Assessing Protein Quality

There is strong evidence to support institutional nutrition recommendations to favor white meat over red meat and protein from plant sources over protein from animal sources. Protein from animal sources contains all essential amino acids while protein from plant sources lack one or more essential acids.

  • A 2016 prospective cohort study of healthcare professionals found high animal protein intake was positively asscoiated with cardiovascular mortality while high plant protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source [1].
  • A 2012 study of 120,000+ participants concluded stroke risk may be reduced by replacing red meat with poultry, nuts, fish, and dairy protein sources [2]. A similar study found red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality [3].
  • A 2011 study of 200,000+ participants concluded red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of T2D [4].
  • A 2014 meta-analysis of 9 studies found red meat, especially processed meat, may increase all-cause mortality [5].
  • A 2016 critical review of 42 meta-analyses found "increased risk of cancer in subjects consuming large amounts of red and processed meat, but not in those with high intake of white meat or poultry [6]."
  • A 2010 study of 300,000 found total meat consumption was positively associated with weight gain[7].
  • A 2011 review of the Nurses' Health Study found low-carbohydrate diets high in animal protein were associated with a 23% higher total mortality rate whereas low-carbohydrate diets high in vegetable protein were associated with a 20% lower total mortality rate [8].
  • A 2009 study of 60,000 participants found total cancer incidence was significantly lower among both fish eaters and vegetarians than among meat eaters [9].
  • A 2012 meta-analysis of 7 studies of 120,000+ participants found vegetarians have a significantly lower ischemic heart disease mortality (29%) and overall cancer incidence (18%) than nonvegetarians [10].

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