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Member Research and Reports

Harvard: Substituting Healthy Plant Proteins for Red Meat Lowers Risk for Heart Disease

Diets that replaced red meat with healthy plant proteins led to decreases in risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Purdue University.

The study is the first meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examining the health effects of red meat by substituting it for other specific types of foods.

The study was published in the journal Circulation.

“Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent. But our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors,” said Dr. Marta Guasch-Ferré, research scientist in the Department of Nutrition and lead author of the study.

The study included data from 36 randomized controlled trials involving 1,803 participants. The researchers compared people who ate diets with red meat with people who ate more of other types of foods (i.e. chicken, fish, carbohydrates, or plant proteins such as legumes, soy, or nuts), looking at blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and blood pressure — all risk factors for CVD.

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