Dietary Protein and Its Associations with Cardiovascular Health
An adequate intake of dietary protein is critical to human health and, as a result, protein is the only macronutrient with a recommended daily allowance. Yet, compared to fat and carbohydrate sources, the impact of dietary protein sources on human and cardiovascular health has received far less attention. However, consistent data from large prospective cohort studies from the United States, Europe, and Asia have consistently documented reduced risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) in individuals with the highest consumption of plant proteins, and an increased risk of IHD in those with the highest intake of animal proteins. Which cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors are most impacted is less clear. Mechanistic studies are limited by the fact that, like other macronutrients, protein in the human diet comes from a myriad of sources with varying proportions of non-protein micro and macronutrients that have independent influences on the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). However, growing evidence suggests that both non-protein and protein components of plant vs. animal protein sources may confer ASCVD protection or risk, and that inflammation and the gut microbiome play crucial roles.