Older women may be more at risk of heart failure if they eat a lot of meat. That’s the preliminary findings of Dr. Barbour, an intern at Alpert Medical School and Memorial Hospital- as reported to the American Heart Association during their Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
What the studies show
Barbour and his colleagues analysed the reported diets of 104,000 women aged between 50 and 79 years old. All participants self reported and were part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a US diet survey that is federally funded and aims to reduce osteoporosis, heart disease, colon and breast cancers. The data covers the period from 1993 to 1998. They were also able to test urine samples to “calibrate” their assessment of protein intake.
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Although the study could not prove cause and effect and researchers were unable to isolate an obvious cause, it does indicate that there is a link, as post-menopausal women with the highest protein intakes appeared to have a 60% greater risk of heart failure.
However other experts urge caution. Cardiologist and professor Dr. Ileana Pina with New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine reviewed the findings and said more study would be needed as studies relying on self-reporting of diet can be biased towards eating “good” foods. And it can be hard to control for all the different known risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes unable to supply the body with sufficient blood. More than 5 million people in the US suffer from heart failure and it is one of the major reasons that older people are admitted to hospital. The American Heart Association has recommended a diet for heart health rich in fruit, vegetables, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish and poultry and that sugary foods and red meat should only be eaten once or twice a week.
In 2005 over 1700 women developed heart failure, a risk that was statistically linked to the amount of protein they ate. Whilst animal sources of protein appeared to increase the risk, vegetable sources such as nuts, beans, quinoa and lentils appeared to provide a protective effect. Women who met most of their protein requirements through vegetable sources appeared to have a 20% lower risk of heart failure.
This study focused solely on women and further research will be needed to see if the same link is present in men but this research may be of real value to women across the US and further afield.