A High Protein Meat Diet May Increase Risk of Heart Failure in Older Women

A preliminary research study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016, says that a protein-rich diet may lead to heart failure risk in women over the age of 50 especially if much of the protein source is from meat.

​Possible Heart Failure Due to Meat Consumption

Earlier studies also support the above fact and point out that a meaty diet may even lead to breast cancer and kidney failure.

Researchers from the Lerner Research Institute and the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic has revealed this fact. They say that gut bacteria convert L-carnitine, a nutrient abundant in red meat into a compound called trimethylamine.

This compound, in turn, changes into a metabolite named trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which encourages atherosclerosis. The scientists extended their earlier research and found another metabolite, called gamma-butyrobetaine that is also generated by gut bacteria contributes to atherosclerosis.

Research studies also point out that higher red meat intake can lead to increased risk of breast cancer and kidney failure.

​Research study

The scientists investigated the self-reported daily diets of 103,878 postmenopausal women aged between 50-79 years who were a part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) from 1993 to 1998.

The survey was an on-going national dietary survey investigating strategies for reducing breast, colorectal cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

As part of the research process, the participants were asked to fill out a food frequency questionnaire that evaluated their daily intake of around 125 different foods. The investigators focused on the subject’s daily protein intake as well as the total amount of daily protein consumed from meat and vegetables.

Realizing that self-reporting could be unreliable, the researchers used special biomarker data to get a more reliable indication of the participants’ protein intake. The scientists evaluated the subjects’ urinary nitrogen and doubly labeled water levels.

​Research results

All women were free of heart failure at the study baseline. A total of 1, 711 women developed heart failure over the study period.

The women who had higher total protein intake were found to be at much greater risk of heart failure than those who had low protein intake. The risk was greater among women who consumed most of their protein from meat.

While the risk of heart failure seemed to be less in women who ate higher amounts of vegetable protein, the association was not statistically significant when adjusted for body mass.

The results remained after accounting for race/ethnicity, age, level of education or if the women had high blood pressure (2.9 percent), coronary heart disease (7.1 percent), diabetes (8.3 percent), anemia (3.4 percent) or atrial fibrillation (4.9 percent).

Conclusion

"Higher calibrated total dietary protein intake appears to be associated with substantially increased heart failure risk while vegetable protein intake appears to be protective, although additional studies are needed to further explore this potential association," says Mohamad Firas Barbour, M.D., study author and internist at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, in Pawtucket

Though the prognosis may appear grim, Dr. Barbour gives us hope that, Although the rate of heart failure may be highly prevalent in postmenopausal women, modifying the dietary practices may be the answer for its prevention.

As a nutritionist emphasizing a better understanding of nutrition-related factors associated with heart failure may prove beneficial for your postmenopausal clients.

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