Protein’s Powerful Heart-Health Benefits

If you’re like a lot of active guys, the main reason you care about getting enough protein each day is to maintain and build muscle. Of course, there are other benefits, too, like protein’s ability to keep you satiated and limit your daily calorie intake. And now, there’s yet another reason to maintain a steady supply of protein in your diet.

According to new research published last week in the Journal of Nutrition, consuming foods rich in protein could positively impact your heart in much the same way as quitting smoking or doing more exercise.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia analyzed the diets of 2,000 people, focusing specifically on the effects of seven amino acids—arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine. After cross-referencing their data with measurements like blood pressure and blood vessel thickness and stiffness, the researchers discovered that subjects who consumed high levels of amino acids found in plant and animal proteins exhibited reductions in blood pressure and arterial stiffness similar to those that would be observed after quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, and several other positive lifestyle changes.

“The really surprising thing that we found is that amino acid intake has as much of an effect on blood pressure as established lifestyle risk factors such as salt intake, physical activity, and alcohol consumption,” says lead researcher Amy Jennings, Ph.D. “For arterial stiffness, the association was similar to the magnitude of change previously associated with not smoking.”

As for how much protein you should aim to consume to reap these benefits, the researchers suggest a daily protein intake equivalent to a 75g portion of steak, a 100g salmon fillet, or a 500ml glass of skimmed milk. Of course, you have dozens of other high-protein natural foods at your disposal.

“Increasing intake from protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli, and spinach could be an important and readily achievable way to reduce people’s risk of cardiovascular disease,” Jennings says. “High blood pressure is one of the most potent risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. A reduction in blood pressure leads to a reduction in mortality caused by stroke or coronary heart disease—so changing your diet to include more meat, fish, dairy, and produce could help both prevent and treat the condition.”

Photo: WFIU Public Radio


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