Excessive protein consumption increases the risk of heart failure

Proteins are one of the three key macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fat) that the human body needs. They are essential for the development and regeneration of body tissues and are a “structural component” of the muscles.

Proteins are derived from animal feeds such as meat, egg and dairy products, as well as from plant products such as beans, nuts and soya.

Proteins & Heart Failure

Although high protein intake has been associated with a lower risk of death from heart failure in Dutch research in 2,281 patients in 11 European countries, a new study published in the Circulation: Heart Failure of the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that for men average age, the risk of developing heart failure is higher due to high protein consumption.

“Given that many people view the benefits of the protein diet as important, it is important to clarify the potential risks and benefits that they may have,” says Journey Virthan, one of the editors of the study, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland, and adds: “Past studies have linked diets high in protein – especially animal – to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes or even premature death.”

In the study, researchers surveyed 2,441 middle-aged men (42-60 years of age at baseline) for an average of 22 years. Altogether, 334 cases of heart failure were recorded during this time.

In the total of participants, the intake of animal and vegetable proteins covered 70% and 27.7% respectively of total protein consumption. Participants were divided into four groups depending on the total amount of protein they received on a daily basis from their diet. Compared with men who consume fewer proteins, among the men who consumed most, it was estimated that the risk of heart failure was:

33% higher irrespective of the protein source
43% higher for animal protein sources
49% greater for dairy proteins
17% higher for plant protein sources
Only fish and egg-specific proteins were not associated with an increased risk of heart failure among middle-aged men, researchers noted in their study.

According to the American Heart Association, about one in five Americans aged 40 and over will experience heart failure. Since there is no definitive treatment for the disease, prevention, for example through dietary interventions, is imperative.