not associated with heart failure risk.

Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D., study author and an adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio said, “As many people seem to take the health benefits of high-protein diets for granted, it is important to make clear the possible risks and benefits of these diets. Earlier studies have linked diets high in protein – especially from animal sources — with increased risks of type 2 diabetes and even death.”

Scientists divided the men into four groups based on their daily protein consumption. When they thought about men who ate the most protein to the individuals who ate the slightest, they discovered their danger of heart failure was:

  • 33 percent higher for all sources of protein;
  • 43 percent higher for animal protein;
  • 49 percent higher for dairy protein.
  • 17 percent higher for plant protein.

Heli E.K. Virtanen, M.Sc., first author of study, Ph.D. student and early career researcher at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio said, “As this is one of the first studies reporting on the association between dietary protein and heart failure risk, more research is needed before we know whether moderating protein intake may be beneficial in the prevention of heart failure. Long-term interventions comparing diets with differential protein compositions and emphasizing differential protein sources would be important to reveal possible effects of protein intake on risk factors for heart failure. More research is also needed in other study populations.”

The findings were reported in Circulation: Heart Failure.